Biology students to the rescue

IMG_8463

By Nubia Sanchez
Staff Writer 

While most people think about hanging up mistletoe in their doorway as a cheerful Christmas tradition, the parasitic plant has taken on a much more sinister role on the Northeast campus.

A longstanding oak tree located outside of the library is being attacked by mistletoe. NTCC Biology Professor Jim Ward said he and Plant Services Director Tom Ramler originally debated whether to take the tree down or see what could be done to save it.

Ward said after some discussion, he got the idea to turn the tree into a service learning project for his Biology II class.

“We are trying to save and help the tree recover to where it will grow out with full foliage,” he said. This undertaking is one of several other projects that Ward’s biology classes will be involved with over the next few months.

Ward said he and his students will work closely with Ramler and his crew to assist with the college’s landscape management plan and tree identification. Ward and his students began the process of cutting the mistletoe out of the tree several weeks ago.

He said pictures that were taken from fall 2016 of the effected tree will be used to compare the results later on this spring semester.

“The tree might take a year to recover,” he said. “This project is important for students to learn biology. It’s hands on, and gives back to the college so the college will not have to pay anyone to solve this problem.”

Usually biology students just learn about plant life while sitting in the classroom, but in this particular course the students are actually getting to experience saving one. Biology student Melody Mott said she thinks that this project is “cool because it is interactive learning about the biology of the tree and the different types of mistletoe there is.”

She said the project also gives the students a chance to give back to the college. “It is a way in helping the community and landscape, and it helps the whole campus environment look better and nicer by helping the trees,” Mott said.

Another biology student, Gavin Dethrow agreed with Mott. “It is fun and hands on learning,” he said. “The tree looks a lot better from the first time I saw it. It did not look like the best. But with what has been done the tree can get back to being healthy without all the parasites sucking the life and water from the tree.”

Ward said the class will continue working to get the tree back into a healthy state, but it will be awhile before they know if their efforts have paid off.

“We are in the process of stopping the ‘bleeding’ and the repairing will start,” he said. “We won’t know about the results for about a year.”