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Hitting the Road

Fresh Catch

Students in Assistant Professor of Biology Jeff Thomas' zoology class have hit the road this semester to explore the animal kingdom "up close and personal."

"Students have access to so much biodiversity right in their own backyards," said Dr. Thomas.  "I could show them pictures in a lab, but it's so much more exciting to get out in the local habitats to see, hear and taste all the animals that people don't even know are here."

In November they sampled bay scallops at the Clean Catch Fish Market near Queens' campus in Myers Park. Owner Bill Ryan invited the class to his store to show off -in person-the marine life the students had been learning about in class. 

While looking at a variety of fresh fish, the students discussed the physiology of fish muscle as it relates to activity patterns (i.e. why is tuna so red?); the role of locomotory activities on the size of muscular tissues in bivalves (i.e. why are scallops so much bigger than oysters?); and the role of biological knowledge in developing sustainable fisheries (i.e. don't catch stone crabs during the mating season!). 

Earlier in the semester they visited the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, where they had the opportunity to see a wide variety of animals.  They also spent time discussing ways that an animal's body design can be used to learn about that animal's habits, like where they live and what they eat.

Biology major Shannon Martie '13 loved getting out of the classroom.  "It's great to see the animals we're learning about in real time versus a picture or dead in a jar. At the fish market I had an 'aha' moment. We had discussed the differences in the color of tuna meat and white fish in class, but then we saw firsthand how muscle activity and the mechanisms in the tuna give it its unique color."

In addition to taking advantage of local resources for studying animals, the class has been doing its own investigations into the wildlife of North Carolina. Over the course of the semester, they were challenged to take pictures of wildlife from around the region, to identify the animals in the pictures and to describe characteristics of the animal's behavior and ecology.  

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