Belhaven University and the Jackson Zoo are partnering together for an important project that benefits both institutions. Over the next year, 300 Belhaven students in the science program will be collecting research-based data around the zoo grounds in a real-life science project. The zoo will then use that information to develop their conservation efforts and future improvements, said to double the facility’s size and include new exhibits and parking.
“We are so excited to have the assistance of our nearby neighbor Belhaven University,” said Beth Poff, Executive Director of Jackson Zoo. “The input of professors and students doing real projects at the zoo, in the field, is a support that can’t be measured in dollars.”
Poff believes the Jackson Zoo should be a shining example of conservation in the state and the data from Belhaven will give them the tools they need to remain good stewards of the environment. The Biology Club and American Chemical Society at Belhaven are designing the research methods that will determine the environmental quality and functionality of the zoo and its surrounding grounds.
Belhaven Students test water samples to determine most efficient flow of water sources at the zoo.
Students will conduct studies in areas of energy, water, mapping and waste management to help the zoo best manage and conserve its natural resources as they grow. The students will also conduct natural and wildlife surveys of the zoo grounds. This preliminary research project is a first for both institutions and could lead to future partnerships with Belhaven as well as other local colleges and the zoo.
Dr. Reid Bishop, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Division Chair of Natural Sciences, said, “Our research will assist the zoo in the development of a long term strategic plan that will make their operation and master plan more sustainable with a lower environmental footprint.” The results will give the Jackson Zoo a developed project protocol and strategic plan, a series of electronic and hard copies of GIS maps, data tables, graphs and descriptions of the experimental methodology.
Dr. Reid Bishop leads the project, while senior Chemistry student
Majory Clement assists in data collection.
“The Jackson Zoo is a wonderful resource for education and we are pleased for this opportunity to serve the needs of the zoo through this important partnership,” said Dr. Roger Parrott, President of Belhaven University. “We are deeply committed to the city of Jackson, and this is a wonderful way we can enrich the quality of life and education for our community, while allowing our students to put their learning into practice.”
The science professors at Belhaven are adding their expertise to the zoo’s development team and will assist in project planning, data analysis and student workers. The zoo will also have access to Belhaven’s state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation that includes computing resources, sampling equipment and analytical instrumentation.
In return, Belhaven faculty and staff will utilize the grounds, educational facilities and professional expertise of the Jackson Zoo to engage science majors and no-majors in research projects. This partnership supports the University’s mission to teach science through good stewardship and civic engagement opportunities. The zoo plans to work with others in the community such as local environmental and chemical consultant firm, Biotactus, LLC and other private donors.
While primary data collection is conducted by students in the science department,
other departments will get involved as the project progresses.