2015-10-15 / Around Town

Project Students Visit Swiss Village Farm

Senior Kieve Nance examines the cryopreservation tank. Senior Kieve Nance examines the cryopreservation tank. Students in The Newport Project at Rogers High School recently visited the Swiss Village Farm to learn about the conservation of rare and heritage breeds of livestock. Helped out by a grant from the van Beuren Foundation, the Newport Project is a place-based learning initiative that uses venues around Newport as English and science classrooms. Combining science and English language arts, teachers guide and instruct students in exploring, researching, and compiling their findings about the city of Newport and its history, culture, and natural resources.

Before their visit got under way, students and teachers were required to walk through a disinfectant footbath designed to reduce any potential external biohazards. Program Director Sarah Bowley then discussed the mission of the Smithsonian and SVF Biodiversity Preservation Project: to preserve the genetic diversity found in endangered breeds of livestock, thereby ensuring a secure food supply. Students asked whether the rare and heritage breeds were afforded the same legal protections by the federal government as other endangered species (they are not). Bowley also explained the various processes of in vivo and in vitro fertilization, and the manner in which embryos are dehydrated and flash-frozen in preparation for cryopreservation.

The tour continued to the village where, inside the quaint, rough stone buildings, far less quaint things were happening. Students first observed a surgical suite where embryo collection takes place, and the state-of-the-art cryoroom with liquid nitrogen and vapor phase tanks where the embryos and straws of semen are stored, and, barring only the effects of solar radiation, will remain viable for 1,000-2,000 years.

At the end of the tour, the students visited with Chip, the Foundation's Tennessee Myotonic goat mascot, the first embryo transfer born 11 years ago. The Rogers scholars drove away under the watchful eyes of SVF’s very effective guard llamas Kianna, Rock ’n’ Roll, and Driftwood. The trio is part of flock of non-lethal predator control animals unique to this side of the Mississippi.

For more information about The Newport Project please contact Zinovia Canale (zinoviacanale@npsri.net), Nancy Noonan (nancynoonan@npsri.net), or Bethany Borgueta (bethanyborgueta@npsri.net).

–Submitted by Bethany Bogueta, Rogers High School science teacher

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