King’s Gate Christian School’s middle school students recently joined research scientist Jessa Watters’ amphibian fungus investigation as part of BioBlitz! Oklahoma at Sequoyah State Park on October 4-5, 2019. BioBlitz! Oklahoma is an annual 24-hour volunteer biological survey aimed at gathering an inventory of biological diversity.
Students collected data by swabbing two species of Oklahoma’s amphibians – plains leopard frogs and the cricket frogs – to test for the deadly chytrid fungus. They will use these techniques to test and track amphibians at King’s Gate’s vernal pond as part of a citizen science project. Data will be submitted to the Oklahoma Biological Survey, the state agency and department of the University of Oklahoma responsible for the BioBlitz.
“As the only Oklahoma school with a vernal pond, we are fortunate to have this area for breeding amphibians,” said, King’s Gate’s science teacher Ms. Laurie MacIvor Gillum. “We’re inspiring people and showing them that Oklahoma needs biodiversity protection,” she said.
Ms. Gillum went on to say, “As a science teacher, I feel that conservation biology is one of the most important sciences to teach students at an early age. The BioBlitz! provided unique, hands-on experiences that most students don’t experience until they are a biology grad student.”
In addition to swabbing frogs, the students also helped a record 450 other biologists and citizen scientists count and document almost 900 individual species of amphibians, mammals, fungi, fish, plants and birds. Their weekend also included bird banding, live mammal trapping, night hikes, tent pitching and sleeping in nature.
“I really enjoyed the Bioblitz. I think my favorite part was the bird banding. I liked seeing the birds up close and I thought it was very interesting,” said King’s Gate eight grader Cora Morrison of the event. Seventh grader Edison Walcher agreed and added “The night walk was cool because we saw glow worms which are the larvae of fireflies and learned that they glow in the ground at night. The best part of the weekend was sharing that experience with teachers and friends.”