MSSU student uses snails to study local mining areas

MSSU student uses snails to study local mining areas
Copyright 2019 by KOAMNewsNow KOAM. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A Missouri Southern student combines snails with science to study former mining sites in Jasper County.

This research could reveal the health of local ecosystems.

“This is liquid snails.”

Conservation biology major Cameron Priester is in his element, going over snail samples in the lab, something he admits isn’t for everyone.

“If you say you’re studying, or doing a research project in the biology department, and you say you study snails, people look at you like you’ve got a third head a lot of the time,” laughed Priester, a senior at Missouri Southern State University.

Still, Priester says it’s a research project that grows on you, especially when you consider the unique way snails take on their environment.

“The more lead, or any other metal that they’re in contact with, they more they’re gonna absorb it. So, theoretically, if you could analyze that and break that down, you could tell kind of the general state of an area that they were found in,” he explained.

Priester is collecting snails from former mining sites in Joplin and Webb City, but he’s using snails at MSSU’s biology pond as a control for his experiment.

“Hopefully, it will just let us gauge, ‘Are these areas being cleaned appropriately, or even though there’s a little bit of lead or zinc left, how harmful is what is left?'”

Priester’s work gained the attention of Prairie Biotic Research, a non-profit that shelled out $1,200 to help with this project.

“It’s going to get Cameron to actually present his results at scientific conferences, and that’s something that wouldn’t have been possible without that grant,” explained Dr. Kyle Gustafson, Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Health at MSSU.

Priester calls Dr. Gustafson a mentor, a professor that’s helped with this experiment, but also shaped his character.

“I’m learning more that making mistakes and having setbacks, it’s nothing to freak out about…Work hard and everything will work itself out,” said Priester.

Priester will present his findings in May at the Ozark-Prairie Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry conference.