News Release Details


EAC participates in “Field Day” at Howard Well

Story Photo
[Click Image to Enlarge] Students from Eastern Arizona College, Thatcher High School, and Safford Middle School gathered with their instructors and Safford-Bureau of Land Management interns and personnel last month to participate in a “Field Day.”

By Lexi Lee

Thatcher, AZ—Students from Eastern Arizona College, Thatcher High School, and Safford Middle School gathered with their instructors and Safford-Bureau of Land Management (BLM) interns and personnel last month for a worthy environmental cause.

Students in the BIO 295 Undergraduate Biological Research class at EAC were assigned the task of developing their own master plan for an environmental project. Under the direction of EAC instructor David Henson, students were to use in-class training to design, plan, and carry out a field project in which they could practice project management skills.

Working in conjunction with Joneen Cockman, lead Natural Resource Specialist, and Heidi Blasius, Fisheries Biologist, of the BLM, the students chose Howard Well, east of Safford, as the site for the project.

“To come upon Howard Well is to transition from the heat and scrub of the desert into an old growth, cottonwood canopy covered oasis,” says Henson, EAC Biology Department Head and instructor of the BIO #295 program. “It is the water source for area animal species and a stopover for migratory birds. The enhancement of this artesian-fed pond will also benefit the threatened and endangered Desert Pupfish and Gila Topminnow, native fish that inhabit this site. It is hoped that the improvements made will encourage the public to use the site for bird-watching and nature viewing.”

Along with all the environmental benefits, the site will provide continued research opportunities for federal agencies in the area and educational entities such as EAC.

Students participating in the field day rotated between four work stations. One station found students constructing pathways leading to viewing sites along the periphery of the pond where concrete benches were placed at vantage points with scenic views of the project site. Another station worked at removing excess sedge and cattails around the edge of the water. A corresponding station had volunteers moving bags of aquatic vegetation into the surrounding desert to assist with erosion control at designated areas. The fourth station constructed a railroad tie stairway for access down into the pond site.

During breaks, an educational program stressed the objectives of the field day experience to the students. Blasius discussed threatened and endangered fish species, focusing on how Howard Well and nearby Posey Well are used as a monitored native fish habitat for Gila Topminnow and Desert Pupfish. Henson addressed the benefits associated with healthy desert riparian habitat, focusing on water quality and an appreciation of green zones within desert settings. Kyle Tate, an EAC BIO 295 student, examined the ecology of the San Simon Valley and its use by migratory aquatic fowl that have used this area for centuries.

“The student volunteers were a big part of the success of this assignment,” said Henson. “As a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) component of this project, teams were made up of middle and high school students who worked under the mentorship of the college students.”

“My class really put forth an effort,” said Erik Hanchet, Safford Middle School instructor. “I heard my kids talking with the older students about things we had learned in preparation for this day. They acted so mature around the older kids.”

As part of the project planning, several local entities supported this effort with material donations including: H & S Feed Tack & Western Wear, Wal-Mart, Scarborough Pumping and Porta Johns, the Eastern Arizona College Discovery Park Campus, and Chuck Duncan of the US Forest Service-Safford Office.

“We just don’t have this kind of manpower on our projects unless volunteers are involved,” said Blasius. “The EAC students did a great job designing and managing this project.”

“I had my concerns that sixty some-odd middle and high schoolers could be so organized and leave a project, not only complete, but clean,” admitted Cockman. “But the combination of college, high school, and middle school really works well and furthers the STEM effort. Our focus at BLM is to identify projects which first benefit the students to share in hands-on science and sharpen their STEM skills. Getting the project done helps BLM right now, but we are also trying to inspire young people to become land managers now and possibly choose land management as a career.”

For more information about future BLM activities, contact the Bureau of Land Management-Safford Office at (928) 348-4400.