For the thirty-fourth year, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge hosted the Field Ecology Summer Regional Governor's School from June 11 to July 6. Twenty-three students from six middle and high schools in the DSLCC service area learned about ecology by studying nature outdoors rather than in the classroom. The students examined forests and wildlife throughout the highlands of Virginia and West Virginia.
The highlight of the first half of the program was a three-day primitive camping trip to the Laurel Fork region of Highland County, where the Governor's School continued its long-term monitoring of the salamander population of the area. Students captured, identified, and released 229 salamanders during a day-long study at eight elevations.
In the second half of the program the Governor's School investigated forest ecology, with a three-day camping trip to the Greenbrier State Forest near Caldwell, WV, and additional trips to Roaring Run in Botetourt County and the Cranberry Glades in West Virginia. The participants learned how to identify and measure trees to assess forest diversity and quality.
The program also included trips to Douthat State Park in Bath County, VA, Gaudineer Knob and Scenic Area in Randolph County, WV, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV.
During the four weeks of the Governor's School, participants photographed, identified, and researched local flora and fauna to produce an electronic “field guide" for each of the two sessions.
Jane DeGroot, biology teacher at Covington High School, and Susan Rollinson, former chemistry and environmental science instructor at DSLCC, were co-directors and instructors. Josh Craft, history teacher at Clifton Middle School, was an instructor for the salamander study. Molly Austin, an environmental horticulture student at Virginia Tech, and Benny Elmore, who will be attending DSLCC this fall, were mentor-aides for the course.
Students are invited to participate based on their interest, maturity, and potential for excelling in biology. To be considered, a first-time participant must be a rising 9th or 10th grade student in the DSLCC area. In early March, science teachers, guidance counselors, and local gifted education teachers and administrators encourage qualified students to complete an application. Home-schooled and private-schooled students are welcome to apply, provided that they are residents of Virginia. The Governor's School is one of 21 Summer Regional Governor's Schools sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education, local school divisions, and host schools, such as DSLCC.
This year, a generous grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation enabled the Governor's School to purchase much-needed replacement tents and forestry equipment. Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation is based in Richmond, Virginia and is a philanthropic arm of Dominion Energy. The Foundation invests in initiatives throughout the US in the geographic areas it serves supporting critical human and educational needs, environmental stewardship, and community vitality.
The Governor's School web site (www.fieldecology.org) has more information and many photos of this year's activities.
Anyone wishing to learn more about the Governor's School or provide input on future activities is invited to contact their local gifted program administrator, Jane DeGroot, at Covington High School, or Susan Rollinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.