From the swamp to the classroom a voyage of discovery
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From The Swamp To The Classroom: A Voyage Of Discovery. Paul Weihe, Central College (IA). Who IS this guy…??. Taught ES annually since 1997 APES Reader/Leader since ‘06 Trained as ecologist (specialty: wetlands) Married; two sons in HS Avid gardener; homebrewer

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From The Swamp To The Classroom: A Voyage Of Discovery

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From the swamp to the classroom a voyage of discovery

From The Swamp To The Classroom: A Voyage Of Discovery

Paul Weihe, Central College (IA)

Who is this guy

Who IS this guy…??

  • Taught ES annually since 1997

  • APES Reader/Leader since ‘06

  • Trained as ecologist (specialty: wetlands)

  • Married; two sons in HS

  • Avid gardener; homebrewer

  • Recent interest: Ethnobotany



  • Some background on wetland science

  • Recent additions to our ES resources

  • Sharing & brainstorming

  • Think of this as a conversation starter…

  • Note: this Powerpoint and other materials are available for later review.



  • Disclaimer…my role here…

  • The only ecosystem type protected by Federal law…(court interpretation of Clean Water Act’s “Waters of the U.S.”)

  • “Protection” does allow for wetland disturbance/removal with a permit [QUESTION: which Agency in charge…?]

What is a wetland

What IS a wetland…?

  • Definition: it is an ecotone---an ecosystem with characteristics intermediate between two types (i.e., terrestrial & aquatic)

  • Delineation tells one where to draw the perimeter line; use the Federal Manual with three “indicators” (water, plants, soil)

  • Classification for inventory, assessment…

Dredge fill permit

Dredge & Fill Permit

  • Army Corps of Engineers will issue permits if necessary

  • What’s a good reason?

Agency may require mitigation

Agency may require “mitigation”

  • Typically, need to replace lost wetland

  • Restore or build a new wetland

Can we really build wetlands

Can we really build wetlands?

  • YES. Lots of examples of successful wetland restoration & creation…some are even accidental!


    this is the wrong


Do we really build wetlands

DO we really build wetlands?

  • National goal has been “No Net Loss”

  • We are failing.

  • Iowa study (Vandewalle et al 2008): 58% of State highway projects were successful…as measured by permit requirements.

  • Difficult to get a national perspective, but this is probably indicative of overall trend

Purple loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife…

Purple loosestrife lythrum salicaria

Purple Loosestrife(Lythrum salicaria)

  • Beautiful flowering perennial of wetlands

  • Introduced from Eurasia

  • Spread throughout northern U.S., Canada

  • Reduces cover/biomass/frequency of native plant species

  • Is less-used by animals for food & cover, than are native plants

And it also may may not

AND, it also may/may not…

  • Cause local populations of native animals/plants to decline

  • Reduce overall biodiversity

  • Affect hydrology, sedimentation, carbon storage, nutrient dynamics in soil/water

  • Be significantly reduced by introduced biocontrol agents (insects form Europe)

My current research

My current research…

  • What is “The Smoking Gun?”

  • Looking for the ecological effects (impacts??) of the plant on ecosystems

  • Last Fall, did a small experiment with my students: how does nitrate level in water compare in test tubes with Loosestrife vs. tubes with cattail? (=about the same)

The big questions

The Big Questions

  • How do we describe wetland function in a landscape context (reference systems)

  • To what extent, and in which ways, can we solve water quality issues using wetlands?

  • What is the interaction between wetland systems and Global Climate Change?

Wetlands climate change

Wetlands & Climate Change:

  • Walter et al 2006: Methane bubbling from Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming --

  • Schuur et al 2008: Vulnerability of Permafrost Carbon to Climate Change: Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle --

  • Shakhova et al 2010: Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf --



  • Discussion?

  • Questions…?

Confession pedagogy gives me a headache

Confession: Pedagogy gives me a headache

But we care about learning

BUT…we care about learning…

  • Great interest in recent years in effective use of technology: distance learning, flipped classrooms, etc.

  • Ongoing research --how students learn

  • Our students are changing?? (experiences, attitudes, goals…)

Resources you may know

Resources you may know…

  • We have an EDG listserv & other good stuff at AP Central (, Environmental Literacy Council(,GOAPES wiki (

  • Coming soon: APCommunity (@CB)

  • New books…see table…

Also interesting reads

Also: interesting reads..

  • AAAS report: Vision & Change (

  • Book by Ken Bain: What the Best College Teachers Do (free summary pdf):

Bioscience education network

Bioscience Education Network


  • BEN is an Internet portal to (mostly free) resources to teach ES (not just Biology!)

  • Searches through on-line libraries of various professional societies

  • Categorizes resources; metadata

  • Peer-reviewed (before and/or after)



  • YOU pick the data

  • IT makes the graph




  • In development…coming soon!

  • Sponsored by Cornell U. (Ornithology lab)

  • Generates “data visualizations” (graphs/charts/statsistics) on the fly

  • LARGE data sets to be included

  • When operational, will include lessons



  • For all you’ve taught me about ES & teaching/learning

  • For making the Readings fun 

Now your turn share

Now, YOUR TURN…share…

  • A cool/fun/stimulating idea/activity you have for teaching APES?

  • What isThe Next Big Thing? What should we (“somebody”) work on/develop?

  • Technology?

  • $$$ for…?

  • Other ideas?

  • Please visit the “stations”

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