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7:34 PM Thu, Sept. 20th

New Horizons

Courier/Jo. L. Keener
Wayne Fischer of the Heritage Park Zoo shows a full-size and smaller desert tortoise Wednesday in Prescott. Fischer will teach a new course, herpetoculture, at Yavapai College. The course is the study of reptiles and amphibians and will educate the owners of the special needs of reptiles.

Courier/Jo. L. Keener Wayne Fischer of the Heritage Park Zoo shows a full-size and smaller desert tortoise Wednesday in Prescott. Fischer will teach a new course, herpetoculture, at Yavapai College. The course is the study of reptiles and amphibians and will educate the owners of the special needs of reptiles.

CHINO VALLEY ­ During the next couple of years, programs at Yavapai College's Science and Agribusiness Technology Center will undergo some major changes beginning with the new semester Monday.

John Morgan, dean of the school's Chino Valley Center, said Wednesday that he's hired two new faculty members to help the school move forward.

Kelly Trainor will help diversify the school's biotechnology offerings and Wayne Fischer will teach a new course that eventually will become part of a new certificate program.

"We're going to completely revamp what we're doing," Morgan said.

In the spring, Morgan and Trainor hope to have implemented a program in which high school seniors begin work on a biotechnology-related project through Yavapai College, which they would continue for two years at the college and then for two years at a university.

Though such programs typically begin when students are high school juniors and are called "two plus two plus two" programs, Trainor said during a phone interview Thursday, Yavapai College for now will start with seniors because biotechnology requires "a little more maturity."

Also, during the next year or two, Morgan said, he hopes the college will offer a more diversified associates degree in agriculture, as well as veterinary assistance and landscape design and management certification and improved sustainable design/agriculture programs.

Trainor said that, by next fall, he hopes the college will be able to offer two biotechnology-related tracks.

The first will provide two semesters worth of bioscience courses to help students transfer to universities. Courses will include skills such as plant tissue culture ­ growing plants in soil-less media in sterile conditions ­ a basic lab skills course and genetic engineering.

Later on, Trainor said, he hopes to offer a plant pathology lab that would train students to identify plant pests and provide effective treatments.

In the areas of bioscience, horticulture, animal science, aquaculture and turf science, Trainor said, the next couple of years should see the development of "a really good transfer degree" that benefits students in its diversity.

Through partnerships with local biotechnology businesses, the second track will train students in skill sets specific to the local businesses' needs.

Fischer will teach the school's first herpetoculture class, which focuses on a study of the biology, ecology and taxonomy of reptiles and amphibians.

As the reptile industry ­ a multi-billion dollar industry ­ continues to grow, Fischer said during an interview Wednesday, it becomes increasingly important that the millions of reptile and amphibian owners in the world understand that "reptiles need a lot more caring and husbandry than other animals."

He worked for nine years for a reptile rescue and rehabilitation organization, he said, and the animals have "very high special needs."

Aside from requiring a variety of food and vitamin supplements, reptiles and amphibians require sunlight or its equivalent (bulbs that produce UVB rays) and certain filtration systems, Fischer said.

"You need to know where the animal came from, what conditions, so you can duplicate it as best as possible," he said.

He's hoping students who take his course learn that reptiles and amphibians require more care than many people believe.

While the course will focus on reptile and amphibian origin, evolution and husbandry, it also will feature some lab work.

Contact the reporter at hdartt@prescottaz.com