A state-administered grant program recently boosted its longtime support of Rice Creek Field Station to $175,000 over five years—a $10,000-a-year bump that has enabled hiring of student curators for animal collections and much more.
“We are very excited about it,” said biological sciences professor Kamal Mohamed, director of Rice Creek, the college’s teaching, research and community resource on 400 acres of mixed terrain off Thompson Road in the town of Oswego. “So was Dr. Diann [Jackson M’88, assistant director], because she’s so involved with public education. It’s a big deal.”
The Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums (ZBGA) grant provides support for specimens and supplies; for replacement or restoration of old taxidermy and other parts of the collections, field guides and manuals for Rice Creek’s library; and for naturalists from area schools to do interpretive walks, according to Mohamed.
And the funds have directly benefited two zoology majors, Cayla Turner ’18 and Cori Monaco ’18, as well as students who will succeed them as collections curators.
“I feel this job has taught me to fully follow instructions and be confident in myself,” Turner said. “Once we learned the [restoration] task, we were largely doing work on our own.”
Monaco agreed, saying she has been able “to stretch myself more and handle lab tasks and coordinate with others. And it’s made me appreciate the specimens we have.” She pointed to a giant salamander—the so-called Congo eel is more than a foot long and has four tiny legs—in a laboratory jar as an example within collections of amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and fish.
“Our job is to make sure the jars and the (preservative) alcohol get replaced so specimens can be used in class,” Monaco said. “The field station will get to buy a lot of replacement jars—the Bakelite seals start to fail and the metal lids tend to rust.”
—Jeff Rea ’71