The Herring Are Coming!

Bio100 Visits the Shawsheen River

This year’s Bio100 class had the unique opportunity to visit the Shawsheen River last week and learn a bit about habitat change. Each period piled into a bus and drove down to near Whole Foods in Andover to a bridge overlooking the Shawsheen River.

There, they met Jon Honea, a professor at Emerson College in Boston whose research involves making computer models to see how habitat change effects different communities. In this particular spot, two dams that were built approximately 200 years ago were taken down to allow the migratory fish to return to the area. He is now monitoring the return of the fish that used to be native to this area, namely the River Herring. These fish are silver in color and about a foot long. Mr. Honea and his team are watching the river for about 10 minutes at a time to see how many of these fish are spotted. This data will help to estimate the fish’s spawning population time.

Mr. Honea talked to them a bit about why it is so important for us to repopulate the river with this Herring. They play an important role in the ecosystem as food for many animals. They spawn in fresh water rivers and then move to the ocean to grow up. Mr. Mundra also talked a bit about the two dams that were removed from the area. These dams were preventing the fish from coming back to spawn in the river. These dams were built approximately 200 years ago as a source of energy for the Powder Mills in the area. Mr. Honea also said that the downstream dam was purely ornamental – the owner of the Mills wanted a gurgling sound for his administrative staff to feel comfortable working in the building.

The class then helped Mr. Honea to count the fish in the river. They took some basic data down, the weather and temperature of the air and water, and began to look for the fish. We are looking for the stray fish who are now able to make it upstream, to see how many make it up now that the dams are gone. Unfortunately, in the 10 minutes that we were there, no one saw a fish, but the hope is that within the next three or four years the population will be thriving!

Evolutionary Lessons in Bio500

Students discover Darwin and his journey ’round-the-world

March 24, 2016

Starting off the spring term here at Andover, the Biology-500 students are learning about Darwin and evolution. To demonstrate and speak about Darwin’s journey around the world, Marc Koolen and Christine Marshall-Walker, Biology Instructors, used models of the HMS Beagle and Darwin’s workshop.

Students learned the conditions in which Darwin was selected to sail aboard the HMS Beagle where his scientific explorations eventually led to the publication of his theories on evolution. At the time, Darwin was trained to enter the clergy and did not have a degree in any type of science. Typically, the ‘naturalist’ aboard a British Naval Vessel was the ship’s doctor and also a naval officer – Darwin was neither. The ship’s captain, FitzRoy, eventually chose Darwin for his social standing, rather than his skills as a naturalist and so that there would be someone of equal stature with which to speak. Being a civilian, Darwin could speak freely with the captain without the worry of discipline.

The model above (crafted by Mr. Marc Koolen himself) shows, in detail, Darwin’s workshop aboard the HMS Beagle. The HMS Beagle had been modified to be a survey vessel whose mission was to map coastlines around the globe for British merchant ships to use.  “The ship was basically a jeep with sails…all work, no luxury. Darwin came from an extremely wealthy family and had lived a very pampered life…how he survived 5 years under such primitive conditions is truly amazing.” said Mr. Koolen during his lesson.

The lesson was super interesting! Although our typical lectures are far from boring, it was neat to use different mediums of education to supplement the material. Mr. Koolen’s model was an awesome tool to do this with! It really gave us historical context to support what we already learned about Darwin as well as a visual tool to help us really grasp the lesson. – Janet Conklin ’17

The students then went on to look at some preserved organisms, all of which launched a discussion about evolution and how evolution is evidenced in shared structures between extinct organisms and today’s organisms.