Oxbow Meadows Hosts STEAM Day at Eddy Middle School

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center took over Eddy Middle School’s seventh grade curriculum yesterday, Feb. 22, for STEAM Day.

All seventh graders rotated through five hour-long lessons taught by the staff of Oxbow Meadows, a CSU academic enrichment center. The lessons covered topics in taxonomy, robotics, microscopic inquiries, crime scene investigations and pollinators. Each lesson was designed to stimulate students’ interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and art) at an early age.

“Each activity tied into a specific science standard,” said Michael Dentzau, executive director of Oxbow Meadows. “This event offered fun, hands-on work set to get young minds excited to learn.”

Later that day, participants returned to Eddy Middle for “Science Night” with support from multiple CSU departments, including the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, CSU Math Collaborative, CSU Police, School of Nursing, and TSYS School of Computer Science. Free food was provided by Waffle House for all participating students and their families.

This was the second STEAM Day hosted by Oxbow Meadow. The center visited Baker Middle School (pictured above) on Oct. 26. Both STEAM Days were sponsored by Wells Fargo.

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Oxbow Meadows to Host Harry Potter Day

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center will be cast as the wizarding world of Harry Potter this weekend, but instead of tricks and gimmicks, the boy wizard’s spells will be backed by sound science.

This Saturday, Nov. 5, Oxbow Meadows will host its 2nd annual “Frogwarts,” a Harry Potter-themed event “where science and magic meet,” said Oxbow Meadows Director Michael Dentzau, who will double as Professor Dumbledore during the festivities.

frogworts

“Frogwarts is part science show, part flighted bird show,” said Dentzau. “Doc Atoms, Columbus’ ‘Mad Scientist’ and educator will be there to engage young wizards in science demonstrations throughout the afternoon, with special shows starting at 1:15, 2:45 and 4:15 p.m. The staff of Frogwarts also will make Oobleck and Boo Bubbles.”

“Oobleck is a mixture of cornstarch, water and food coloring,” explained Dentzau. “It exists in many states, from gooey to rock solid. We use it to teach the states of matter.” Attendees also will learn some chemistry while blowing Boo Bubbles using dry ice, liquid soap and knit gloves. “It’s scary how strong the Boo Bubbles are,” he joked.

“This event is about presenting science and wildlife education in a fun, relatable way,” said Dentzau. “It’s a perfect fit for what we’re doing at Oxbow, which is environmental education in the most engaging way possible.”

A flighted bird show presented by EarthQuest will begin at 2 p.m. and again at 3:30 p.m.

The “frog” in Frogwarts is in reference to Oxbow’s many reptile and amphibian displays. Real frogs (not the chocolate ones from the imagination of J.K Rowling) will be on exhibit inside the center.

Frogwarts will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the environmental learning center on South Lumpkin Road, across from the National Infantry Museum. Admission is $5 per person. Children under the age of three get in free.

Attendees of all ages are encouraged to come in costume.

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Oxbow Meadows Celebrates 15th Annual Reptile Fest and 20th Birthday Saturday

Reptile Fest 01

COLUMBUS, Ga. — It’s a day of celebration for Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center this Saturday as the center will host hundreds of visitors to help celebrate its 20th birthday and its 15th annual Reptile Fest.

“This will be a fun and exciting event that will help people develop an awareness and appreciation for the environment around us,” said Janet Forrest Kent, assistant director of Oxbow Meadows.

Reptile Fest’s agenda of activities includes:

— Reptile, amphibian, turtle and alligator exhibits
— Australian reptiles presentation with Sandi Laakson of Oxbow Meadows
— Hands-on tortoise feeding*
— “Verde” story time Spencer Garrard, professor of education at CSU
— The “Hiss America” Contest
— Canopy Trail tours*
*activity requires additional, nominal fee

Food vendors, crafts, bounce houses, face painting and crazy hair will also be available at Reptile Fest.

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“This year we will feature some animals that are not native to Georgia,” said Kent. Blazer Educational Animals will bring an African baboon, an African porcupine and other reptiles and birds to showcase.”

Reptile Fest is Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Oxbow Meadows, 3535 South Lumpkin Rd. Admission is $5 per adult and $3 for children three and under. At noon, Oxbow Meadows will accept a donation from Patagonia that was made possible through Outside World of Columbus.

