JOPLIN, Mo. — Students at Missouri Southern are literally diving into their work, and it’s not only giving them real-life experience but making a difference on campus.

“Somewhere in this pond is about a bathtub-sized area that is six feet deep,” said Dr. David Penning, MSSU Biology/Environmental Health.

Students at MSSU don’t have to go far to see a real-life aquatic classroom; it’s just behind the building they take classes in.

“Got him, you see at the tip of his head, like behind his head and up in his shell, those are all leeches, and so you can see all those leeches,” said Dr. Penning.

Doctor Penning has been studying the biology pond for several years now. He said there’s something in there that shouldn’t be. And his students are literally taking matters into their own hands to get rid of it.

“When I go into those interviews or meet future bosses they’re going to be excited to hear that my hands have been dirty, that I have, you know, pull things from the roots, I’ve gotten down to the place people don’t want to go,” said Gabe McClain, MSSU Senior Wildlife Conservation Major.

Penning said there’s only one way to rid the pond of Eurasian Water Milfoil, and that’s by physically pulling it out by the roots and getting it out and away from the pond.

“We have a high number of turtles, got quite a few fish, some snakes and things like that in here, and prior to this plant we had a huge diversity of other aquatic plants, but this one has just out competed them and created this uniform landscape of one plant that isn’t from here, so we’re doing our best to remove it,” he said.

So how did it get there?

“This is a common aquarium plant, you can usually buy it for less than a dollar, so my guess is we either had a kid or somebody from the dorms dump out a pet in an aquarium and just dumped the whole thing and now as a result, we have this mono culture of just one plant.”

The next step is to eventually go back into the water and plant the species that used to live there before the single species aquatic assault.