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Educational Modules

Wetland Biology

Overview

This module on wetland biology begins with a single species, Chrysemys picta, the painted turtle. It could have begun anywhere within a wetland habitat, with any number of biotic or abiotic (living or non-living) features. The starting point is not crucial to the learning processes that will spiral out of this package of information it is simply a place to start. Keeping that in mind, consider other related activities that could be employed as part of this module as well as those that will be a natural growth extension from it. The possibilities are endless.

Remembering that the use of this module is to explore an area of the biological sciences using advancements in technological data, there will be both benefits (advantages) to this approach as well as disadvantages. Tools such as these are currently being used in both laboratory and field settings.

This package contains historical and current aerial photographs that have been scanned into the computer archive. Once a photograph has been digitized, we refer to it as an image rather than a photograph. The terminology refers to the way in which the data were archived. It is also correct to say that you have been viewing a digitized air photo. Both are considered correct.

You will also find in this package of goodies, scenes of the Republican River collected via satellite. These are high-altitude images that were sent back to Earth already in digital form. Base stations collect these data and store them electronically. If and when you hold a printed copy of one of these scenes, you are holding an image. Because the scene was collected and recorded using a sensor rather than a camera with film, this "picture" is always referred to as an image. These may seem at first to be silly little details but there are clearly differences. In the field of remote sensing and digital image processing, these differences become important. It is industry jargon; important to precise communication among those whose careers lie in this area of expertise (Just thought you might like to know).

There are Biological Inventories of plants, insects, mammals and birds common to the specific region represented in the study area; South-central Nebraska along the Republican River Riparian zone. These lists are the result of intensive on-site field investigations often spanning many years of research by biologists interested in a study of the flora and fauna of the area. Biologists might be looking to find out what is there biologically. What is the range, health, and fitness of the population or community? Who else shares the same resources of food, shelter, and space? What conditions must be present for a given species to reside in this habitat over a span of multiple generations? Ecologists study the interactions among biotic and abiotic functions of the same site. Their investigations intend to explain why things happen as they do. These researchers look for the basic understanding, the theories surrounding equilibrium, species fitness, and competition among others.

There is a section that will introduce you to some of the abiotic components present at the study site. These components are the non-living things (dead stuff is still biotic). Abiotic components are things that never were alive. Topics include soils (a combination of organic and inorganic matter) perhaps, in part, an exception to the rule, climatological (weather), geological (rock features and formations), and hydrological (water) factors that play an integral role in any habitat. They range from chemical compositions to water/soil interactions. i.e. How does water flow through the site? How long does it reside in a specific area? Does the water dissolve portions of the substrate and carry those particles downstream? Are the particles bits of nutrition or are they toxins? What affect do the climate and regional weather patterns have on the landscape and the residents that call it home?

Finally, there is a section with suggested activities that will use bits and pieces of each area in the module. These activities have been designed as open-ended exercises. There are no "correct responses" only possible solutions that would have to be explored and defended by the students building their presentations. As in any public forum, the preparedness and documentation presented builds a credible case. Lack of sufficient evidence and poor preparation often results in a poorly constructed and hence hard to believe presentation. If the position and/or point of view is well marketed it is believable. It may be challenged by an opposing point of view that is equally well defended and presented. In addition to increased knowledge in the field of biological sciences, remote sensing and geographical information systems, the students will learn legislation, litigation and diplomacy when having to listen to opposition, and still defend their position.