Programming at Oxbow Meadows, an educational outreach center of Columbus State University, is an extension of CSU’s dedication to sustainability, one of its six core values.

For more information about Reptile Fest, visit https://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/ or call 706-507-8550.

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Oxbow Meadows Recognized Statewide for STEM Education

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center was recently named a finalist for the 2015 Georgia STEM Education Award in Post Secondary Outreach, a statewide honor presented by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) and the TAG Education Collaborative.

Oxbow Meadows and five other organizations from Columbus, Augusta and Atlanta competing in the Post Secondary Outreach category will hear the winner announced Friday, August 28 at the Carlos Community Center in Atlanta during a special awards gala featuring keynote speaker Governor Nathan Deal.

The Georgia STEM Education Awards recognize schools, programs and companies for outstanding efforts and achievements in supporting and promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in Georgia.

“Georgia will need to fill some 211,000 STEM-related jobs by 2018, so we are pleased to showcase so many great schools, programs and organizations that are helping to develop a strong future workforce for our state,” said Michael Robertson, director of TAG Education Collaborative, in a press release announcing the award finalists.

“The education programs at Oxbow Meadows are designed to provide students with experiential learning opportunities while engaging in ecosystem-based activities,” said Jan Kent, assistant director of Oxbow Meadows. “Using the local environment as a framework for learning, students use cross-cutting concepts in forestry management, wildlife tracking and marine ecology to understand how our environment changes over time.”

This is Oxbow’s first attempt at securing the four-year-old award, but educators have been developing the center’s STEM offerings since its expansion in 2011.

“We applaud each of this year’s finalists for their extraordinary efforts to bolster awareness about the importance of STEM and for their hard work to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering and math programs,” Robertson said.

Oxbow Meadows is an outreach program of Columbus State University, operated in collaboration with Columbus Water Works and the City of Columbus since 1995 at 3535 S. Lumpkin Road. It features indoor and outdoor exhibits of living reptiles and fish, nature trails, a stream habitat and more. For more information about Oxbow Meadows, visit https://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/.

For more information about TAG and the Georgia STEM Education Awards, visit http://www.tagonline.org/events/stem-education-awards/.

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Reptile Fest Returns to Oxbow Meadows this Saturday

ReptileFestCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Reptile Fest, one of the most popular events at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, returns this Saturday, April 25, with a full slate of educational and entertaining activities planned.

The day’s lineup begins at 10 a.m. and will include an alligator feeding, crafts, rock climbing, face painting and hands-on encounters with tortoises, docile snakes and other reptiles.

Visitors are asked to come dressed as a reptile to compete in the Hiss America Costume Contest, which begins at 1 p.m. Following the contest, Kerstin Motsch, an environmental educator and park technician for Oxbow Meadows, will host a live reptile show from 2-3 p.m. The show for early arrivers begins at 10:30 a.m.

Reptile Fest will be held rain or shine at the learning center located on 3535 South Lumpkin Road. Admission is $5 (cash only) and free for children age 3 and under. For more information, call 706-507-8550 or visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/.

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Wildlife Legend Jim Fowler Takes Center Stage at Oxbow Meadows

Jim Fowler, wildlife conservationist, former host of “The Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and animal correspondent for NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” will take center stage this weekend at Columbus State’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

The Emmy Award-winning TV personality will help host two “Birds of Prey” shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28 at the environmental learning center on South Lumpkin Road. Visitors will have an opportunity to meet Fowler after each program.

“Jim will bring generations of environmental enthusiasts together for one awesome show that we hope will generate enthusiasm for wildlife conservation in our community,” said Jan Kent, assistant director for Oxbow Meadows.

Kent said all ages are sure to enjoy the show, which will be led by handlers from EarthQuest, a nonprofit environmental education organization located in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia that specializes in live animal presentations.

For more information about the show, visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/ or contact Kent at 706-507-8550 or forrestkent_janet@columbusstate.edu.

