Experiential Learning and Volunteer Wetland Assessment Protocol Development

by Sydney Snyder
Environmental Science
Faculty advisor: Dr. Melinda Coogan

Wetlands are places where both animals and plants live in either standing water or very moist soils. Iowa wetlands were seen throughout the state due to the glaciers that developed over 10,000-14,000 years ago. The most common were found in the north and central part of Iowa known as the Des Moines Lobe. However, 14% of wetlands have been destroyed and are seen very rarely due to the increased demand of farms, towns, industries, and roads. This study used a volunteer wetland assessment protocol that was developed by Dr. Melinda Coogan for use by organizations like IOWATER and Raccoon River Watershed Association (RRWA) while also incorporating Experiential Learning with local high school students in Buena Vista County. The high school students devoted two weeks during the summer to collecting data at two sample sites (Sturchler’s Pond Fringe Wetland and Peterson’s Marsh).  The developed protocol was used to identify and collect required data. My assessment contribution was the development of a pre and post assessment evaluation to determine how valuable this experience was as an Experiential Learning tool.  Students were able to investigate both field and lab experiments while learning more about wetlands and their importance. Students also learned how to use many forms of advanced equipment to collect data and learned how to identify both macroinvertebrates and wetland plants located within NW Iowa. Our research resulted in preliminary data that showed the value of the protocol and its positive contribution to Experiential Learning.