VHCC, UVa-Wise Students Collaborate on Green Salamander Research

Students from VHCC and UVa-Wise have been involved in the research that requires testing Green Salamanders for pathogens.
Students from VHCC and UVa-Wise have been involved in a unique research project that requires testing Green Salamanders for pathogens. The results were recently published in Herpetological Review.

A collaborative research project conducted by students at Virginia Highlands Community College and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise has resulted in a better understanding of Green Salamander populations and a September article in Herpetological Review.

The research began more than a decade ago and was aimed at determining the prevalence of harmful pathogens in Green Salamanders found in Dickenson, Scott, Washington and Wise counties. Biology students participating in the research were responsible for capturing and swabbing Green Salamanders for these pathogens, then recording and interpreting the results. They ultimately determined that Green Salamanders were infected with pathogens.

“There are really two great benefits to this research,” said Dr. Kevin Hamed, professor of biology at VHCC, who led the project. “We’ve made some important discoveries about the pathogens that might impact Green Salamander populations so we can take steps to better protect them. We’ve also given our students a unique opportunity to be involved in field research and publish their findings.”

The article is entitled “First Report of Ranavirus and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Green Salamanders (Aneides aeneus) from Virginia, USA.” Herpetological Review is a peer-reviewed quarterly published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

Hamed began the project with a Virginia Community College System Paul Lee Professional Development grant in 2005. Subsequent funding was provided by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries through a State Wildlife Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the University Of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Students from UVa-Wise, working under the direction of Assistant Professor of Biology Wally Smith also joined the study, and additional funding was provided by the UVa-Wise Fellowship in the Natural Sciences endowment.

“We were thrilled to be able to partner with Dr. Hamed and students on this project,” Dr. Smith said. “The Green Salamander is one of the most unique yet understudied salamander species in our part of Virginia, and this research puts us one step closer to developing the knowledge that will be necessary to effectively conserve this species in our region and beyond. We also are incredibly thankful to the local citizens who aided us by providing their own sightings of this species and helping us expand our knowledge of where Green Salamanders live across southwest Virginia. We hope to expand upon this citizen science aspect in the next phase of our research to better involve local residents in determining where this species lives in our region.”

The second phase of the research will take a closer look at Green Salamander habitats and factors that impact survival. Additional funding is currently being pursued, Hamed said.


Hiker Encourages Students to Pursue Their Dreams

Dan Rogers Book2
(Left) Daniel Rogers signs copies of his book following his Tuesday visit to VHCC and (right) atop Mount Katahdin in Maine after completing a through walk of the Appalachian Trail in 1999.

Live your dreams.

Daniel Rogers shared those words of wisdom with Virginia Highlands Community College students on Tuesday, explaining that it is the most important thing he learned during more than 11,000 miles of backpacking across America.

“The cost of chasing your dreams is very high – it’s failure,” he said. “The reward is even higher. It’s life as opposed to mere existence.”

An Ohio native, Rogers began hiking while a young Boy Scout but got serious about the sport in 1999 when he took a six-month sabbatical from his job at Colgate Palmolive to hike the Appalachian Trail. Two years later, he resigned altogether and began a 3,400-mle journey across America that took him through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The walk took him just over a year to complete.

While walking Rogers experienced a level of freedom that most of us never realize in our daily lives, He had no boss, no alarm clock, and no where he had to be. This freedom allowed him to make a physical, mental and spiritual journey that has forever changed his perspective on life.

He took time to celebrate small accomplishments, he said, explaining that he “put down his backpack and danced with joy” when he had completed the first six miles of his cross-country walk. He learned to appreciate breathtaking views, the wonders of Mother Nature and the simple companionship of others he met along the trail. He experienced frozen hiking boots, thunderstorms, and rare moonbows only visible in a few places under special conditions. And, he said, he found time to think about the truly important things in life.

To explain, he shared a backpacking equation that helped him along the way.

“H is inversely proportional to PW and PW is directly proportional to F,” he said. “H is happiness and PW is pack weight. F stands for fear.”

