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RBC Students Conduct Environmental Research In West Virginia

Richard Bland College of William & Mary students, professors & staff recently explored aquatic life and ecosystems in streams and rivers in the 900,000+ acre Monongahela National Forest to build academic and life skills. This was part of a five-week project, Stream Ecosystem Assessment, headed by Dr. Eric Miller, RBC Assistant Professor of Biology.

“Different students learn in different ways,” said Miller. “To be able to offer this type of learning environment is critical to a growing school like Richard Bland College. We want to be at the forefront of innovation and new ideas.”

The goal of the program was to give RBC students the opportunity to track genetic changes, movement, health and population of fish in an environment that is changing due to elevation and acid rain. But Miller said the trip was about more than “studying fish and bugs” but rather growing as a group and experiencing a new learning environment. “I purposely pushed the students to their limits to show them they can do more than what they think they can, and prepare better than they think they can while learning life skills that everybody needs.”

Kala Emory, who graduated from Richard Bland College in May and will attend VCU this fall where she will study Environmental Science, said the experience not only grew her passion for the field, but also helped her learn critical life skills. “Not being around anything for a week forced us to learn survival skills,” she said. “We were on our own in the mountains for 14-hour days. We needed to prepare ourselves for everything from what clothes and shoes to wear to how to keep properly nourished and hydrated. I learned about ecosystems, but the life skills experience was invaluable.“

“It was a great team building experience,” said RBC graduate Jasmin Wynn, who will attend Old Dominion University this fall. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.”

Destiny Grubbs, a second-year RBC student this fall, enjoyed both the bonding and educational opportunities. “The trip taught me how to work as part of a group,” she said. “Without being a Richard Bland College student, I wouldn’t have been able to have this learning experience outside the classroom.”

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