Fall 2000
Vol. 17 No. 3
Publication Number:
USPS 244-800


Turkey Creek Vigil

It's the Excitement'

Genome Research Yields Quick Returns

Samford Ranked Fifth in South by U.S. News & World Report

Education School Scores High in Effective Teacher Preparation

Faculty Accolades

Upcoming Samford Tours

ODK Seeking 50 Exemplary Alumni To Mark Society's Anniversary

Manis Biography Wins Lillian Smith Book Award

University of Georgia Beckons Garver, Hanson with Sizable Postgraduate Packages

Alumni Office Seeks Samford Traditions

Sequoyah, Cunningham Join Men's Hall of Fame

Samford Begins Offering Doctor of Education Program

Deupree Recognized for Fighting Illiteracy

Tillette: Men's Team One
Big Question Mark

Cochran, Moore Lead Veteran Women's Basketball Team



Fall 2000

Turkey Creek
'Not Just About the Darter', Says Blanchard

At least once a week, and just about every weekend, Dr. Paul Blanchard jumps in his four-wheel drive and heads to Turkey Creek. He wades the shallow waters in northeast Jefferson County looking for signs of the vermilion darter.

It's a routine he's followed for several years. If the tiny fish survives, Blanchard will be one of the main reasons. The Samford biology professor was instrumental in the getting it listed on the endangered species list for Alabama and, more recently, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Blanchard's research helped prove Turkey Creek is the only habitat in the world for the vermilion darter, a fish "as rare as the Siberian tiger," the professor said. His work is also part of an effort aimed at making the area a refuge and wildlife preserve.

Blanchard's action not only gave the darter a chance, but also prevented construction of a proposed county jail near Turkey Creek in 1998, which endeared the professor to area residents.

Dr. Paul Blanchard spies a vermilion darter on one of his trips to Turkey Creek.

He continues to study Turkey Creek to identify as many vermilion darter habitats as possible for inclusion in a computer model. Students assist him at times as they become more familiar with the work.

"We will put these habitats in digital form and match that up with a model that will tell us what parcels of land are critical with respect to the amount of sediment that goes into the creek," he said.

The completed model not only will show vermilion darter habitats, but will determine the Turkey Creek habitats of two other endangered species, the watercress darter and the flattened musk turtle.

The model also will be used as a teaching tool and to develop similar models for other watersheds, helping land planners make "more rational decisions" on development, said Blanchard.

"My activities at Turkey Creek are not just about the vermilion darter," he added. "Turkey Creek is a microcosm of the world."

Blanchard teaches undergraduate courses in cellular biology and environmental science and is founder/co-director of Samford's graduate program in environmental science. He thinks his fieldwork makes him a better teacher.

"My work at Turkey Creek has helped me to see better the essence of life on this planet, that all things are connected," he said. "That is one thing I try to get across in all my biology classes."

His dedication to his discipline-and the fact that he always has time for his students-helped make Blanchard winner of the 2000 John H. Buchanan Award for Teaching Excellence at Samford. Students "speak effusively" about Blanchard's teaching and encouragement, said Acting Provost Joe Lewis in presenting the award.

Teaching is a second career for Blanchard, who spent 20 years (1964­84) on active duty with the U.S. Air Force.

"I spent the first half of my adult life in a combat crew capacity with nuclear weapons that were destructive in focus," he said. "I've been trying to devote the rest of my life to improving the quality of life on earth."

Blanchard doesn't keep statistics, but he's proud that many of his majors go on to graduate school. A good number also have projects selected for presentation at the National Collegiate Undergraduate Research program each spring.

Blanchard is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. He holds the Ph.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He taught some at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery before leaving the Air Force, and he joined the Samford faculty in 1990.

He and his wife, Barbara, are parents of two grown children.

Blanchard received $1,000 for winning the Buchanan Award, but the check wasn't his only unexpected bonus. Long-lost high school friends read about the award in his hometown of Hudson Falls, N.Y., and E-mailed him.

"My high school class had been trying to notify me about an upcoming reunion, but had lost track of me," he said. "That was a nice sidelight."