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Environmental Science class studies ecology of Ninnescah River

22 October 2018

Pratt Community College science instructor, Dave (Kip) Chambers’, took his Pratt Community College Environmental Science class, in collaboration with biologists from Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), on a field trip to Lemon Park to evaluate the ecological interiority of a short stretch of the South Fork Ninnescah River.  Students had an opportunity to assess the biological communities of the river by sampling fish using electroshocking techniques and collecting macroinvertebrates using dip nets. In addition to sampling fish and macroinvertebrates students conducted a habitat survey and performed basic water chemistry tests to assess the overall condition of the river.

The project is part of an ecology unit in the Environmental Science curriculum that allows students to work with KDWPT biologists that monitor surface water quality and other environmental issues in Kansas.  Ryan Waters and Mark Van Scoyoc worked with students providing directions, oversight and feedback as they collected fish and macroinvertebrates. In addition to this year’s project, Ryan, Mark, and KDWPT have been instrumental in providing assistance to PCC students in previous years. 

This year’s assessment of the river provided a slightly different set of conditions due to recent flooding in the watershed.  The upper reaches of the South Fork Ninnescah experienced significant flooding in early September.  The flooding flushed much of the emergent vegetation, detritus and the macroinvertebrates that rely on this organic material for a food source out of this portion of the river.  When students compared macroinvertebrates from this year’s survey to previous years, they found there were few invertebrates and less overall diversity in the invertebrate community.  This is to be expected given the extent of the flooding. The macroinvertebrate community should return to previous conditions once the vegetation and detritus become re-established in the stream channel.  The fish community also showed slightly less diversity and abundance than previous assessments.

"The biological, habitat and chemical assessment of the river will provide students with a chance to gain a better understanding the interconnected nature of these elements that determine the overall ecological integrity of a watershed," said Chambers. " Students are currently working to interpret the data they have collected and are writing a formal report summarizing their findings. Thanks to Ryan, Mark and KDWPT for their continuing support of this project."

PCC is a comprehensive community college, offering an associate’s degree in general education as well as technical education studies and business and industry training. Students may transfer to a 4-year university or enter the workforce upon completion of their degree of training.

PCC’s offers a variety of courses on campus and online leading to degree completion or transfer to a four-year college. Students experience one-on-one attention from instructors through small class size and personalized advising. PCC transfer students regularly achieve higher grade point averages at state universities compared to non-transfer students. For more information about Pratt Community College call (620) 450-2217 or go to  www.prattcc.edu/tour to schedule a campus visit.