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  • Tyler Kokie & Dr. Abigail Kula

Diverse World of Invertebrate Zoology at Our Feet

Tyler Kokie & Dr. Abigail Kula

The Mount’s biology department has many classes to offer the student base, one of the more interesting classes is invertebrate zoology. The class is offered as an elective for biology and environmental science majors.

Dr. Abigail Kula teaches the course and described it as “teaching the students about evolutionary history and diversity, as well as the structures, similarities and differences of invertebrates.” Throughout the semester we learn about different invertebrate phyla, or groups of animals, as well as some of the traits and functions that make them unique.

Invertebrates are a classification of animals that don’t possess a vertebral column, these include insects, crustaceans, and worms. The class mixes lecture and lab together, allowing us to learn about invertebrates and then see a specimen of them in the same class period.

Recently in the class, we had our kelp holdfast lab. Dr. Kula described the lab as “allowing the students to observe the organisms covered in class, allowing students to observe them in a community.”

The lab itself is simple; the purpose is for us to be able to see the organisms that would live in kelp in a live environment, and use the knowledge we gained over the semester to observe a community of invertebrates. We have a piece of kelp holdfast that was sent to us, and we placed it into a tank to ensure that all the organisms in the kelp are still alive.

We spent two class periods observing and collecting as many organisms as possible from the kelp, we then organized them by phylum or group of animals. All of us were split into groups of 3-4, each group was assigned a phylum to look for in the kelp.

Our job was to then organize each organism by species and count the number of individuals we had. Using a series of nets and containers, we collected every organism we could see and sorted them into their respective phylum.

When Emily Hall (C’24) was asked for her opinion on the lab she said, “I enjoyed being able to view organisms we have been discussing in class, and to see interactions between plants and invertebrate species.”

Another student Julianna Mariano (C’24) had this to say when asked about the lab “It was a fantastic learning experience, I love these types of activities because they are like what I do when I’m out in the field researching.”

The lab is one of the longer-running labs that we do during the semester as well taking up two of our two-and-a-half-hour classes. We also had trouble the first time we attempted the lab, as the original kelp we had shipped to us was stuck in the south due to a storm.

Due to the time trapped down there most of our specimens would’ve died, causing us to have another kelp holdfast shipped to us so we could do the lab properly. I can say with confidence that this is one of the more interesting labs I’ve done during my time here at the Mount. Not only was the lab interesting and engaging, but it allowed me to see specimens I’ve learned about all semester alive and in their habitat.

I’d say that if you’re a biology student and you’re looking for an interesting class to take, I’d highly recommend invertebrate zoology.


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