Friday, May 09, 2014

The Water Chestnut As A Teaching Tool

by Hilary Mosher, FL- Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FLPRISM) at the Finger Lakes Institute

When Michael Boller, Assistant Professor of Biology at St. John Fisher College (SJFC), told his Plant Biology Laboratory that their final project would be on the water chestnut, many undoubtedly imagined a number of tasty dishes: spinach dip, stuffing or bacon wrapped water chestnuts, if you are into that sort of thing. Unfortunately, students discovered that the store-bought Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) is different from the invasive water chestnut (Trapa natans) that is overrunning our waters.

Students in the Plant Biology Laboratory (BIO 213L) at SJFC participated in the service-learning project in partnership with the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) and the Lavery Library at SJFC. Students learned that while the fruit of the invasive water chestnut is used medicinally in Asia for its antidiabetic, anticancer, and antidiarrheal properties, the aggressiveness of the plant and its effects on property value, recreation, and the biology of a region, are of concern. Michelle Price, Outreach and Special Collections Librarian for Lavery Library said that students found the project meaningful because their results, annotated bibliographies, were to be reported to Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) and the new Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FLPRISM) program. Price said the project had deeper relevance because their research topic was an invasive species currently of concern to our region. This was the first semester for the collaboration between SJFC and FLI. Boller is hopeful that the alliance will continue in the collective fight against invasive species through information sharing and research initiatives. 

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About Finger Lakes Institute

The Finger Lakes Institute is dedicated to the promotion of environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes and surrounding environments. In collaboration with regional environmental partners and state and local government offices, the Institute fosters environmentally-sound development practices throughout the region, and disseminates the accumulated knowledge to the general public.

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