Environmental Studies students are learning about wetland ecosystems and the laws protecting them by helping restore a damaged alpine wetland. In September, students from three different Environmental Studies courses went to Silverton to participate in a wetland restoration project over the course of five days, work that will continue with follow-up monitoring and research.
“I teach students about wetlands. We study groundwater, the Clean Water Act, and the concept of wetland flora. Taking those classroom concepts into the realm of experiential learning cements the ideas for students,” says Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Kathy Hilimire.
The project is a collaboration with Durango-based Cottonwood Environmental Consulting, co-founded by alumnus Jake Harter (Environmental Biology, ’06). Cottonwood was hired by Silverton Lakes RV Resort to restore a wetland that had been denuded of plants and drained of water. Cottonwood first worked with Silverton Lakes to return the water, then they reached out to the Environmental Studies Department to see if students wanted to be involved in the revegetation of the wetland.
“As much as getting our shovels into the rich wetland soil and seeing water pool up in the holes made ‘groundwater’ tangible,” says Hilimire, “seeing the area of wetland restored and hearing from Cottonwood Consulting about why Silverton Lakes was required to complete this project under federal law also made the Clean Water Act come alive.”
Other Environmental Studies courses will continue to monitor the success of the new sedges, and Environmental Studies juniors and seniors will conduct research on soil properties and their relation to historical land use and current plant growth.
“This was a great experience and will continue to serve as a living laboratory for semesters to come,” Hilimireadds.