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Jim Fowler

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Falcons to Visit Columbus State (The Birds, Not the Team)

BirdOfPreyCOLUMBUS, Ga – The falcons are not playing football this weekend; they are taking flight at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center on Saturday, Jan. 24 at the “Birds of Prey” program, a show that promises real-world interactions with falcons, hawks, and other avian beasts native to the region.

Attendees of the show will watch a falcon dive at a speed of more than 150 miles per hour and observe a hawk soar high above their heads. A more reserved, but no less entertaining bird – the owl – also will be a part of the performance.

Oxbow Meadows is partnering with EarthQuest to put on the show. EarthQuest is a nonprofit environmental education organization located in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia that specializes in live wildlife presentations.

“Being able to offer a birds of prey show at Oxbow is an amazing opportunity,” said Jan Kent, assistant director for Oxbow Meadows. “EarthQuest always puts on an entertaining and educational program that is sure to delight anyone from ages 2 to 102.”

Activities will begin, rain or shine, at 11 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. at the learning center located on South Lumpkin Road. Admission is $5 per person and open to the public. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Josh Baldwin Fund. Baldwin was a devoted team member for Oxbow and an animal curator for EarthQuest.

For more information about the Josh Baldwin Fund, visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/joshua_baldwin_fund.php. For more information about the Birds
of Prey show, visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/.

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Oxbow to Celebrate Season with Residents and Reptiles

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Residents and reptiles alike are invited to celebrate the holiday season at Oxbow’s Holiday Open House, an annual event scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center. The event helps raise money to feed and house animals at the center.

“We are a non-profit nature center and remain admission-free for the public to tour,” said Jan Kent, assistant director for Oxbow Meadows. “Events, such as our upcoming Holiday Open House, help us raise money to care for our animals.”

Activities on this year’s Holiday Open House agenda include:

  • Tours on the TreeTop Canopy Trail
  • An ornament crafting station
  • Holiday story time
  • A wreath-making class
  • A visit from Santa
  • A live reptile program

A small fee or donation is required for some activities.

Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center is an academic enrichment center of Columbus State University operated in association with Columbus Water Works. Located at 3535 South Lumpkin Road in South Columbus, the center provides exhibits, displays and nature trails, and offers formal and informal educational programs about the ecology and natural history of the region.

For more information about Oxbow’s Holiday Open House or to view the day’s full agenda, please visit http://oxbow.columbusstate.edu/ or call 706-507-8550.

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CSU to Unveil Tribute to Creek Indians at Oxbow Meadows

Display of Artifacts (© Graeme Wright/TerraXplorations, Inc./ Ft. Benning, Ga., Cultural Resource Management Branch)

Display of Artifacts (© Graeme Wright/TerraXplorations, Inc./ Ft. Benning, Ga., Cultural Resource Management Branch)

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University and the Historic Chattahoochee Commission will unveil the next stop on the Creek Heritage Trail with series of historical educational panels, along with a Creek Indian artifacts display, at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 22 at CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, 3535 South Lumpkin Road. CSU President Tim Mescon will deliver remarks.

The four panels will depict various aspects of the lives of the Creek Indians who called the Chattahoochee River Valley home. The display also will highlight the Creek town of Cusseta, that was located on what is now Fort Benning. Panels will show:

  • The Creek Town of Cusseta
  • Creek Agriculture
  • Cusseta: A Center for International Diplomacy
  • Daily Life in Cusseta

“This event is the culmination of the CSU speaker series, ‘Chattahoochee Valley Indians: Paleo to Present,’ that began at the beginning of the year to bring attention to the community the history of the Creek Indians,” said Victor Salazar, director of CSU’s Ivey Center for Cultural Approach to History. “These permanently installed panels – like those you’d see at a Civil War battle site – will bear descriptions of the life and times of the Creek Indians.”

In addition to the panels, which will be located near Oxbow’s entrance, there will be an indoor display of artifacts that include arrowheads, pottery, buttons, copper works, and pieces of jewelry.

“The incorporation of native American artifacts and history fits well within the scope and vision of Oxbow Meadows ELC,” said Michael Dentzau, executive director of CSU’s Oxbow Meadows. “As with many cultures, the availability of natural resources played a significant role in determining where to settle in this region.  This simply starts to tell one aspect of the story.”

Columbus Water Works and Fort Benning are also partners in this effort.

