Parasites, camel dung, and the worms from Dr. Bruce McLarty’s yard are key subjects in the parasitology class taught by Steve Cooper, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Steve Moore, professor of biology.
Nine students are currently enrolled in the four-credit hour special topics class. This is the second time this class has been taught in the history of the university, with the first time being seven years ago, according to Moore.
“Most of the parasites are in poop … tissue samples, blood, and poop,” Cooper said.
Junior Kinsey Baker, biology major and student in the parasitology class, attended a trip to the Little Rock Zoo with the class. She said the zoo veterinarian collected samples from animals like komodo dragons, monkeys and zebras that were given to the class to be studied later.
The class also took a trip to the Arkansas Department of Health, which introduced the students to the process of identification when dealing specifically with humans and infection control, according to Moore.
Another hands-on project the students participated in was digging up earthworms to dissect in the lab. The students were encouraged to dig in the grassiest, muddiest place they could find in search of the largest earthworms, according to Baker.
“We found the best dirt in Dr. McLarty’s yard,” Baker said. “He walked up and we were really embarrassed, but he was a good sport about it.”
Moore said the students found parasites in the worms from McLarty’s yard.
Baker said she wants to use her biology degree as a steppingstone to become a veterinarian.
“With animals come parasites,” Baker said. “I know I am going to see them in my vet profession, and I wanted to get a head start with identifying parasites.”
Baker said the class could benefit students in health and mission fields as well as biology because a high number of people have parasites.
“It’s been a good class,” Moore said. “It has opened their eyes to the microscopic world that’s out there and the harm that they do, not only to us, but to so many other species on the earth.”