Academics, Campus wide, College of Science and Mathematics

Creation care a responsibility

By Jenna Johnson | April 22, 2021
Holly Washington, senior wildlife biology major, and Amanda Hansen, senior biology major, join Prof. Kevin Jones to look at a grapevine growing in the woods on CSU’s campus. Photo by Richard Esposito

From the first book of Genesis to the final book of Revelation, we find Scripture that speaks of God’s great power in creating the heavens and the earth and all that is within. God created Earth for humankind to dwell in it, and He charged us with taking care of it. 

According to Dr. Ben Phillips, the dean of the College of Christian Studies and a professor of Christian studies, Charleston Southern students have a unique opportunity in hands-on learning that integrates faith in how to develop, cultivate and maintain life on Earth.

“In pagan mythology, humanity seized power over creation from the gods. But Scripture teaches that humanity’s role in creation as stewards under the Creator is a gift of God’s grace,” he explained. “Students at CSU are empowered to develop that gift as they study biology for the purpose of increasing the beauty and bounty found in nature.”

Seeing green

CSU students from Prof. Kevin Jones’s taxonomy class take a botany field trip around CSU’s campus. Photo by Richard Esposito

On CSU’s campus, you can find wildlife such as geese, deer, alligators, or, as we discovered more recently, wood storks. Trees and plants surround our campus and bring a history both native and exotic. 

According to Kevin Jones, assistant professor of biology at Charleston Southern, it’s likely that a third of the plant life on campus is not native to the area. Most brought over, both intentionally and accidentally, as people from all over the world immigrated to the United States.

On a botany field trip last week, Jones shared some of the history behind the plant life on campus, some of which included origins from the Izzard family’s development of the Elms Plantation. Students learned about various trees, such as the live oak or popcorn trees, and even the clover in the grass at CSU—which serves as a pollen source for bees.

Dr. Todd Gurley harvests plants from the aeroponics lab the last week of the spring semester. Photo by Richard Esposito

“When the settlers came from Europe, the grain they brought over included clover,” he said, sharing that the maximum documented amount of leaves on a clover was 56—a surprising revelation to the students.

Dr. Thomas Gurley, an adjunct professor, oversees aeroponics studies. In the biology elective, students learn about aeroponic agriculture—a technique where plants are grown without soil. This eliminates the use of pesticides and threats of fungi, viruses and bacteria. It’s meant to revolutionize agriculture.

“It uses 90% less water. No soil, no pesticides, no weeds; everything is controlled environment agriculture, or CEO,” he said, adding that plants can grow aeroponically indoors with LED lights or outdoors in a greenhouse. 

Creatures, big and small

Tobias the bobcat plays on his back at Charles Towne Landing. Photo by Dr. Todd Heldreth

CSU’s own resident vet and biology professor Dr. Todd Heldreth does his part in caring for God’s creation—though his have a little more bite than bark. Heldreth serves as a vet to the animals of Charles Towne Landing.

Some lucky students accompany him on occasion, but they all learn in his classes about the beasts of the field and air. According to Heldreth, holidays are a special treat at the zoo. Raw meat at a kissing booth for the puma on Valentine’s Day. Peanut butter crackers for the black bear on St. Patrick’s Day. Gingerbread houses and a candy cane tree at Christmas for bears, Memphis and Tupelo.

“The zookeepers spoil the animals at Charles Town Landing all year, but they really love holidays,” he shared. “It is such a privilege to get to know these animals and the zookeepers who love and care for them. I am blessed for sure.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1


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