“How would wildlife use this dead tree?” “Isn’t it weird that we are going uphill to find the wetlands?” “Why do you think Witch Hazel blooms in the fall when most plants bloom in the spring?” “List three animals that use the vernal pools.” “What are the unique and rare plants that live in this cedar swamp?”
In the last five years, over 100 Ecology students from NHTI - Concord's Community College have been challenged to answer these questions at The Nature Conservancy’s Manchester Cedar Swamp. Since she first offered these classes, Associate Professor of Biology Jessana Palm has used Manchester Cedar Swamp as an outdoor living laboratory every Fall Semester. Students answer questions ranging from the bedrock geology to the rare Hessel’s Hairstreak butterfly. I am their guide. It also helps that Professor Palm is my wife, although we try to keep that part out of the list of topics for the inquisitive students.
Manchester Cedar Swamp is the perfect laboratory to teach students about ecology and The Nature Conservancy. This land came to the Conservancy through a unique partnership with the City of Manchester, NH Department of Environmental Services, and US Environmental Protection Agency. During the lab we talk about how land is protected through partnerships and how a private organization like the Conservancy can meet its goals for biodiversity protection even in an urban area like Manchester. We also focus on the rare Atlantic White Cedar Swamps, ancient black gum trees, and native giant rhododendron. For me, I get to see students perk up when you talk about dead trees, or when they nod and grin when we talk about salamanders and vernal pools. It is a yearly reminder of how the Conservancy offers our local citizens and students a way to learn about our critical natural places.
(For answers to the questions above, visit the preserve!)