Hikers are happier when their packs are lighter, and the analogy also works in real life. All people carry a backpack with them, he said, packed with anger, bitterness, childishness, jealousy and other emotions that bog them down. When they get rid of these things, their pack gets lighter and their happiness level goes up.

Similarly, fear causes hikers to load their packs down. If they are afraid of getting hungry or cold, they pack lots of food and clothing. Experience, however, allows them to accurately gauge their needs and travel lighter. In real life, employers recognize the value of experience and look for workers who are no longer afraid to accomplish great things.

In addition to his walk across American and along the Appalachian Trail, Rogers has completed 800 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail and numerous shorter hikes. He currently works as assistant scout executive for the Daniel Boone Council of Boy Scouts of America in Asheville, where he lives with his wife and 5-year-old daughter. He has published a book about his cross-country hike entitled “America One Step at a Time.”

Dan Rogers to Share Lessons from Walk Across America during VHCC Visit

IMG_0652 A8 - Sheltowee at the Pacific

 Dan Rogers, an Eagle Scout and Navy veteran whose 11,000 miles of backpacking experience have included a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail and a 3,400 walk across America, will share lessons learned with the community during a lecture at Virginia Highlands Community College on Sept. 15.

“Lessons & Tales from 11,000 Miles of Backpacking” will be presented for the campus community at 2 p.m. and for the entire community at 6 p.m. in the Keyser-Aday Theatre on the VHCC Campus. Rogers will be available after both talks to sign copies of his 2003 book “America One Step at a Time.” Copies of the book will be available for $15.

Rogers holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ohio’s Malone University and worked 13 years in manufacturing management for Colgate Palmolive.  He took a sabbatical from his job in 1999 to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, then resigned two years later to complete an ambitious cross-country hike. He began the 3,400-mile journey in August 2001 and walked through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before reaching California in November 2002.

Since then, Rogers has completed additional hikes along numerous smaller trails and completed 800 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. He currently works as Assistant Scout Executive for the Daniel Boone Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Asheville, N.C.

For additional information, please contact the VHCC Public Relations Department at (276) 739-2456.

Emory & Henry and VHCC Sign Reverse Transfer Agreement

Virginia Highlands Reverse Transfer Agreement Allows Students to Return to VHCC to earn an associate degree_05

A reverse transfer agreement that makes it easier for students to complete an associate’s degree after enrolling in a four-year program was signed Monday by officials from Emory & Henry College and Virginia Highlands Community College.

The agreement is designed to recognize the accomplishments of transfer students and provide them with a valuable credential while they continue working toward a bachelor’s degree. It was signed Monday by Emory & Henry President Jake Schrum and Dr. Gene C. Couch Jr., president of VHCC.

“This agreement formalizes Emory & Henry’s recognition of the high quality of students who attend Virginia Highlands Community College,” Schrum said. “For many years, VHCC students have enjoyed great success as they have continued their higher education at Emory & Henry. These students have been among the strongest E&H graduates and have added to our reputation for academic excellence.”

To be eligible for reverse transfer, students must complete at least 15 hours toward a degree program at VHCC before transferring to Emory & Henry College. Once a total of 60 credits have been earned, applicable credits will be transferred back to VHCC and an associate’s degree will be awarded.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to recognize transfer students who have reached a significant educational milestone,” Dr. Couch said. “Those who earn an associate’s degree are better prepared for the workplace and, in many cases, have a renewed determination to continue their education.”

VHCC and Emory & Henry have a long history of working together to help students earn a baccalaureate degree. An articulation agreement has been in place for many years and was revised in 2013 to create a Guaranteed Admission Agreement that guarantees eligible VHCC graduates admission to Emory & Henry with junior status.

“Emory & Henry College remains a top choice for transfer students interested in a strong liberal arts education because of the welcoming environment and quality programs available,” Dr. Couch said. “Reverse transfer is just one more way we can work together to help our students reach their educational goals.”

Loquerisne linguam latinam?

latin picDo you speak Latin?

