BIG RAPIDS – Ferris State University Biology students are using donated pontoon boats to get an on-the-water education in scientific fieldwork.
Lakeside Motor Sports, a power sports marine dealer located in Mecosta, Mich., donated two of three pontoon boats used during an Ecological Assessment course at Ferris, along with free winterization services. The use of these donated boats will be an aid to the hands-on educational approach for which Ferris is known, according to Ferris professor of Biology Dr. Gary Rodabaugh, who donated the third pontoon boat.
“The generous donations of pontoon boats by Lakeside Motor Sports and professor Gary Rodabaugh improve the learning environment of our students by providing an opportunity for them to gain practical experience in the natural environment,” said Matt Klein, dean of College of Arts and Sciences. “Without the generous support of donors such as Lakeside Motor Sports and professor Rodabaugh, the College of Arts and Sciences would not be able to provide the robust educational experience its students deserve in this difficult economic climate.”
Thanks to the generous donation, Biology students in Rodabaugh’s Ecological Assessment class could experience what it is like to be a true scientist. For four weeks, Rodabaugh’s students spent every Friday making an ecological assessment of the aquatic environments of Lake Mecosta and Round Lake in Mecosta County’s Martiny Township. Three groups of five students used the boats to reel in their own fish, drag plankton nets across the lake, obtain their own water samples and catch zebra mussels.
Students collected their own specimens, examined and preserved them, analyzed data and produced a report detailing their findings. They also learned proper collection techniques, how to use specialized equipment, and how to properly fill out log books, he explained.
“The purpose of a course like this is to teach field skills that are rarely taught anymore. This way, students can get the technical and legal backgrounds to provide professional expertise on information that would hold up as evidence in a court of law,” Rodabaugh said. “(These students) are doing hands-on things they never thought they could do.”
Danielle Maneke, business director of Lakeside Motor Sports, said they will continue their winterization services for the donated boats throughout the years. Lakeside also plans to explore other avenues of philanthropy with Ferris in the future.
“We think it’s important to be involved with the community. We’ll doing anything we can to help others; we’re just trying to do our part,” said Maneke.
Lakside Motor Sports is a dealer of new and used boats, and also offers service and parts. It is a family-owned company operating since September 1998.