Educator Features

Disappearing Wetlands
10.28.04
Through hands-on experiences and interactions with scientists, the latest educational adventure from JASON -- "Disappearing Wetlands" -- teaches students in grades 4-9 the importance of wetlands and the threats they are facing.

"Disappearing Wetlands" is one of a series of learning activities, or "expeditions," administered by the nonprofit JASON Foundation for Education. Each expedition includes curriculum support materials, videos, interactive activities, access to JASON's online community, and is highlighted by a live, weeklong broadcast (via satellite or the Internet) of scientists, students and teachers conducting research out in the field.

Focusing on the diminishing marshes and swamps of the Louisiana bayou, "Disappearing Wetlands" utilizes NASA satellite imagery as it helps students better understand what wetlands are, why they are disappearing, and how to improve ecosystems management.

Wetlands -- low-lying areas where water is sometimes covering the soil or present at or near the soil surface -- are an important habitat for many plant and animal species. They also trap sediments that can pollute waterways, buffer inland areas from storm and flood damage, and protect shorelines from erosion.

Davis Pond, Louisiana Davis Pond, Louisiana
Image above: These images from NASA's Landsat satellite show the restoration of the Davis Pond area of Louisiana. Engineers have built an outflow channel, extending southeast from the Mississippi River (upper left corner of both images), in order to divert water into the ponding area and lake to the southeast. For a full explanation what the images show, please visit: + View site Credit: NASA

The continental United States has lost more than 50 percent of its wetlands since the 1600s, when wetlands covered an estimated 220 million acres, although the rate of loss has decreased in recent years thanks to conservation efforts.

Humans have contributed to the deterioration of wetlands through land development, agriculture, water and air pollution, and the introduction of invasive species. Natural erosion, sinking land and rising sea levels have also helped destroy one of the nation's most vital resources.

While the factors affecting wetlands may be diverse and widespread, there are actions that students and other individuals can take to support wetlands, such as encouraging government officials to adopt programs aimed at safeguarding wetlands, and buying federal duck stamps, the proceeds of which go toward protecting wetland areas as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

"If we are prudent and do all we can to preserve them, they can recover and remain healthy places for wildlife and wonderful places for recreation," said Marco Giardino, chief of Earth Science Applications at NASA's Stennis Space Center. "Everyone can make a difference in any given time and place."

Giardino analyzes satellite images to track how Louisiana's coasts have changed over time, to monitor wetlands restoration efforts, and to map historic Native American sites now underwater. As a member of the "Disappearing Wetlands" team of scientists, Giardino plans to visit some of the schools participating in the expedition.

The JASON Foundation for Education was founded to "inspire in students a lifelong passion to pursue learning in science, math and technology through exploration and discovery." All JASON expeditions are based on national standards for science, math, social studies, language arts and technology, and are aligned with state science standards.

JASON, through its JASON Academy, also offers professional development opportunities for teachers in the form of online courses, face-to-face workshops and an annual educators conference.

For more information on JASON and purchasing this and other expeditions, please visit: http://www.jason.org.

Related Resources

Exploring the Environment: Florida Everglades
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Earth Observatory: Wetlands of the Gulf Coast
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Science@NASA: Saving Cajun Country
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