Mayflower oil spill provides rare opportunity for UCA students

MAYFLOWER (KATV) - It's not often you have a disaster right in your back yard. But with the mayflower oil spill, University of Central Arkansas biology students had the rare opportunity to put their text books aside and get a dose of real life.

"You always keep in your mind that'd never happen in my backyard and then of course it happens," said Courtney Dunn, a graduate student at UCA.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity for these students at UCA; A major oil spill just a few miles away.

"Its something that solidifies in your mind quite a bit from seeing it," said Dunn.

Dr. McDonald says this is the second time she's been able to teach from a real-life disaster in twenty years. The last one was an earthquake when she was in California.

"Something like this really does gravitate students and their attention toward this and it elevates their concern as well," said Dr. Vickie McDonald, of the Biology Department at UCA.

Joshua Hines, a senior, has been testing the water quality in this cove since the pipeline ruptured. It's a new project for him.

"Inspiring in some way, devastating in others," said Hines.

He plans on basing his graduate thesis off of his research of Lake Conway.

"I'm still learning, of course, but I feel really prepared to take on research tasks from here," said Hines.

But education through the Mayflower oil spill doesn't just stay here. One professor is bringing it to his classroom.

Dr.{}Ben Cash, a professor in Biology Department,{}has been rescuing snakes from the cove and{}is teaching his students about the effects on the snakes and the ecosystem.

"This has provided us with a platform to really talk about the real world where the connection about what we teach about in the classroom can be made very directly with our students," said Dr. Cash.

This isn't just a one day thing for students. They{}plan on studying the impact of this spill on the ecosystem for the next several years.