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PBIO(BIOL) 3660L Plant Biology Intensive Lab
THE PLANT BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
PLANT BIOLOGY INTENSIVE LAB
HISTORY OF THE COURSE


Research Sites and People




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THE FIRST SEMESTER - SPRING 2008

The course presumes at least one long-term field site in which to do meaningful research while developing several skills in the students. Because of unique transportation problems during this, its first semester, we identified a very small site both reachable by University Bus and with potential long-term interest. It drains a parking lot, has some standing water, and it contains at least a few plant species claimed to be obligate wetland plants. Any one would call it a narrow strip of wasteland (a perfectly acceptable term to plant biologists). The instructor had off-campus wetlands and granite outcrops in mind for long-term sites and chatted up this one as a potential wetland and what might be done with it and was somewhat surprised by the positive response of the students.

When looking for potential domain names for a nascent course with only a possible research site it was obvious that we had to make decisions now about what the course would be in the future. So wetlands it would be, and the combination wetlandbiology was available in all its extensions and fit criteria of being descriptive and easy to pronounce and spell.

Would this history compromise the course? No. Ask any biologist why they are doing what they do and why they are doing it with this particular plant or ecosystem and the honest answer will boil down to chance; a random combination of opportunities closed and opportunities available with perhaps some prescience to make the best lemonade out of it.
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A second trip to the S01 site was much less promising. We also looked at the outflow from the Lake Herrick dam. We decided that these sites might be targets for small wetland constructions or restorations, but neither would support experiments or skill building that were the intent of the course.

We were fortunate to discover that at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia several parties had recently cooperated to construct a small dam designed to restore a wetland earlier created by beavers but that was reverting to meadow. And our transportation problem was solved by the students carpooling directly to the site. So the SBG Beaver Pond is our first research site, the immediate goals being a survey of the plants now there, discovering what plants should or could be there, and perhaps the introduction of appropriate taxa to accelerate the restoration.

There is a mature beaver pond across the Oconee River from the State Botanical Garden. A large portion of it was donated many years ago to the Garden and that property is described in these pages as the SBG Annex. There is no development and it is difficult to access but it promises to be a superb research and recreation site. Our immediate objectives are to create access and to use the site to tell us what plants should be in the SBG Beaver Pond.
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SUMMER 2008

Summer Semester 2008 had seven students and a TA, Charles Cowden, who was supported by the department. We continued looking at new wetlands. The largest was the East Fork Trail Creek as it passes under Olympic Drive, which we learned is also the result of beavers. This appears to be very similar to the State Botanical Garden Beaver Pond on the Orange Trail. There were also visits to several riparian sites owned or managed by the County Recreation and Leisure Services Department through the Oconee River Greenway and the Sandy Creek Nature Center.

The beavers raised the level of the Beaver Pond at the State Botanical Garden Annex. There seems to be no other explanation for the relatively dry margin we found and used during Spring semester being under water in the Summer semester. Certainly rainfall could not explain it; local streams were already dry or, would soon be, and the East Fork Trail Creek site was predictably lower than it has been in several years. We were not sure if we could reconstruct the baseline, preflood conditions, but an experiment had started in which we thought we might be able to participate. But the water level fell a few inches soon thereafter, and although it remained above the Spring Semester level, it was still too difficult to access the pond for more than plant collecting trips.
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FALL 2008

Lots of plants in flower and fruit to identify this time of year, and that comprised most work of a small group of students and a TA employed from Geography. We gave up on Persicaria and willed that genus to another semester but had somewhat better success with the Carex accessions we collected. Clearly we have to establish an image gallery of the scales, perigynia, and nutlets of our Carex to make their identification routine rather than an often unmet challenge. Database for our rapidly increasing experience, what should be in it and what kind to use?

New sites included wetlands in the Forestry-run Oconee Forest Park, the Birchmore Trail along creek in Memorial Park in Athens, man-made ponds at the University Women's Softball/Soccer complex on South Milledge, and a very large beaver pond on Long Creek where it passes under Highway 22 in Oglethorpe County. Phyllis brought her canoe for that one and yes, it really did hold four!
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SPRING 2009

Thirteen students and TA Cecile Deen made for a busy semester. We made several trips back to Long Creek, including one in which we rented kayaks from Half Moon Outfitters at 5 Points in Athens. They were fairly easy to transport in the back of standard-bed pick up trucks and carry and drag from the highway to the creek. Most everyone gave one a try. They went where the water was too low for a canoe, but they lacked the weight (and motive force with only the one occupant) to go over submerged logs or to penetrate the massive thickets of Triadenum walteri, Walters Marsh St. Johns-wort, in the middle of the pond.

Although not usually considered a wetland, many of the local granite outcrops are just that during late winter and early spring and have several annual and perennial species, including endemics, that do well in the several inches of water that flow over the rock and its very shallow soil, often in small cracks in the rock. So we visited the local large Rock and Shoals outcrop several times this spring. No collecting unless we develop a project there, not even of the several species that are there in the thousands of individuals, because of the scarcity of the habitat.

There was some progress in organizing what had been collected and photographed since the beginning of the course, but it is still very much incomplete. Our web server, Startlogic.com, supports the MySQL interface to relational data bases, and we have four draft tables but not yet the skill in constructing the queries to discover if their design will prove useful.
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SUMMER 2009

Only two students signed up for the summer section of the course, well below what the College of Arts and Sciences considers a minimum enrollment (don't ask). But because it was summer semester and I was not being paid anyways, at least these students were able take it under its real name, though the college took their tuition none-the-less.

Again we found the SBG Annex virtually unapproachable, so our success in getting canoes onto the pond in Spring 2008 remains unexplained and not likely to be repeated. A shame. The problem we have found with wetlands is that they are often wet and then usually too wet for walking and too dry for boats. Of course this conclusion is not unexpected.
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GLENN GALAU, THE DEPARTMENT OF PLANT BIOLOGY, MILLER PLANT SCIENCES BUILDING, THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA, ATHENS GA  30602-7271
PHONE 706 542 1859    FAX 706 542 1805
MODIFIED ON 13 FEBRUARY 2010. WEB DESIGN BY GLENN GALAU

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