Wetlands are often called “keystone natural communities” because of the important role many wetlands play in biogeochemical cycling, the control of flooding, the support of extensive and rich food chains, the prevention of shoreline erosion, and a host of other ecological functions. Northern Vermont has a rich diversity of freshwater wetland natural communities.
The objective of this course is to provide student’s with an understanding of the ecology of freshwater wetland ecosystems, including their flora and fauna, biogeochemical processes, and the critical ecological functions and services they provide. The topographic, geomorphic, climatic, geologic, and floristic diversity of northern Vermont provides an extensive opportunity to study first-hand a large variety of wetland types, including floodplain forests, hardwood and softwood swamps, alpine peatlands, bogs and fens, vernal pools, seeps, marshes, wet shores, and meadows. Students will study the various types of wetlands through extensive field time combined with readings and classroom learning. The course includes a strong practical component, including identification of wetland flora and fauna, classification of wetland natural communities, and methodologies for wetland assessment and delineation. An overview of wetland protection strategies including state and federal regulatory programs as well as local conservation initiatives will be discussed.