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Surprising Land Snail Diversity in Our Region

Posted by Conservation Biology Class

September 26, 2017

Category: Student Blogs


Front row (L-R): Elizabeth Howard, Stephen Beaver, Simeon Trotsenko, Julieanna Herriven, Emily Pratt, Hanna Przelomski, Serena Musselwhite; Back row (L-R): Dr. Joe Poston, Abby Kluttz, Emily Atchley

Several students from Dr. Joe Poston's Conservation Biology class at Catawba College attended a meeting of the Greater Uwharries Conservation Partnership, at Morrow Mountain State Park, on Thursday, September 21. While there, students learned about a map under development to track areas of conservation concern, they heard a presentation on the new North Carolina Biodiversity Project, and they learned about land snail diversity in the region. They even participated in a land snail collection and identification workshop.

Catawba students who attended the meeting with Biology Professors Drs. Poston and Jay Bolin included Emily O. Atchley of Statesville; Stephen Beaver of Salisbury; Julieanna E. Herriven of New Bern; Elizabeth L. Howard of Mocksville; Abby R. Kluttz of Salisbury; Serena J. Musselwhite of Salisbury; Emily B. Pratt of Knoxville, Tenn.; Hannah R. Przelomski of Rocky Mount; and Simeon Trotsenko of Maiden.

Julieanna Herriven, Serena Musselwhite, Dr. Jay Bolin, Simeon Trotsenko, and Hanna Przelomski display some snail shells found during the workshop.

The meeting was an excellent opportunity for students to observe how the topics they learn in class are applied by professionals in conservation biology. For example, they learned that our knowledge about snail distribution patterns in North Carolina is still quite rudimentary. The database does not yet include any records from Rowan County.

Emily Pratt noted, "This trip helped me understand more of what goes on behind the scenes when mapping out where certain species are located. There are a lot more snail species and even individuals in the area than I'd ever realized, and I'd never really thought about what went into studying the locations and behaviors of such small organisms until now."

The mapping tools on display helped students understand why it is important for them to learn mapping technologies, such as Geographic Information System (GIS). Abby Kluttz observed, "I learned a great deal about the many different snail species and how their ranges can be mapped. I also learned about the importance of varied data sources when mapping populations."


Abby Kluttz, Emily Pratt, Wayne Van Devender, and Emily Atchley search for land snails in a rotted log.

Moreover, students learned about efforts to preserve all types of organisms. Julieanna Herriven commented, "In conservation biology most of the time it seems to be focusing on larger species such as mammals and birds and we sometimes forget about the smaller species. Conservation biology doesn't discriminate on what should be protected because one of the goals is to maintain biodiversity.  I would have never thought about the land snails and after today I find myself thinking about all of the species and what makes them special. "

Students chatted with federal, state, and local conservation biologists and made connections that could lead to internships or even jobs after they graduate.

Dr. Joe Poston remarked, "Students in Catawba's Environment and Sustainability programs have a passion for the natural world. That passion was on display for conservation professionals, who were impressed with our students' commitment to conservation efforts." 

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