Biology class gets field experience

By Colton Crawford/Delta Staff Writer

Not all scientific research happens in the lab, a lesson 15 students in Associate Professor of Biology Waylon Hiler’s Vertebrate Zoology class learned a research camping trip to the Reis Biological Center.

Owned by St. Louis University and located outside Steelville on the Huzzah River, Reis Biological Center is a working research base within the Ozarks. It is equipped with cabins, river access, large amounts of equipment, a working lab and acres of wooded and prairie land.

Missouri Valley College is lucky to be a part of the small group of colleges and universities that get access to this wonderful facility. In fact, this group from Missouri Valley College was the first group to visit Reis in two years due to covid restrictions.

The group headed south with many goals to accomplish over their weekend-long expedition. They spent Friday morning learning conservation techniques, tracking Elk implants. They are used in the field to capture new born elk calves to collar them for conservation research.

This is an important technique for these conservation Biology majors that embarked on this trip. They took to the water in the afternoon learning a whole new set of skills.

Morgan Osborne, a junior at Valley, said they used the Seine Fishing Technique to net fish and gather information regarding size and species located in the river.

“It is a large net, worked by two people to sweep across the river trapping fish as it moves forward,” she said. “We caught around 400 fish in the nets and then we proceeded to record data on them like the size and species.”

The class recorded 20 different species of fish with countless others that were uncaught. On Saturday the group was given the opportunity to float the Huzzah River, immersing themselves in a world full of biological wonders. The class snorkeled in the clear shallow waters of the Huzzah and got to examine the marine life in their natural habitats.

The group even caught a lamprey; the most unchanged vertebrate over the past millions of years. The creature is a rare find and a real win if you ask Professor Hiler. The data collected over the four days will be used in research by individuals at MVC and other universities.

Hiler said the trip gave students the opportunity to experience real life scenarios and utilize techniques that biologists use in the field. The group was full of a variety of students with very different backgrounds. Some students are from inner city areas and had never had the opportunity to do such things. They were even able to partake in trying new cuisines like wild venison (deer).

Trips like these help to further education more than a typical classroom setting ever could. Over campfires and s’mores the class bonded. Not only did the class learn new skills but they gained life long friendships. The class was very thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to make another trip to Reis in the near future.

Students in the Vertebrate Zoology class recently traveled to the Reis Biological Station to catalog biological specimens.

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