Tuesday, May 31, 2011

AgBCs: Q is for Quack

Quack, quack! There are lots of cool resources available for learning about ducks! Now duck farming is not a HUGE business here in Ohio, but it IS in our neighboring state of Indiana. But not only do farmers raise ducks on farms, here at OARDC we do a lot of research about natural resources and the environment, and ducks are a key component of our natural environment—especially wetlands!

This photo of Brian Blight Canvasbacks is from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Did you know wetlands rank with tropical rain forests in the diversity and productivity of plants and animals that they support? Or that they are found in every part of the world except Antarctica? Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates all use wetlands for food, water, breeding and nesting grounds, resting areas and shelters.

This photo of ducks in a wetland habitat is from the US Fish & Wildlife Service

Wetlands are the water filters of nature. Many wetland plants and animals remove harmful impurities from our water and keep it naturally clean. Some communities and businesses even use managed wetlands to purify their wastewater. And when spring runoff and heavy rains create too much water for the land to absorb, wetlands can sore that excess water and slow its flow, reducing both the risk and severity of flooding.

But despite all of these benefits (and many, many more), wetlands are also one of the world's most vulnerable and threatened ecosystems. Here at Ohio State University, we're even doing research on the differences and similarities between man-made and naturally occurring wetlands.

This photo of wood ducks in a wetland habitat is from the
US EPA & US Fish & Wildlife Service photographer Tim McCade

Considering how important wetlands are to not only animals like ducks but to our ecosystem as a whole, this may be a great area for you and the young people in your life to get involved in by participating in an action-based learning experience! These types of experience can be custom tailored and developed to your group's interests and age level:

  • Younger students may enjoy writing a poem, story or play about animals in their wetland homes, creating a poster or storybook about the wildlife who rely on wetlands or even building a diorama of a local wetland.
  • Middle elementary students can construct nest boxes, conduct a wetland cleanup, grow & plant native trees and shrubs stream side, write letters regarding a local wetland issue or share their wetland knowledge through science projects and displays.
  • Older students can build wetland trails and boardwalks, work with others to restore a wetland, research and plan ways to address a local environmental concern, or even contribute to research through bird banding.
The possibilities are limitless! There's no need to rack your brain to come up with a new and novel idea—there are many great ideas already out there. Ducks Unlimited Canada has some great ideas plus FREE educational resources and lesson plans! Local conservation groups are another great source for information on local issues and ideas.

Kids of all age will love learning about an important issue like this while "getting their hands dirty" in the process—especially when they feel like they've made a difference in the real world!

By the way, did you know May is American Wetland month? Go celebrate!

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