“Nature’s water bed” (PLE day 12)

Collecting a core at Titus Bog. After the first drive, the student's collected the rest of the core themselves.

Collecting a core at Titus Bog. After the first drive, the student’s collected the rest of the core themselves.

The Pymatuning wetlanders began the day by discussing long-term wetland development. Why do wetlands form? How and why do they change over time? What factors influence the pace and sequence of changes? Our emphasis was on peatland development….primarily because we know the most about the development of this wetland type. Peatlands leave a record of their own development in the form of peat deposits, which contain the remains of plant communities (and other organisms) that occupied the peatland in the past. Given appropriate tools and expertise, this natural archive can be read, allowing us understand how these ecosystems were originally established and how they have changed through time.

We then went to Titus Bog (as the students reminded me, technically a poor fen!) to directly observe peatland ecology and obtain a record of its development by collecting a sediment core. The students had already read Alex Ireland’s recent work on the developmental history of this very site (see here and here), and most of them had never walked on a floating peat mat before.  They seemed to really enjoy it, and one student referred to it as “nature’s water bed,” which is an appropriate description of what it feels like to walk on. We also took a quick trip to a smaller peatland nearby that contained a population of purple pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea), so that the students could see these carnivorous plants in action (they had already observed pressed specimens in class).

Sarracenia purpurea (purple pitcher plant) in flower.

Sarracenia purpurea (purple pitcher plant) in flower.

We took probe rods along to see how deep the Titus Bog basin was before collecting a core….but 11.25 meters of rod was not enough! We only had 6.25 meters of coring rods, so we collected this “upper” portion of the sediment profile….which likely represents at least the last 5000 years or so. In the lab tomorrow the students will examine the macrofossils (e.g., seeds, leaves, needles, etc..) preserved in the sediments and peat, and use them to reconstruct the developmental history of the site. We will compare our results to the previous work at the site.

The student’s are now experts at using the Russian peat corer, as highlighted in the video below. And their ability to work as a team is definitely improving…

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Posted on June 19, 2013, in Teaching, Wetland Ecology & Management (PLE) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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