Spring is here and you better be watching where you step around campus so you don’t squash any ducklings or goslings that will be freshly hatched and running around with the Developmental Biology class.Professor of the class and Science Department Chair Peter Kimmel has been instructing this course every other spring since 1993.
“Developmental Biology is very cool. I always find it fascinating to describe how we start out as a single cell that reproduces and begins what some have called the dance of development,” Kimmel said recently.
The class hatches chicken eggs from a biological supply company, goose eggs from a local farmer, and duck eggs that come from eBay.com. Kimmel uses a technique for cutting a “window” in the shell of a chicken egg and then covering it with a transparent membrane.
This allows students to watch a chick develop inside the egg, from a tiny little beating heart to a full-term chick.
“Geese are sometimes born with weak legs that cause them to spraddle or spread out to the side when they try to stand or run. I think a lot of breeders just euthanize these animals. About four years ago, we had one gosling with spraddled legs,” Kimmel said. “I thought we could help him strengthen his legs if we could somehow keep them from spreading out. So, I took a piece of pipe cleaner and basically tied his knees together.
“And it worked! He got stronger and soon didn’t need the assist any more. The students would take him into our carpeted hall and let him run, as they encouraged him with shouts of ‘run, Forrest, run!'”
Students say they love the class and really enjoy seeing the process of life starting.
“My favorite part of the course when I took the class was having the cute little ducklings follow me around because they think I was their mother,” said senior Megan Phillips.
Biology professor Brad Coupe has adopted several chickens from the class over the past few years. He had not previously owned chickens and thought it would be cool.
“I plan on expanding the coup over the next couple years. I eat the eggs, but not the chickens,” Coupe said.
So what comes first anyway, the chicken or the egg?
“One developmental biologist is supposed to have said that a chicken is just an egg’s way of making another egg. I like that” Kimmel said.