RCC students and their instructors took a day on the water as part of a Coastal Ecology course focusing on the Chesapeake Bay. Front row, left to right: RCC/VIMS instructor Dr. Diane Tulipani, and students Don Knox of Essex County (also a member of RCC’s adjunct EMS faculty), and Lamar Johnson and Heather Jeter, both of Westmoreland County. Back row, left to right: VIMS marine scientist Wendy Lowery, student Anne Hisle of Williamsburg, VIMS lab and research specialist Rebecca Hailey, and VIMS Captain Voight “Bubba” Hogge.

VIMS immerses RCC students in fieldwork

A trip on the VIMS research vessel Tidewater (part of a Coastal Ecology course) allowed RCC students to get up close and personal with the Chesapeake Bay’s inhabitants and their environment. Left to right: Heather Jeter and Lamar Johnson, both of Westmoreland County, and Don Knox of Essex County.

A trip on the VIMS research vessel Tidewater allowed RCC students to get up close and personal with the Chesapeake Bay’s inhabitants and their environment.

Developed with the serious student of marine biology in mind, Rappahannock Community College’s five-week summer “Coastal Ecology” course consisted of three weeks of online academic work, followed by two weeks of intensive lab and field work at the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute for Marine Sciences (VIMS) facility at Gloucester Point.

This portion of the course included a day on the water in the VIMS research vessel Tidewater.

During the trip on the Tidewater — led by RCC adjunct faculty member and VIMS graduate Dr. Diane Tulipani — students collected water samples to test for pH levels, temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and clarity. They also netted a variety of fish species in order to identify, count, and measure them.

RCC biology instructor Lisa Tuckey, who co-developed “Coastal Ecology” with Tulipani, describes it as “a field-based biology course which explores beach, salt marsh, and estuarine ecosystems by observing and sampling local coastal plants and animals while analyzing the dynamics of coastal community structure and function. We worked together,” she says, “to create … a first-class transfer course.”

Since many RCC students hope to major in one of the sciences when they transfer to a four-year school, “Coastal Ecology” (now in its second year) provides a good starting point, “especially since it focuses on our local environment, and, therefore local issues,” Tuckey notes.

RCC students and their instructors took a day on the water as part of a Coastal Ecology course focusing on the Chesapeake Bay. Front row, left to right: RCC/VIMS instructor Dr. Diane Tulipani, and students Don Knox of Essex County (also a member of RCC’s adjunct EMS faculty), and Lamar Johnson and Heather Jeter, both of Westmoreland County. Back row, left to right: VIMS marine scientist Wendy Lowery, student Anne Hisle of Williamsburg, VIMS lab and research specialist Rebecca Hailey, and VIMS Captain Voight “Bubba” Hogge.

RCC students and their instructors took a day on the water as part of a Coastal Ecology course focusing on the Chesapeake Bay. Front row, left to right: RCC/VIMS instructor Dr. Diane Tulipani, and students Don Knox of Essex County (also a member of RCC’s adjunct EMS faculty), and Lamar Johnson and Heather Jeter, both of Westmoreland County. Back row, left to right: VIMS marine scientist Wendy Lowery, student Anne Hisle of Williamsburg, VIMS lab and research specialist Rebecca Hailey, and VIMS Captain Voight “Bubba” Hogge.

The course provides a unique perspective on marine science research that focuses on the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States. The Bay’s ecosystem influences many aspects of the daily lives of local residents — the food they eat, the safety of their homes, local weather conditions, and the condition of the water used for recreation and commercial purposes, to name a few — so it is very important that they learn to work in harmony with that ecosystem.

This summer’s fieldwork for “Coastal Ecology” was supported by a Dominion Higher Education grant. The grant also provided funding to create a new specialization in sustainable science for RCC’s Arts and Science transfer degree.

“Coastal Ecology,” along with “Chemistry for a Sustainable World I and II” (offered in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 respectively) are the newest courses designed to fulfill the requirements for this specialization.

For more information about the timely and relevant sustainable science specialization, please call Warsaw Campus academic dean Patricia Mullins at 804-333-6771, or chemistry professor Charles Crook at 804-333-6883.