The Creeks’ history in the area is rich. Ultimately, through a series of treaties and conflicts, U.S. troops, assisted by Georgia and Alabama militia, forcibly rounded up Creeks and sent them to Indian Territory, which later became known as Oklahoma.

Salazar said the Oxbow panels and display will help in developing resources for school systems in the Chattahoochee Valley — wherever the standards find it appropriate. Additionally CSU’s Ivey center is working with the Department of Defense Education Activity at Fort Benning.

The Ivey Center, established at CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions, is a resource center for pre-service and in-service teachers to promote the Cultural Approach to History.

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CSU Lectures Focus on Chattahoochee Valley History, Native Americans

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University will host a three-part lecture in a series titled, “Chattahoochee Valley Indians: Paleo to Present” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 29 at the Columbus Public Library auditorium, 3000 Macon Road.

The event is free and open to the public. The lecture series serves as a lead-up to the May 21 opening of a Native American exhibit at CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, 3535 S. Lumpkin Road.

Co-sponsors of the lecture series are Fort Benning, CSU’s Ivey Center for the Cultural Approach to History, Oxbow Meadows and CSU’s College of Education and Health Professions.

Topics throughout the series range from prehistoric climate change and lost archaeological sites to Creek Indian removal. Each subject matter expert will offer a half-hour lecture on related topics. Featured April 28 speakers and their topics are:

  • Mike Bunn, executive director, Historic Chattahoochee Commission and author of the book “Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812,” who will discuss historic Native American villages and influence in the lower Chattahoochee Valley.
  • Billy Winn, a Creek Indian historian and author of the book, “The Old Beloved Path,” will lecture about how Georgia’s push for the removal of the Creek Indians, which became the beginning of the Southern states rights movement.
  • Archaeologist Paul D. Jackson, owner of TerraXplorations, Inc., an archaeological company, who will discuss climate change from 18,000 years ago to present. The discussion will focus on how the climatic changes impacted the landscape, global vegetation and human populations.

 

A 30-minute question-and-answer session with the speakers follows the lectures. For more information, contact Victor Salazar, Ivey Center director, at salazar_victor@ColumbusState.edu or 706-507-8514.

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Climate Scientist Next Speaker in Sustainability Lecture Series

Curry_JudithCOLUMBUS, Ga. — A climate scientist with a reputation for engaging with climate change skeptics will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24 at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center auditorium.

Judith A. Curry, professor and chair in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, will be the second speaker in an Oxbow Meadows-organized series of lectures focusing on sustainability.

Curry’s presentation is free and open to the public.

She’s expected to speak on many topics related to climate change, including the science of climate change, its impact in the Southeast, carbon reduction challenges and options to reduce vulnerability to extreme events.

The New York Times described Curry in 2010 as a scientist with no skepticism about how humans influence climate change. But the NYT opinion piece noted “she’s deeply troubled by the tribal nature of … the climate science community and what she sees as ill-advised stonewalling on releasing data and interpretations of data for review and independent analysis.”

Curry, who’s been at Georgia Tech since 2002, has served in an advisory role to both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She’s taught previously at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Penn State, Purdue and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Oxbow Meadows opened in 1995 as a collaboration of CSU, Columbus Water Works and the City of Columbus. The center, near the National Infantry Museum, features exhibits, displays and nature trails, as well as formal and informal programs related to ecology and the region’s natural history. CSU staff, faculty, student assistants and volunteers often offer interpretive and hands-on programs.

For more on Oxbow Meadows, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/oxbow.

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CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Launches Sustainability Lecture Series

COLUMBUS, Ga.Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center will host the first in a series of lectures focusing on sustainability, starting with an upcoming look at Columbus’ system for treating waste water.

John Peebles, senior vice president of Water Resource Operations for Columbus Water Works, will speak on “The History of the Combined Sewer Overflow System” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the center, 3535 S. Lumpkin Road.

The presentation is free and open to the public.

“Our hope is that this lecture will turn into a lecture series and evolve into a long-term venture with community partners so that our understanding of sustainability is enhanced,” said Michael W. Dentzau, Oxbow Meadows’ executive director.

