Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

Amy Taylor, Dennis Kubasko are Featured Presenters at OLLI

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Amy Taylor and Dennis Kubasko recently shared their Coastal Eco Explorer mobile app with members of UNCW’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. During two presentations in April, the WCE faculty members explained the history behind the app, designed to facilitate exploration of coastal NC wildlife at Carolina Beach State Park. Following each presentation, they led retired community members on a hike through the park so they could try the app out.

Thirty OLLI members participated in each of the sessions.

“The presentations and hiking outings were great fun!” Taylor said. “We were very excited to be able to share our Coastal Eco Explorer mobile application with the local Wilmington community.”

The app, developed in partnership with computer science faculty member Dr. Lucas Layman and North Carolina State Park rangers, is a direct result of Taylor and Kubasko’s 11-year collaboration on the summer course, Island Ecology for Educators; a course that brings together education and environmental science students to participate in field-based exploration of coastal ecosystems.

“Our island ecology class was the foundation for our work featured within the app,” Taylor said. “This project showcases the extraordinary work that our students have been doing for more than a decade.” 

Carolina Beach State Park is a popular coastal attraction, featuring both historical and natural diversity. There are 13 different island ecosystems along nine trails in the small park, highlighting a variety of easily accessible flora and fauna to explore, including the Venus flytrap.

Carolina Beach State Park Superintendent Chris Helms joined Taylor, Kubasko and OLLI members on a hike through the park following each presentation. During the hike, participants engaged their smartphones and ventured through several ecosystems highlighted within the mobile application such as depression ponds (Lily pond), pine savannas, xeric sandhills, and pocosins. They saw at least four types of carnivorous plants: Venus flytrap, sundew, yellow pitcher plants, and butterworts, and participated in a scavenger hunt designed by WCE graduate student Aubrie Leonard and EVS undergraduate student Cody McLaughlin, to find flora and fauna along the park trails.

“We would like to thank OLLI Program Coordinator Susan Williams for providing this opportunity to share our outdoor education teaching practices and mobile application research with their adult education students,” Kubasko said. “We were pleased to partner with Chris Helms to lead a presentation and trail hike illustrating a few of the unique and critically important ecosystems found in our area.”

Taylor, Kubasko and Layman recently expanded the app to include Fort Fisher State Recreation Area trails as well as Carolina Beach State Park. For more information about the project, visit the Coastal Eco Explorer website.