IKEMIRE, Montana*; REPENNING, Peter; TIFFANY, III, William J.; New College of Florida; New College of Florida; New College of Florida: An Integrated Approach to Teaching Field Ecology
Numerous ecological habitats exist on or adjacent to the New College of Florida campus that are amenable to study by successive classes of field ecology students. These habitats range in size from the small, relatively undisturbed bromeliad (predominately Tillandsia sp) reservoirs to large, ruderal fields impacted by multiple anthropogenic activities. Perhaps the most diverse ecosystem available to students is the New College microestuary; a small (<10ha) salt marsh/mangrove wetland integrated with an upland, artesian fed freshwater lake associated with a tidally influenced creek. Studies conducted on this microestuary temporally extend back several decades and encompass all organizational levels of ecology – behavioral, population, community, and ecosystem ecology. A small representative example includes feeding behavior of mangrove crabs (Aratus sp), population dynamics of coffee snails (Melampus sp), species diversity analyses on community structure, investigations regarding the occurrence and management of exotic species, water quality analyses, and resource management studies. Because of the close proximity of this microestuary to the Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center, students are readily able to return organisms to the laboratory for study and/or conduct direct field observations. Not only do preceding studies offer a template for future investigations, they provide data which are instructionally valuable for students wishing to apply metaanalytical techniques to historical data sets. They also allow an ongoing review of the ecological health of this ecosystem. Although New College of Florida is fortunate to have this microcosm available for continuing studies, every college campus has areas which provide an opportunity for students to regularly conduct meaningful ecological studies. The importance of repeated study using project-based studies on significant campus habitats is apparent and cannot be overstated.