Hydrology, hydrophytes, and hydric soils…oh my! (PLE Day 1)
Five brave students began a 15-day physical and intellectual immersion in wetlands today at Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology in western Pennsylvania. After introductions, we began the course by visiting several nearby wetlands (and non-wetlands) and thinking about the characteristics of these ecosystems. What makes them different from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems? How might we define a wetland? How might we determine their boundaries? Along the way, we learned a handful of plant species, observed some plant adaptations to the wetland environment, discussed the composition of gas bubbles leaving the wetland substrate, and discovered the remains of a recently hatched snapping turtle nest.
We had lunch at the famous (infamous?) spillway on Pymatuning Lake, where the ducks really do walk on the fish and more phosphorus enters the lake ecosystem in the form of bread than via runoff from the entire watershed. We then spent the early afternoon discussing wetlands, wetland definitions, and the many ecosystem services that we derive from functioning wetlands. The students then had some fun exploring the FWS wetland mapper in preparation for tomorrow’s discussion of wetland classification and our trip to Morgan Swamp in Ohio.