Combined Sewer Overflow refers to a method of handling waste water during heavy rainfall to reduce the chances that a combination of rainwater and sewage exceeds the capacity of the local treatment facility and results in a combined overflow into the Chattahoochee River.

The purpose of the lecture series is to develop a shared understanding of sustainability through community partnership, Dentzau said.

“Oxbow is hoping to facilitate constructive debate from diverse community organizations, groups and individuals” he said. “Therefore, Oxbow needs input from anyone and everyone willing to work toward a common goal. If we are not on the same page, we cannot make progress.”

Oxbow Meadows opened in 1995 as a collaboration of CSU, Columbus Water Works and the City of Columbus. The center, near the National Infantry Museum, features exhibits, displays and nature trails, as well as formal and informal programs related to ecology and the region’s natural history. CSU staff, faculty, student assistants and volunteers often offer interpretive and hands-on programs.

For more on Oxbow Meadows, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/oxbow.

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Oxbow Meadows Hosts Open House; Introduces New Director

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center will host an open house with its new director, Mike Dentzau, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the center. The public is invited.

Also part of the evening, Columbus State President Tim Mescon will recognize former interim director George Stanton for his long service to the center.

Visitors will have a chance to meet Dentzau and get to explore the center, walk through the bird park, check out the canopy trail, and bid on silent auction items, and use telescopes set up by CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center. Refreshments will be served.

 

The open house also will have a reptile program presented by Jason Clark of Southeastern Reptile Rescue.

 “This is a great opportunity for people to meet the staff and see what all we have to offer,” said Janet Forrest-Kent, program manager at Oxbow.

Dentzau replaced interim director, George Stanton on Aug. 5. Most recently Dentzau was director of the Sea-to-See Program in Florida State University’s Department of Biological Science. There he developed and implemented programs that introduced young students to a variety of marine species with touch tanks he took to the schools as part of lessons that were aligned with grade-specific science benchmarks.

Dentzau takes over for Stanton, an emeritus professor of biology at Columbus State who served on the faculty for 44 years. He a member of the board of the River Warden and previously served as president of Trees Columbus, Georgia Conservancy Chapter, and the Columbus Audubon Society.

In 1995 and 1996, Stanton was instrumental in establishing Oxbow Meadows in partnership with the Columbus Water Works. He has served as interim director for the past 14 months.

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CSU Hires New Director of Oxbow Meadows

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Mike Dentzau, former director of the Sea-to-See Program in the Department of Biological Science at Florida State University, has been selected as the new director of Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

Dentzau (pronounced DENT-zow) starts Monday at the center, which is an environmental education outreach center of Columbus State University, in partnership with Columbus Water Works.

“The opportunities presented at Oxbow are limitless,” Dentzau said. “I am looking forward to working with the university, the staff, Columbus Water Works and partners associated with Oxbow in bringing news and exciting programs to the facility.”

As director of the Sea-to-See Program Dentzau developed and implemented programs that introduce students grades K-6 with marine species with touch tanks transported to schools with lessons aligned with grade specific science benchmarks.

“We were very fortunate to have Dr. Dentzau accept the position at Oxbow,” said Barbara Buckner, dean of Columbus State’s College of Education and Health Professions, which oversees Oxbow. “His background in marine biology and science education is exactly the mix that we were looking for. His research in bridging informal education practice as a component of science proficiency will bring a component to Oxbow we have not had before. I am extremely excited in having him as our next director.”

Dentzau earned his bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, his masters from Texas A&M University, and his doctorate from Florida State University.

He has been at FSU since 2010. Prior to that Dentzau was president of an environmental services company where he was responsible for all aspects of company development and project management. Among those responsibilities were wetland and upland evaluations, environment site assessments, endangered species reviews, habitat enhancement and restoration, and regulatory guidance. Dentzau’s background in environmental services dates back to 1993 when he worked as an environmental manager/specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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Insects Take Center Stage at Oxbow’s Insectival on Sunday

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Creepy crawlies will be the main attraction at the 12th annual Insectival, scheduled from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, June 10 at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

Insectival is designed to show visitors just how important insects are for a healthy environment. But Insectival is disguised as a fun, family event, and visitors will be able to experience insects in a variety of ways. Visitors can hold them, eat them, watch them or even spit them.

