Belmont biology professors Drs. Steve Murphree, Darlene Panvini and John Niedzwiecki enjoy being outdoors and slogging around in mud so the trio jumped at the chance to study a wetland on the Nissan North America campus in Franklin, Tennessee. David Withers, staff zoologist with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Natural Heritage, had suggested the Belmont field biologists to Chris Fleming, a senior project scientist with BDY Environmental who had overseen work to develop the wetland.
After visiting the wetland in July 2009, the professors submitted a grant proposal to Nissan for equipment to work with Belmont biology students to monitor the flora and fauna for the next few years and create lists of the species observed. Rob Traynham, Nissan’s director of corporate services, has funded the grant and assisted in arranging access to the wetland for Belmont faculty and students. An ecology class led by Panvini visited the wetland in October to learn plant sampling protocols and explore concepts related to biodiversity assessment. Future visits will involve Belmont students and faculty inventorying vertebrate and macroinvertebrate animals, photographing flora and fauna for educational use, and raising awareness of the ecological importance of wetlands.
In addition to class visits, biology and environmental science majors will find the wetland to be a valuable resource for undergraduate research projects. Belmont students often explore local wooded areas, cedar glades, and streams during labs; the Biology professors expect that exposing students to another habitat type in the Nashville area will also increase students’ appreciation and awe of the natural world. Nissan’s employees will also benefit from this partnership through a planned educational kiosk and boardwalk in the area.