East Georgia State College students in Dr. Breana Simmons’s ecology class for Fall semester 2016 conducted a series of studies on the pond at Swainsboro Primary School to test the pond’s viability for fish, plant life and other wildlife. They recently met with Emanuel County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Judy and Assistant Superintendent Toni Terwilliger. The study was requested by Kim Hooks, science teacher at Swainsboro Primary School, and Deanna Ryan, science teacher at Swainsboro Middle School, who were also involved in the project. Presenting the research were Colby Calhoun, and Blain Bellflower. Kaitlin Warren and Joleishia Cooper also worked on the survey but were not present for the presentation. "Mrs. Hooks and Mrs. Ryan asked us to look at the pond because they wanted our advice,” explained Dr Simmons. “ The students collected a lot of measurements in order to assess the ecological integrity of the pond and provide school administrators with some information about how to get it to where the teachers wanted it. They also came up with an alternative plan for the area.” “ We took examples of the water and the sediment, and also looked at the aquatic life that existed in the pond,” explained Calhoun. He gave a general overview of how the research was conducted, then presented his plan for turning the pond into a true fishing pond, as was the intended purpose according to the teachers. “ We concluded that the condition of the pond was from fair to poor,” he explained, citing the depth of the pond, the temperature of the water, and the lack of smaller invertebrates and fish that indicate the pond’s overall health. Calhoun outlined the steps that would be necessary to create a suitable environment to support the pond’s purpose as a fishing pond. These included increasing the pond’s depth. “ This is a very shallow, very hot pond,” said Dr. Simmons. “ The only issue with this pond is the physical integrity. It is too shallow and too hot to support fish.” “ It is okay as a pond, but as a trophy fishing pond, you’ll need to do some work,” said Calhoun, explaining the process of expanding and evaluating the requirements for engineering the project. “ An average depth is six to eight feet to support fish, so it is not deep enough right now [the pond is just over two feet deep and as shallow as 1.8 feet]. It needs tobe a lot deeper for fish to be able to swim in it.” He also outlined requirements for the bank slopes, the introduction of different aquatic plants to provide variety, and different fertilizers that can be used to add nutrients to the water. Calhoun discussed stocking the pond with catfish, largemouth bass and bluegill bream, then creating habitats for them by sinking trees in the water. Bellflower then spoke, presenting his plan for converting the pond, not to a trophy pond, but into an outdoor classroom and a bog garden. He spoke with Dianna Wedincamp and consulted her on a plan to turn part of the pond into a viable bog garden. He outlined several different species that could be included in the bog garden, including a purple pitcher plant and several other varieties of bog plants.
In addition to his plan, he outlined an idea to allow students to still enjoy a fishing derby, but to do so at the ponds at Harmon Park. These ponds are already fishing-ready and provide a larger bank area to accommodate more children at a time. “ As opposed to a pond, a bog garden would be more cost effective and it also gets the students involved in the entire process to engage them in conservation,” he explained. “ We are losing our bogs in this area, and turning the pond into a bog garden would be a conservation effort.” Bellflower explained that the area was already a good candidate for a bog garden and that, to create the garden, the dam would need to be broken down to release the water from the pond. The peninsula in the pond could be extended all the way across the pond to form a new dam, effectively breaking the current pond in two—a bog garden and a fishing pond (the pond area would still need to be re-dug to increase the depth.) “ As we’re talking about how to create a bog garden, we also have to discuss adding in raised observation decks as well,” Bellflower said. He outlined different grants available to help with costs and bog gardens in the area that could provide plant ideas and help with creating the bog. “ This plan is more cost effective and the total comes in, at its highest, still lower than the lowest estimate for deepening the pond.” “ As far as tiny ponds go, itis fine, but it isn’t sustainable. You’ll always have to continue throwing fish in, and the students were very excited to look into different ways to make this sustainable,” said Dr. Simmons.