 

Yes, there will be an assortment of bug snacks, and a cricket-spitting contest. The following highlights are also on the agenda for this special Second Sunday program:

  • A dragonfly hike with Oxbow naturalists.
  • Examination of carnivorous plants.
  • Honeybee discussion with Chattahoochee Valley Beekeepers Association representatives, featuring a live hive.
  • Bug catch with extension agent Jennifer Davidson.
  • Insect CSI seminar with George Stanton, CSU professor of biology and interim director of Oxbow Meadows.

Admission to Insectival is $3 per person.

Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center is an educational outreach program of Columbus State University, and is operated in association with Columbus Water Works. It’s located at 3535 South Lumpkin Road.

For more information, call 706-507-8550.

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Sustainability Fair and Picnic for the Planet Highlight One CSU Month

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University’s Earth Day celebration efforts have blossomed into a month-long series of events that will be highlighted by a fair on campus (April 12) and a “Picnic for the Planet” at CSU’s Oxbow Meadows center on April 22 that will be part of a world record-setting attempt.

The events, clustered under the slogan of  “One CSU – Creating a Sustainable YoU,” are also a way to highlight Columbus State’s commitment to sustainability, said Bill Frazier, chair of a campuswide committee organizing the efforts.

One CSUThe fair, on campus from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. April 12, will include more than two dozen exhibits and vendors. Participants include university groups with an environmental context, such as the CSU Geology Club and environmental science program, local organizations such as Trees Columbus and national organizations with local affiliates such as The Nature Conservancy.

“This is part of the campus’s attempts to be noticeably more aware of sustainability efforts,” Frazier said, noting that sustainability is now listed among CSU’s values. “The ideas have swollen to involve concerns about how one can live healthier, and how one can live in a way to not damage the planet.”

This is how several events were arranged together for the One CSU celebration, featuring the second Annual Cody’s Run 5K Race last month, and several upcoming events at Columbus State’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

Earth Day, April 22, will be the highlight. That day, Chattahoochee RiverWarden, CSU’s Oxbow Meadows, and the Columbus Film Society have joined forces to bring the juried, award-winning Wild & Scenic Film Festival to Columbus. Participants are encouraged to bring a picnic to Oxbow Meadows at 6 p.m. and enjoy movies under the stars shown on a 35-foot outdoor screen.  Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for students, and all proceeds will be used for the development of a water quality education program at Oxbow Meadows.

The event is also a registered site for The Nature Conservancy’s Picnic for the Planet, a world-record attempt for the most people picnicking in 24 hours. From Columbus, Georgia to Melbourne, Australia, the idea is to unite the world to celebrate Earth Day with good food and great company.

CSU will provide bus service from main campus and downtown for its students that want to attend.

For more information and a complete listing of events, go to ColumbusState.edu/sustainable.

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Oxbow Meadows Grand Opening to Showcase New Facility, Exhibits

COLUMBUS, Ga. – An 86-seat auditorium and more room for reptile and amphibian displays both indoors and outdoors are key elements of a new facility designed to revitalize Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center as a community resource for experiencing the natural environment.

CSU will showcase the 8,000-plus square-foot addition to the center at 3535 South Lumpkin Road with a grand opening celebration from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, July 30.

Oxbow Turtle PondThe first 50 guests will be rewarded with T-shirts. 

Opening-hour guided tours will be followed by live animal displays as the following species are placed in their new habitats in the main lobby:

  • Tortoises, 11 a.m.
  • Rat snakes, 11:30 a.m.
  • Baby alligators, 1 p.m.
  • Tree frogs, 1:30 p.m.

The free event also will include cake and door-prize giveaways, following a noon presentation by aquaria designer Jody Karlin, who will describe the new habitats he designed for the center.

Karlin’s work includes a variety of indoor aquariums and separate outdoor enclosures to display  alligators and turtles.

Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, which originally opened in 1995, represents a university-municipal partnership. Columbus Water Works built and has maintained the original facility while CSU has staffed the center and administered the educational programming for school groups and the general public. Columbus State classes in biology and environmental science frequently visit as well.

The same arrangement applies to the $2.3 million taxpayer SPLOST-funded addition. Water Works Senior Vice President Cliff Arnett said the expansion “moves the partnership with CSU into an exciting, new era with greater focus on environmental education, entertaining nature displays and interactive programs for all ages.”

