Posted at 1 p.m. April 6, 2017
Pondering what’s in the West Pond
Zac Roehrs instructs students during the fall semester attending Bio Blitz on the proper techniques of surveying the West Pond at LCCC. Roehrs has found different fish species thrive in the pond over the years, including Black Bullhead Catfish and goldfish.
Entering through the west entrance, and continuing north on the Laramie County Community College campus, lies a thriving pond on the west side of campus that is home to a number of different species.
The West Pond is surrounded by greenery. On the west side of the pond, there is a natural snow fence of Ponderosa, Austrian and Cottonwood trees. The pond itself is circled by Willow trees. Fish populations change year to year as the water levels fluctuate in the West Pond.
Zac Roehrs, LCCC Biology instructor, has seen different types of species dominate the fish population. For instance, Roehrs has seen years where Black Bullhead Catfish take over the pond, and others where goldfish have taken the lead with an outsized inhabitance.
“I’ll say upfront, although I have a background broadly in wildlife and have studied fisheries,” said Roehrs. “I am not a fish biologist so maybe that is a normal thing, but to me, that’s kind of interesting to look at in the system.”
Aquatic creatures are not the only wildlife calling the West Pond home. Other animals such as bullfrogs and muskrats reside there as well. Birds such as ducks, sparrows, warblers, great blue herons, black-crowned night herons and kingfishers have also been in the pond. Roehrs has found a fish disease called Black Spot in the pond because of the birds.
Non-harmful to humans, the Black Spot disease results from the life cycle of a trematode, a class within parasites. First, the trematode finds a mate to reproduce with inside the bird, like a Great Blue Heron, Night Heron or Kingfisher. Once the trematode produces the eggs, those eggs then get transported to the water through the bird’s feces. The eggs will next end up inside snails and asexually reproduce. It is here that the fish will either consume the snail or snail tissue and the parasite takes residence in the fish and burrows under the scales, creating melanin to produce the black spot.
Aside from the nature aspect, Richard Evelo, manager of Grounds Maintenance, and his staff work hard behind the scenes to keep the West Pond clean in order for it to be usable. Keeping the pond maintained means mowing the grass, trim the various trees and pick up the trash.
“Those doggone kids are always doing something over there and leaving trash,” Evelo said with a smile. “We pretty much keep it maintained so people can go over there, such as the biology classes and other folks. It is a community college, so it is available.”
Evelo also brought up future plans for the West Pond. Originally starting out as a supplier of water for the school’s irrigation system, the West Pond is presently lined with either sand or gravel, which makes it very difficult for the pond to contain water. The solution would mean dredging the pond, a process that entails draining the pond, removing the old silt, digging the pond to a decent depth, and lining the bottom with a material such as bentonite clay. Evelo added that this process would be very costly but it is a topic of conversation for the future of the pond.