CAA Biology Trip Research 'Transecting' all Disciplines

July 01, 2011 | Larry Hiday

Usually 6:30 a.m. isn't the time to ask academy students to show up for school. But on April 20, that's the time 26 biology students arrived at Columbia Adventist Academy due to lunar forces. No, lunar forces didn't pull students to school but the forces were pulling strongly on the Earth, creating excellent low tides for marine studies of tide pools. Loading into the bus with their waders, mudding boots and binoculars, all were prepared to find as many birds and marine organisms as possible over the next three days.

The trip inventoried three intertidal zones: a sandy, cobblestone beach, a rocky shore (Rosario), and a muddy beach. For years, CAA biology classes have been utilizing the resources of the Walla Walla University Marine Lab and have been one of a select few groups allowed to collect data in tide pools of the protected areas of Deception Pass State Park since their devastation in 1995 when thousands of unexpected school visitors trampled them during an extremely low tide. CAA students conducted three field studies: a study looking at the effect of different environmental factors on barnacle orientation, a rockweed age study looking at those same factors, and three line transects identifying the type and number of all organisms present. The latter data was then submitted to the government for its use in tracking population trends.

This year's trip was enhanced by chaperones: Virlys Moller, English teacher; Shelly Fry, global studies teacher; and John Williams, DVM. Moller shared her poetry and then had students write poems about the beach's inspiring environment. Fry organized the students to lead out in the morning devotions and evening campfire worships. Williams led out in birding expeditions, where students collectively identified 73 different species. In addition to the biology, English and spiritual focuses, statistics and math were used in the research and a history of the area was shared by the State Park docent. It was truly a trip involving all disciplines and all of the students' senses. When asked what was of greatest value to them, Destiny Cosner and Emmitt Johnson, CAA sophomores, said, "The most valued part of the trip for me was getting to know God's creation more. Seeing how intricate the organisms were ... made me realize how incredible He is. To actually get out there and learn about biology hands on makes you realize there has to be a higher power that makes all this possible."