Pictured front to back: Zachary Privette and Chelsea Crocker
Pictured front to back: Justin Joyner, Zachary Privette and Chelsea Crocker
Zachary Privette’s eyes light up when he speaks of the research he’s participating in. “People need to know about this,” he said. “What we are doing could make a difference in human health one day.” Zachary is a Nash Community College transfer student majoring in Biology.
Pictured front to back: Ismael Gomez and Joel Hernandez
With a walk down to the Science and Technology Building, anyone will understood exactly what Zachary is referring to: students in the lab, hovered over test tubes, excitedly interacting and discussing scientific terminology as if they were fluent in another language. They are enrolled in NCC Biology classes, but the research is not being done by one class in particular. The current instructor-student research team is extracting DNA from seepage salamanders that were collected during a previous study in 2010. The future biologists are indexing the samples and findings in a computerized database where the information is coded and stored for later analysis. The DNA will be sequenced and then sent to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to be visualized on a DNA sequencer in the Genomics & Microbiology Research Laboratory. “These students are participating because they have taken an interest in extending their learning beyond class time. They are dedicated and passionate about what they are experiencing,” Biology Instructor David Beamer said.
The original 2010 study was funded by a grant from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The findings expressed in a journal article titled, “Good news at last: Conservation status of the seepage salamander (Desmognathus aeneus)” written by Sean P. Graham from The Pennsylvania State University Biology Department, David Beamer and Trip Lamb of the East Carolina University Biology Department, shed new light on what was once thought to be an endangered species. The work was published in Herpetological Conservation and Biology in 2012. “The Wildlife Resource Commission enlisted our assistance to examine the status of a species of salamander called the seepage salamander in North Carolina,” David Beamer said. The population survey showed that the seepage salamander, a species that most scientists considered to be very rare, was actually common. Due to these conclusions, it was removed from a petition to list it as a federally endangered species and was also removed from some state lists of species of concern. “Our research provided quantitative data detailing the distribution and status of the salamanders so that the state agencies would be able to better understand, and possibly modify future programs,” Beamer said.
Back in the lab, Beamer and his students are continuing the research by expanding the DNA database to include samples from a larger area. This will hopefully allow them to address whether or not seepage salamanders are represented by a single wide-ranging relatively common species or if populations from different areas would be better recognized as different species. According to Beamer, it will take a considerable amount of work to address these questions and students have played a major role in generating the DNA data to analyze. At this time, the group is ready to begin DNA sequencing.
Zachary Privette said his goal is to transfer to North Carolina State University to complete his undergraduate and masters degrees. “I am already participating in research that is usually only offered at the university level,” Privette said. “Thanks to Mr. Beamer, I want to be a Biology professor one day. What we are learning here is exciting and important. Because of him, I have found a love for Biology and research and want to do exactly what he’s doing.”
Later this month, Beamer and his students will be presenting at the North Carolina Academy of Science 111th Annual Meeting at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, and the North Carolina Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Annual Meeting at the North Carolina Forest Service Mountain Training Facility located near Crossnore, NC.
The Nash Community College Transfer Program prepares students to study at a four-year college or university after completing the first two years at Nash. Often times, because of the smaller class size, access to equipment and one-on-one instruction, Nash Community College transfer students outperform native university juniors.