Muskrats! (Pymatuning Wetlands 2015, Day 10)
We have completed two weeks of wetland ecology at Pymatuning Lab of Ecology… only one more week to go. The Pymatuning wetlands spent the morning discussing freshwater marshes, swamps, and riparian wetlands. We examined vegetation dynamics, food web structure, and biogeochemistry of each of these wetland types, paying particular attention to similarities and differences. Our discussion of the vegetation dynamics of freshwater marshes highlighted the importance of seed banks, climate variability, and herbivores like muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) in controlling interannual-to-multidecadal scale ecological changes in these systems. The topic turned out to be quite appropriate for today, given the results from our camera traps in the afternoon. We then went over the midterm exam, spending a considerable amount of time working through the details of how nitrogen cycling occurs in the context of the aerobic and anaerobic layers of wetlands. The students all promised that they would study the details of the nitrogen cycle, and other biogeochemical cycles in wetlands, if these will reappear on the final exam. I won’t disappoint.
We then went to Pymatuning Creek Marsh to collect the shallow wells that we installed last week to record water-level fluctuations within different vegetation zones. We also collected the camera traps. Clearly white-tailed deer occasionally use the marsh, but the students were particularly pleased that they captured video of a muskrat. There was clear evidence of them in the marsh, as there often is marsh environments; however, they tend to be active at night or around dusk so they are not often seen.
The video is embedded below.
And a raccoon….