John Walker does and he’s sharing his knowledge with students enrolled in the VHCC Upward Bound summer program. In fact, he’s teaching them to speak Latin and a great deal about the Greco-Roman culture. It’s doubtful, of course, that students will begin having conversations in Latin, but they are gaining some valuable insights from the class.

“I’m planning to go into the medical field, so knowing Latin words is important,” said Alice Becker, an Upward Bound participant from Patrick Henry High School. “It’s kind of cool to learn a new language.”

Latin is the focus of World Culture this year, an annual component of the summer program.  Students are busy now learning Latin words and phrases, reading about the Greek and Roman empires, and exploring archetypal stories first told in ancient days. When the program wraps up on July 9, they’ll enjoy a banquet of Mediterranean food to cap off their weeks of study.

Behind every great summer program is a great teacher who exhibits passion, and Mr. Walker is a perfect example.

He teaches Latin at Patrick Henry High School during the school year and perfects his skills each summer by attending Conventiculum Latinum – also known as the Annual Convention for Spoken Latin to those who haven’t quite mastered the Latin language – at the University of Kentucky. He’s joined there by Latin enthusiasts from around the world, who spend several days communicating entirely in Latin.

And while Mr. Walker doesn’t expect to see any of his students there, he does hope the Latin they’ve learned will provide them with a more diverse vocabulary and a greater understanding of how ancient times have impacted the modern world.

And while the students are having a lot of fun, they’re also working really hard to glean some useful tidbits of information from their lessons. After all, like Lucretius used to say, “ex nihilo nihil fit.” (Nothing comes from nothing.)


Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Visits VHCC

VETERANSMay2015Calling Virginia’s 23 community colleges the “crown jewel” of the Commonwealth, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs John C. Harvey on Tuesday asked veterans at Virginia Highlands Community College to help him promote the educational benefits and training programs offered on the VHCC campus.

“This is where so many of you come to find a pathway to employability, “’ he said. “As I’ve visited community colleges across Virginia, I’ve discovered they have a common mission to help you get to work in some productive way. You’re getting real value here in exchange for your benefits. ”

A retired four-star admiral, Harvey was appointed to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s cabinet in January 2014. Since that time, he has visited 15 community colleges across Virginia to learn what obstacles veterans face as they make the transition from military to civilian life.  He plans to meet with veterans at Mountain Empire Community College on Wednesday.

Harvey said he became an advocate for community colleges after learning that for-profit educational institutions have launched aggressive marketing campaigns in an attempt to recruit those eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Unfortunately, he said, the average success rate at these institutions is about 10 percent.

“We need to do more to let veterans know about the opportunities available at community colleges,” he said. “I need you to help me spread the word.”

Student Tony Mitchell, who served in the U.S. Army and the Tennessee National Guard, suggested a training program to help faculty and staff better understand issues unique to veterans. Many on campus are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries as a result of their time in combat, Mitchell said.

Harvey agreed that colleges could benefit from these programs, adding that he is working hard across Virginia to change the perception many have of veterans. Stress is a normal part of war, he said, but many veterans are still able to lead productive lives and become valuable members of the workforce.

In fact, Harvey delivered good news to Kelly Richardson, co-owner of Richardson Ambulance Service in Marion. He said Richardson and other small business owners in Virginia will soon receive a $1,000 tax credit for each veteran employed and retained on a full-time basis for at least a year.  Richardson attended Tuesday’s meeting with her employee, Ryan Clark, a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne who graduated last week with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Emergency Medical Technology.

To help veterans feel more comfortable on campus, Harvey pledged state funding next year for a veterans’ center on each community college campus. Each center will be unique, he said, to meet the needs of the state’s diverse mix of students.

“We’ll provide the money, but you will decide what you need,” he said.

And, he added, he is seeing what can be done to ensure those who have earned educational benefits are not penalized when they enroll in online classes, courses offered on a compressed timetable, or in non-credit workforce training programs. The Veterans Administration needs to adjust its rules, he said, to meet the needs of students in today’s learning environments.


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