Our Wetland Laboratory Serving University Students and Faculty

by Dr. Lenore Tedesco, Executive Director

When Herbert Mills founded The Wetlands Institute (TWI), he immediately established it as a biological field station for faculty and students at Leigh University. That productive relationship continued until 1986. In the ensuing years, the Institute and the laboratory outside our doors continued to serve as a resource to faculty and students from near and far.

We have been fortunate to establish several ongoing relationships where TWI provides expertise and resources for field-based classes. Rowan College of South Jersey faculty teach their Wetlands Field Ecology course here each year (with the exception of the COVID-gap year) and we are delighted they will resume their onsite lectures and TWI-staff led field laboratories on marsh and beach dynamics and fauna.

This fall, we were pleased to host the third year of UPenn’s Landscape Architecture course. Their course, Sensing and Sensibility, explores the role of remote sensing and environmental modeling as fundamental components of landscape design practice. Faculty members Keith Vandersys and Sean Burkholder employ drones to capture visual imagery of the marsh, and hyperspectral remotely sensed data to map vegetation patterns and fine-scale elevation. Since 2019, they have been flying the Institute and documenting some of the changes that are resulting from accelerated sea level rise. Students have been able to gain first-hand knowledge of marsh dynamics by both using these tools and creating visualizations to present the data they have gathered.

In addition to our existing partnerships, we are excited to welcome a new partnership with Boston College. Several faculty and their graduate students will be undertaking research projects focused in the Seven Mile Island Innovation Lab. Faculty are working collaboratively with TWI and the US Army Corps Engineer Research Development Center research lab and have established long-term water quality monitoring stations to study coastal and estuary dynamics. This fall, faculty will be bringing students to TWI for their environmental geoscience senior research seminar. They will be studying coastal processes, biogeochemistry, and the effects of sea level rise on area ecosystems, and bring new tools and expertise to the laboratory.

These are just a few of the universities that utilize the natural laboratory that surrounds The Wetlands Institute and we are thrilled to work with them all.