Lisa Randolph, newly appointed by CSU to direct the center, said the new facility is ushering in more resources for Columbus State to deliver on “educating and inspiring visitors to conserve, protect and restore the natural environment.”

A new auditorium will accommodate larger gatherings such as guest speaker events and related programs that previously were restricted to  gatherings of about 45 guests in the original building.

Additional new features outside the facility include trails and gardens accessible to mobility-limited individuals, compost bins and a greenhouse to help propagate plants for newly developed gardens, including a sensory garden, pollinator garden, organic vegetable garden and a bog garden.

The bog garden is home to several endangered species including carnivorous plants. Oxbow Meadows is now able to grow these rare and unusual plants as part of a new collaboration between the center and the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, said Randolph, a former New York City science teacher who completed her graduate degree in environmental science at Columbus State in 2009.

The center will continue to feature its wetland trails for independent or guided walks to identify the native plant and animal species. The trails have yielded sightings of alligators, turtles, butterflies, snakes, fish, otters, beaver, deer, herons, songbirds and more.

The smaller, original facility – connected to the new structure by a covered walkway – also was renovated and will house staff offices and feature rotating natural history-related exhibits in its open space. The opening exhibit, to be up and viewable during the grand opening, will feature botanical artist Linda Fraser, whose paintings illustrate plants native to Georgia and the Southeast.  

Columbus State plans to maximize the new facility by holding evening classes for CSU-Fort Benning students in the 36-person capacity classrooms and “adding Saturday hours so families can enjoy the center’s exhibits, as well as stroll the wetland trails, on weekends,” said Randolph.

New hours, after the grand opening, will be 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Apart from special programs, admission is free.

The expansion also complements an anticipated symbiotic, visitor-drawing relationship between Oxbow Meadows and the recently opened National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park located directly across South Lumpkin Road.

For more information about the grand opening, call 706-687-4090 or visit http://www.ColumbusState.edu/oxbow.New, expanded Oxbow Center for Environmental Learning

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Reptile Fest at Oxbow Meadows Set for Saturday

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center will host its annual Reptile Fest from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, April 10.

Activities for all ages will include live reptile displays, reptile-themed crafts and games with prizes, a jump house and an interactive demonstration by CSU animal specialist Jason Clark, who is becoming known nationally for his reptile expertise.

A 30-foot Reptile Wagon will display various native reptiles including gopher tortoises, alligators, venomous snakes and non-venomous snakes. Exotic species of snakes also will be shown, as experts will be at the wagon to answer questions.

While the wagon reptiles will be inside locked cages for safe, up-close viewing, docile snakes, tortoises and other reptiles will be accessible for hands-on encounters.

Crafts and games will allow for kids to engage in painting snakes on canvases, race to find toy snakes hidden in hay, play in a 40-foot jump house and more.

Pets from home can be entered into a “Hiss America Pageant” at noon. Any legal and nonvenomous reptile can enter the contest for judging based on such criteria as “overall beauty,” “personality,” and ‘wow’ factor.” Following the pageant, a “Reptile Encounter” demonstration will be delivered 2-3 p.m. by Clark, hired by CSU this past fall as an animal expert for Oxbow Meadows and star of Snakes’Kin, a six-episode reality series debuting April 12 on the Animal Planet channel.

Reptile Fest will be held rain or shine, as all outdoor activities will be tent-covered. The center is located at 3535 South Lumpkin Road. Admission is $3 and free for kids age 3 and under. For more information, call 706-687-4090 or go to http://oxbow.colstate.edu.

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CSU Reptile Expert Stars in New Animal Planet Series

COLUMBUS, Ga. – When Jason Clark joined Columbus State University last fall as Oxbow Meadows’ animal specialist, he had just finished his role in the filming of a new Animal Planet Channel reality series.

Snakes’Kin, debuting Monday, April 12 at 10 p.m., follows the adventures of Clark and his wife, Sarah, operating their family business, Southeastern Reptile Rescue, near Griffin, Ga.

