Wetland ecology is an exciting and relatively new field of environmental science that often intertwines disciplines such as plant ecology, wildlife biology, hydrology, geology, soil and water chemistry, paleoecology, and remote sensing in an effort to address conservation and management problems. Large areas of wetland, ranging from freshwater and salt marshes to forested swamps to peatland bogs and fens have been destroyed or impacted by human activities, and laws enacted to protect remaining wetlands resulted in creation of many new career opportunities that cover a spectrum of interests. The time is ripe for students to take advantage of this opportunity.
The Department of Environmental Science and Biology will be at the academic forefront by adding Wetland Ecology as a new track within the Environmental Science undergraduate major. This option is made possible by the recent addition of Dr. Douglas Wilcox to the faculty as the Empire Innovation Professor of Wetland Science. New courses that will support the concentration are Wetland Ecology, Restoration Ecology, and Northern Wetlands (covering peatlands and Great Lakes wetlands). General education and departmental core requirements will match those of other concentrations, but required courses and options for science electives will be tailored toward meeting the multi-disciplinary nature of wetland science. The required courses are Wetland Ecology, Northern Wetlands, Hydrology, Soil Science, and Plant Diversity. One of the following courses is also required: Wildlife Ecology, Aquatic Invertebrates, and Fishery Tech and Fish ID. Six to eight credits must also be selected from among these courses: Restoration Ecology, Plant Ecology, Limnology, Water Quality Analysis, Conservation Biology, Herpetology, Environmental GIS Applications, Environmental Impact Analysis, Watershed Sciences, Biostatistics, and Collaborative Research.
The foundation for this track was laid in a manuscript titled “Education and training of future wetland scientists and managers” that was published by Dr. Wilcox in the September 2008 issue of the journal Wetlands. That paper outlined the coursework requirements needed for development of the next generation of scientists and managers who will conserve our valuable wetland resources. Few universities offer a focused program in wetland science. This opportunity at Brockport could therefore make our graduating students attractive candidates for a variety of career positions and graduate programs (see http://www.sws.org/jobs/ for examples).
Upper level courses relating to wetlands are cross-listed at the 500 level and can be included in coursework for graduate students in Environmental Science and Biology at Brockport. New research initiatives being pursued by Dr. Wilcox will also create openings for M.S. students wishing to work in wetlands. His extensive contacts with wetland scientists across the country could also lead to opportunities for interested students to continue on into Ph.D. programs in a variety of wetland-related topics.