Stewardship of an Aquatic Habitat on the Campus of Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma

By Korstad, John | Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Stewardship of an Aquatic Habitat on the Campus of Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma


Korstad, John, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith


Many colleges have natural areas such as forests, grasslands, streams, lakes, or ponds on or near their campus where people can relax and enjoy outdoor activities. These natural areas are often adversely affected by the impact of campus activities and development. However, these natural areas must be recognized as integral parts of God's creation. We should never take these natural areas for granted, but rather we should seek God's wisdom whenever we develop around these areas (see Ezek. 34:18-19).

Environmental stewardship means that we love our Creator and seek to obey him in caring for his magnificent creation. This may mean preserving and protecting natural areas or sometimes restoring them as much as possible to how they were before development.

Lake Evelyn, at the center of the Oral Roberts University (ORU) campus, is an example of the practical challenges of development and stewardship on a Christian college. In 1980, the lake had a surface area of about 1 hectare and a maximum depth of about 7 m. Blue-green algal blooms were visible over much of the surface water during every summer. The lake was in a classic eutrophic ("well-nourished") condition.

Every semester, students in the ecology class sampled the lake water for various physical, chemical, and biological parameters and wrote lab reports incorporating the data in graphs and discussing the status of the water body. In addition, at least one student conducted more thorough sampling along with a faculty member every year. This often culminated in the students presenting their results in written format as a senior paper and in oral format at professional meetings such as the Oklahoma Academy of Science and the Tri Beta Biological Honor Society.

In 1995, Lake Evelyn still had a surface area of about 1 hectare, but the maximum depth was only 1.5 m. This indicated that the lake was accumulating sediment at the rate of about 0.3 m per year. Prominent aquatic macrophyte beds were encroaching toward the middle of the lake (Fig. 1). In October 1995, following weather conditions with warm temperatures and no wind, there was a moderate "fish kill." It was determined that this was due to the low dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water caused not only by the weather, but also by high bacterial decomposition rates on the accumulated organic matter at the bottom of the lake.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

In the summer of 1996, the ORU administration and faculty in the biology department agreed that Lake Evelyn needed restoration. …

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