Last week, students enrolled in Ecology, a required course for Biology majors, were treated to a presentation on reptiles and amphibians common to natural areas of East Georgia State College by public safety officer Jason Kohler, aided by library assistant Tia Morris. Kohler described the natural history of several species of snake, lizard, salamander, frogs and toads that biology students may find while conducting experiments on campus. Kohler is also a successful snake breeder and handler, and he brought with him several nonvenomous snakes for demonstration purposes. This type of interaction benefits the students by allowing hands-on experience in a controlled environment.
“Our biology students maintain a long-term research project on reptile and amphibian activity at several sites on campus,” said Dr. Breana Simmons, Associate Professor of Biology.
Designed by students under the guidance of GA DNR scientist Dr. Jessica McGuire, this monitoring effort has allowed previous undergraduates to present research results at the Georgia Academy of Sciences annual meeting.
“Long-term data collection is critical to ecosystem science, but the opportunity to keep these projects going is often limited due to time and budget constraints,” Simmons said. “These students aren’t just learning about ecology, they are doing real science and collecting important data on threatened native species, such as the gopher tortoise and the indigo snake.”
Kohler has been studying reptiles at EGCS for ten years, and has a great collection of specimens and photographs.
“One of the most impressive things about East Georgia State College is the diversity in expertise, not just among the faculty, but also among the staff. I tap into that as much as I can,” says Dr. Simmons. “I have graduate degrees in entomology and ecology, but my specialty is soil biology and managed lands. It only makes sense to bring in experts in other areas to enrich the learning experience. And we have a herpetologist right here in the Office of Public Safety!”
Kohler has been employed as a security guard on campus since 2004.