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Wetlands by Sarah, Valencia, and Sophia

We all have really different interests-from computers to horses to piano. But one thing we have in common is that we're SciGirls! SciGirls is an after-school program that encourages girls in science. We love it! And the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina is our SciGirls headquarters. We saw a cool outdoor exhibit there on our state's wetlands. That got us inspired to try a mini-bioblitz to look for endangered species in these areas. A bioblitz is when a small group of people search through a location to see how many plants and animals live there. Our question: What plants and animals live in wetlands?

What did we do?
Working with our mentor, Ariana, who is a wetland ecologist at Duke University, we chose three kinds of wetlands to visit: Cypress Swamp, Salt Marsh, and Pocosin Forest. Then we loaded up our SciGirls van and hit the road! At each location, we kept a list of the plants and animals we saw. In the Cypress Swamp, we saw Cypress trees, white orchids, and duck weed. We saw a beaver house, but no beavers! At the salt marsh, we recorded cord grass, a sponge, a minnow, and a cool crab. Finally, at the pocosin forest, we found sphagnum moss, pond pine, and titi (pronounced tie-tie). We compiled our log notes and compared the three wetlands.

What did we find out?
We saw a blue heron in salt marsh and in the Cypress swamp. But that was unusual. Not many species overlap the three areas. In fact, each wetland had its own dominant species-Cypress trees, Pond pine, and cord grass. In the end, we totaled 33 different species in the salt marsh, 29 in the cypress swamp and 12 in the pecosin forest. The plant communities were really unique! We decided that even on our mini-bioblitz we saw a lot of species, but that to do a really thorough bio-blitz would require a lot more people and time.

What can you do?
  • Find out when a bioblitz is happening near you. You can do an internet search for bioblitzes in your state or city. Follow your bioblitz leader's instructions for writing down everything you see, including plants, bugs, and larger animals. You might also be taught to recognize signs of animals, even if you don't see the actual animal.
  • You can model how a wetland "cleans" the water that flows into it. Get a piece of outdoor carpeting (representing the wetland), the kind that looks like grass. Set it on a plank, so that it rests at an angle. Put some soil, sand, gravel, crushed leaves, and/or grass clippings into a small bucket, along with some water. Stir it all up. Pour the "dirty" water, leaves and sand and all, onto the carpet, at the top. Allow the water to trickle down. How clean is the water that makes tot he bottom? What types of materials did the wetland filter, and what materials washed down to the bottom?
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