Current Creative Inquiry Projects

Bird Migration and Climate Change

Brian Lang, Best Poster, NRGSA SymposiumBirds provide many important services that include suppression of insect pests, dispersing seeds, pollinating flowers, and attracting bird-watchers (who spend an estimated $36 billion annually in the United States!).  At the same time, many bird populations are declining, especially in places where habitats are being altered and temperatures are changing.  The current focus of our CI class is to explore relationships between bird migration, temperatures, and food or other resource needs.  Thus far, we have compiled a database of nearly 80,000 first-arrival dates between 1880-2010 for common bird species in the Eastern United States using data  collected by extensive networks of citizen scientists.  We are in the process of correlating these migration dates with historical and current climate data to examine  possible effects of climate change on bird migration and interactions with other variables such as bird feeding.  During this upcoming semester, students will add to our  growing migration database, pair historical climate data with arrival records, participate in weekly lab meetings, and use these data to develop unique research projects.  Our creative  inquiry could be especially useful for those wanting to gain research experience, explore the possibility of attending graduate school in the natural sciences, or learn more about climate change.

Fate of Latex Balloons Released into the Environment

Creative Inquiry - BalloonsThe scope of this Creative Inquiry seeks to determine various aspects of latex balloon release effects on the environment. Starting in the fall 2010 semester, aspects such as dispersal of the balloons from the release point using ID labels, physical characteristics of the balloon when they land, and degradation trials in various environmental conditions were examined. Additionally students designed and performed surveys to assess public opinion. In spring of 2010, feeding trials were performed on several species to determine the physiological effects of ingestion, and surveys were initiated on DNR officials and/or environmental agencies to determine aspects of released balloons appearing in the environment. Surveys will continue in fall 2011, and field studies will be performed to see which species might be prone to consume the material. 

Sustainable Recreational Trail Design, Construction and Maintenance

Sustainable Recreational Trail Design, Construction and Maintenance emphasizes protection of water resources associated with trails. The following topics are covered.
    •    Developing partnerships
    •    Principles of sustainable trail design
    •    How to design trails for different users
    •    Developing a construction plan

We also cover most aspects of trail construction, such as:

    •    trail grade
    •    corridor dimensions
    •    turns
    •    switchbacks
    •    armoring, and
    •    crossings at streams and wetlands.

The maintenance portion of this course will cover assessment of the trail condition and solutions to trail problems like erosion or poor location. To address trail conditions, students are required to learn and conduct basic bacterial assessment at stream crossings and use of simple field survey techniques to evaluate changes in trail location and incision. They will also conduct stream habitat assessments, cooperate on developing trail designs, trail construction and trail maintenance, and be involved with developing signage for the existing trail system in Clemson Experimental Forest.