The Clarks, licensed for nuisance wildlife removal, reptile adoption and wildlife education, are depicted in the show taking about 20 calls a day to round up copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, gators, lizards and iguanas. Animal Planet has promoted the show in part by using Clark’s slogan for his rescue operation: “Preserving Nature One Snake at a Time.”

Animal Planet will air Snakes’Kin in back-to-back, half-hour episodes at 10 p.m. over consecutive Monday nights, from April 12-26.

Jason Clark handling snake at Oxbow Meadows last fall. A production crew followed Clark and family members during a 16-month span starting in 2008. The crew filmed as many as 12 straight days and took breaks that lasted from weeks to a month.

Though filming was completed prior to Clark, right, joining CSU, Oxbow Meadows appears in one of the episodes — when Clark was called to retrieve an alligator.

The crew filmed as many as 16 hours in a day. “After a while, we got so accustomed to the crew, we forgot we were on camera. When you reach that point, you act completely natural… This literally was reality television,” Clark said.

Illustrating that point, the crew on one day wanted to film Clark starting his day from the moment he got out of bed. “I told them my wake-up time was 6:50,” he said. “The next morning, I awoke early — about six — to the whole crew in my bedroom with the cameras rolling. I just rolled over and went back to sleep.”

Overall, Clark said he and his family had a great time with the project. “The producers showed us the episodes, and we’re very happy with the outcome.”

In his new role at Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, Clark oversees Columbus State’s growing reptile collection, which is used in academic classes and shared with the public in such events as the center’s annual Reptile Fest, this year set for April 10.

Clark’s family continues to operate Southeastern Reptile Rescue.

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Expert Joins CSU, will Present ‘Reptile Encounter’ at Oxbow

COLUMBUS, Ga. — At 6-foot-5-inches and 325 pounds, Jason Clark’s imposing figure served him as a law enforcement officer. Now it helps distinguish him as a “reptile defender” — soon to appear in a national cable channel series and in a presentation at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.

Clark, who recently became part of the CSU staff at Oxbow as a reptile expert, will present “Reptile Encounter at Oxbow Meadows” 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at the the center, 3535 South Lumpkin Road., Columbus.

Clark, founder of Southeastern Reptile Rescue near his home in Griffin, Ga., will talk about and display venomous and non-venomous snakes of Georgia, including king snakes, rat snakes, corn snakes, copperheads, cottonmouths and rattlesnakes, plus a baby alligator and a tortoise.

The program will cover snake species identification, snakebite first aid and how to avoid being bitten, as well as tips for safeguarding property against venomous snake infestations.

Clark, who recently finished working with Animal Planet producers on a project for future airing on the channel, also will recount both humorous and dangerous moments from reptile-recovery adventures while operating his rescue service over the past 10 years. Following the main presentation, guests will have an opportunity for a close-up encounter with a couple of the snakes.

While CSU’s environmental learning center currently is home to 12 snakes, plus the tortoise and alligator, Clark will bring additional snakes from his rescue center for Saturday’s show. He said the center, eventually, will also house exotic species such as vipers and cobras.

Clark’s fascination with snakes and reptiles started at age 7 when he discovered and captured a garter snake while playing in his backyard. By age 14, local authorities considered him an expert and invited him along on pest control calls for snakes.

He performed his first reptile show for a ninth-grade school project. The debut drew requests for shows around the community. Eventually, his reptile-show business grew steadily as he separately worked as a Clayton County police officer, leading to the establishment of his reptile refuge that continues as a family operation.

“It’s common to have rescue operations for cats, birds and other animals, but rarely for snakes,” said Clark, who said he works to dispel the snakes’ reputation as “a dangerous pest.”

While Clark’s stature as an expert grows with the anticipated national television exposure and by joining CSU’s outreach center at Oxbow Meadows, he said he doesn’t consider himself a teacher.

“I’m doing something that’s fun, and as I’m having a good time, it resonates with my audiences and makes it easier for them to tune into the message and hopefully grasp a better understanding of the reptile world, especially snakes,” he said. “What I’m doing represents a building block to raising awareness of the value of snakes to a healthy ecosystem and to medical research.” (Certain venoms may hold significant medicinal properties).

Admission to the Reptile Encounter at Oxbow Meadows is $5 per person. Seating is limited. For more information, call 706-687-4090.

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