PITTSBURG, Kans. — Biology students at an area university have been doing more school work than just taking classes. They’ve been conducting research on a variety of subjects. And some of what they’ve been learning is encouraging.

They’re called “strip pits” and they can be found throughout Southeast Kansas.

“Back in the day, huge steam shovels like “Big Brutus” would come and strip away the topsoil revealing layers of coal,” said Stuart Price, Reporting.

The coal was then removed leaving pits, which over time, filled in with rain water.

While the practice was less than ideal for the plants and animals that were living there at the time, what has been the long term affect?

“Ever since the mining occurred, there really hasn’t been research for birds on the mined lands,” said Luke Headings, Biology Graduate Student.

“I’m doing the first really extensive amphibian monitoring in the area to get a baseline and to see what’s out there,” said Emma Buckardt, Biology Graduate Student.

Luke Headings and Emma Buckardt are biology students conducting research projects centering upon the mined lands over the past couple of years and some of their results have been encouraging.

“We have our total species number is now up to 82 species of birds that we’ve detected here on the mined lands in Southeast Kansas and that number has been really encouraging for us because that really comparable to a lot of the other areas that have not been mined in this area, so it’s really encouraging to see the species coming back to the disturbed areas,” said Headings.

“I actually found the first county record for Crawford County for the Eastern Newt which is a state threatened amphibian species. They have been found in Bourbon and Cherokee Counties before last year which is really cool,” added Buckardt.

After graduation, both plan on becoming state wildlife biologists.