Activity: How Healthy is This Wetland?

illustration: binoculars

By observing wetlands, we can usually tell what is occurring in a watershed. The same is true of wetlands in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. On field trips, students can make both general and specific observations regarding the ecological health of a wetland site. Time should be spent beforehand preparing a base map of the area. This can be done quite easily by tracing an outline of the wetland site from an existing map, including its watershed, ponds associated with it, vegetation types (trees, shrubs, emergent vegetation, or open water), a compass rose, map scale, roads and highways, urban areas, and any other main factors that affect the wetlands. Students should also review the functions and values of wetlands listed here and develop a list of questions for each wetlands function to help them determine its contribution to the overall health of the ecosystem.

Armed with this prior knowledge, students will be able to add the information they collect in the field to their base map.


  • Base Map (constructed in class prior to the field trip)
  • Markers, Pencils
  • Field Guides to wetland plants and animals
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Dip Nets or Seine Net
  • Background information on the wetlands site
  • Copies of the "Lake Pontchartrain Basin Wetland Site Evaluation Sheet."


  1. Work in cooperative groups. Your primary purpose is to develop skills in observation and data collection, while evaluating wetland functions and values at this Basin site. Do not concentrate on specific, factual answers as much as on discussing and learning about this wetland.
  2. Using information from maps, printed materials, and field observations, rate the wetland site on an overall rating of high, medium, or low for each wetland function.
  3. Record your results on the summary sheet, and compare your group's work with that of others.
  4. Evaluate each wetland you study on its strongest and weakest characteristics.
  5. Discuss the natural and manmade factors existing in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin that contribute to the ecological characters of each wetland.

Go back

[an error occurred while processing this directive]