The Pymatuning wetlanders learned about the role of wetlands in the broader earth system this morning, with a focus on biogeochemical cycles and climate change. This was followed by a quick overview of federal laws that protect wetlands, particularly the history and controversy surrounding the Clean Water Act.
We headed to Hartstown Swamp in the late morning, where the students were tasked with conducting an actual wetland delineation along a transect from the swamp to the upland. They received little to no help from me, and had to self organize, determine what data to collect, and then carry it out. They did a fantastic job, and integrating and applying their knowledge of wetland plants and soils. They have come a long way; in fact, just a couple weeks ago most of them struggled to provide a definition for the term “wetland.” Their data from along the transect was used to construct the diagram below, and we will discuss these results in the morning.
We began wetland ecology this morning by going over the answers to a hydrology problem set, which was aimed at giving the students some familiarity with calculating groundwater flow rate and preparing them to work with the pressure transducer data that they are collecting at Pymatuning Creek Marsh. We then discussed a wetland biogeochemistry assignment, working our way through the details of the redox ladder again, following up on our late-night study session yesterday. Well, late night for me at least…
We then continued investigating biotic adaptations to the wetland environment this morning, taking a break from lecture to conduct an experiment aimed at understanding how Sphagnum acidifies its environment. We collectively discussed the results of the experiment and how Sphagnum modifies its local environment to facilitate its own growth and expansion. A botanical beaver indeed.
Before lunch I provided an overview wetland delineation, and some of the evidence used to determine the presence or absence of hydrophytic vegetation, hydric soils, and hydrology. In particular we discussed the “plant math” of wetland delineation – how dominant plants are determined and how their wetland indicator status is used to determine whether the vegetation community is hydrophytic. After lunch we were accompanied into the field by Brian Pilarcik and Jared Prokopchak of the Crawford County Conservation District. Brian demonstrated the fundamentals of wetland delineation, and how a determination is actually made in the field. The students had lots of great questions and are now ready to practice their skills! Perhaps we will have a chance later next week 😉
We ended a bit early so that the students could continue studying for the midterm exam, which will take place first thing in the morning. Lots of scientific names were being tossed about in the van today!