Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Ind. – Zebulon Holsopple spent his summer days in the sun –
tracking animals, collecting plants and taking an occasional camping trip.
He wasn’t on vacation between academic semesters – he was
participating in the 2004 Goshen College Maple Scholars program, a summer
research opportunity for students to work side-by-side with Goshen College
professors. Consisting of eight weeks of research, the program culminates
in a final symposium showcasing each student’s work.
students participating in the Maple Scholars program spent many
hours indoors, peering into beakers or computer screens, Holsopple,
a junior environmental studies and secondary education double major
from Goshen, searched outdoors for his data.
Based at the
Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, located
about 45 minutes south of the main campus near Wolf Lake, Ind.,
Holsopple was looking at three models of conservation and the
effect it has on species diversity and richness.
“Biodiversity is a measure of an ecosystem’s health, so
by looking at the biodiversity of an area, I can assess how
effective the conservation type is at preserving and/or restoring
biodiversity,” said Holsopple, which is essential to
combating the loss of 27,000 of the earth’s species each
English, assistant professor of biology and director of
environmental studies, was Holsopple’s adviser.
“Answers to the questions that he’s asking would
provide land managers with more data as they decide on how to
approach conservation,” she said.
models of conservation Holsopple was examining are active, passive
and restorative. He first researched the northern Indiana region to
find sites that fit each model and has spent significant amounts of
time at each area.
conservation is a model of intervention where flora and fauna in an
area are managed with goals of conserving current community
structure in an ecosystem. One area where this has occurred is at
Chain O’Lakes State Park in Noble County, where farmers once
plowed fields of crops. The field has since been converted to a
forest ecosystem through the planting of Eastern White Pine
Holsopple’s studies of passive conservation, a model whereby
a plot of land is set aside and nature is allowed to take its
course without human intervention, took place at Pokagon State
Park, a former campground in Steuben County.
model is restorative conservation, or in the words of Holsopple,
“undoing what has been done by man.” It includes
altering landscapes or waterways, relocating or exterminating
non-indigenous species and reintroducing indigenous species with
the goal of returning a community to a previous natural state. A
site at Merry Lea proved suitable for Holsopple’s research of
Holsopple worked by the sun during the day and slept under the
stars at night, his task was grueling, with each day starting
before sunrise and ending after sunset. Rising at 4 a.m., he first
checked traps he set the day before at a particular study site. The
mice, shrews and voles he caught act as the primary indicator of
biodiversity in that area. Once caught, the animals were recorded,
marked with spray paint and released.
Holsopple gathered samples of vegetation to take back to the Merry
Lea Learning Center, where the rest of the morning was spent
identifying and studying the samples, which also help to determine
the ecosystem’s biodiversity.
finds me back in the field again to re-check the traps and to
release any inhabitants,” said Holsopple, followed by more
identification of the site’s vegetation. Only towards early
evening does he get a break from the days activities
supper, I have a precious few hours of free time to work on other
aspects of the project or take time off for myself,” he
Holsopple once again checked the traps at the study site and
releases any occupants. “It is at these times that I realize
that the night does not belong to humans, as the day does, but
belongs to the various wild animals that stir as the sun goes
down,” said Holsopple. “After the check is complete, I
am done for the day, and gratefully collapse into bed to get the
sleep necessary for me to rise and do it all again the next
“Biological questions worthy of research may first appear, to
students, as a daunting task in getting to the answer. However,
once they go through the process of designing and carrying out a
study, few questions will appear daunting – just in need of
thought and process. I can think of no greater educational tool to
offer students than the systematic process of problem
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