A dynamic group of eager mappers joined us for our Map Our Marshes Workshop November 8th at the UBC Farm. This sold-out, free public workshop attracted 20 participants. Many were UBC’s Environmental Sciences students but members of the North Shore Wetland Partners, South Coast Conservation Program, BC Nature, and Coastal Painted Turtle Project also attended the event. The workshop was designed to enhance the capacity of participants to map wetlands as a first step to conserving valuable wetlands.
Neil, BCWF Wetlands Education Program Coordinator, started off the morning with a solid introduction to wetlands. Participants learned how wetlands filter water, control floods, and provide habitat to hundreds of wildlife species. To successfully protect or restore a wetland you must be able to identify which of the 5 main types of wetland you are working with. Examining the plant communities, soil type, and presence of water will tell us whether the wetland is a bog, fen, marsh, swamp, and open water; however, there are over 100 sub categories listed in the Wetlands of BC book that Neil suggested as a nice bedtime read.
Everyone was eager to get outside to start using their GPS. Neil and Jason (BCWF Wetlands Assistant) each led a group on the basics of marking a waypoint and creating a track, and how to pause tracks so it doesn’t record your visit to the washroom.
We put on our rain boots and made our way to the wetland adjacent to the farm. We tested the participants by having them classify the wetland based on what we learned in class. They filled out a wetland design form to help them out. Students estimated the dominant vegetation cover, which proved to be challenging to agree with 20 people. Neil and I, as the BCWF Wetlands Fall Intern, showed the group how to take a soil sample with an auger to see if the soil has more organic or mineral material. The group tested the inorganic soil composition by trying to make ribbons with their fingers. A ribbon over 2″ indicates high clay content. A ribbon less than 2″ means that the soil has more silts and sands, which was the case for our sample. The auger can also indicate presence of water and where the water table is by how fast the hole fills with water.
The participants came to the conclusion that there are actually two wetlands based on their findings. One is a marsh because the dominant plant species are all emergent including bullrush, grasses, and cattail, while the second wetland was classified a swamp because it is dominated by woody and shrubby vegetation (Hardhack, Spiraea douglasii).
Once the participants identified the wetlands, it was time to get mapping. Everyone divided into smaller groups and set off to track the outline of both wetlands. We went back to our classroom and uploaded one UBC student’s data onto Google Earth. Neil taught the group how to transfer GPS tracks to Google Earth and BC’s Community Mapping Network.
Coming to the end of our day, the participants used their new skills to do some exploratory work on a potential restoration project UBC Farms is considering for this wetland. Buried tiles are a common method to drain fields, which unfortunately also sometimes drains wetlands. Our goal was to survey the site by looking at the hydrology to see whether it is possible add small pools to the wetland without flooding the nearby agricultural fields. With the help of the students, we took elevation gains around the wetland to determine potential outlet locations to manage excess water. The data collected will help develop the restoration plans for this wetland.
A special thank you to UBC Farm, Wildlife Habitat Canada, Environment Canada, and the Government of BC for making this workshop possible.