Importance of Natural Resources

Mucking About in the Marsh – Salt Marsh Ecology

It is hard to get dirtier than spending
a day in a salt marsh. Our spring breakthrough course is basically an opportunity to spend a week running around in salt marshes on the beach and in the estuary. We’re gonna go out and see what we see, ask questions and try to figure out why the marsh works the way it does, why the beach works the way it does. One of the great reasons for doing this class is that the Marine Lab is an amazing place to spend time. It’s right on the sounds and you’re literally minutes away from the beach, the barrier islands and the marsh. I think that the wow moment is the total diversity. The number of different organisms that you can see in a very limited space and a very limited time. Everywhere from an oyster reef covered in all kinds of diverse seaweeds, to a salt marsh crawling with mud crabs, to looking at baby turtles hatching. The Marine Lab is actually a great place where all sorts of state-of-the-art research is going in biology from molecular biology up to ecology, as well as a lot of really interesting social science trying to understand how humans interact with these coastal systems. One of the really pressing issues about studying coastal wetlands is that they’re an incredibly threatened ecosystem from a number of directions. They’re places where enormous amounts of carbon is stored, places where pollutants get trapped between the land and the ocean. A little too much salt and they die, too much freshwater and they die. So, there’s this really interesting process of salt waters having to respond to rising sea levels and understanding how they might do that and how they might
not is really important. They’re a critical ecosystem and whether you’re going to
work on them as a lifetime career or not, understanding their importance as a voter and as a citizen, I think is a really important thing that this course can offer Science is really about asking questions that nobody’s asked before and you can only do that by doing it. And so, that’s really what we’re going to spend this week doing. The only prerequisites for this class is that you be a curious
person and be willing to get dirty. I’m Emily Bernhardt and I’m Justin Wright and this is our Spring Breakthrough. You’ll have better stories about the beach than all of your friends who went down to Fort Lauderdale.

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