STEM Mysteries: Wetlands

A new golf course was built in Florida. The golf course was built over some existing marshes, which in Florida requires the builder of the course to create more marshlands somewhere else. These newly created marshlands, called mitigation areas (mitigating, or making up for the loss of wetlands), are required to be monitored twice a year to see that they are created correctly and that the newly created wetland is growing and progressing toward offering the same ecological function as the wetlands that were destroyed. This monitoring is conducted by qualified wetland biologists.

At nine of the ten marshland mitigation areas of this golf course, the wetland biologist finds good growth and progression toward the goal of reaching the same ecological function. Marsh grasses are growing and there is good coverage of plants, and animals like crabs and herons can be seen. However, in the 10th area, there is only one plant visible, no animals, and it is not clear why. The wetland biologist must determine what the problem is and solve it to get the marshland mitigation area to grow and function like the others.

Area 1-9

Area 10

Area 10

What is Wetland Biology?

Wetland biology is a growing area within the fields of biology and the biological sciences. Biology is the study of all life – plant and animal – and how they react with their environment. Wetland biology is about the relationship between a wetland environment and the plant and animal life that lives there. They are often called upon to determine how healthy and ecologically functional certain wetlands are. They can be called upon to test water and soil, conduct surveys of animal and plant life, or conduct formal monitoring over time. Formal monitoring involves establishing permanent, fixed locations in which to assess the percent coverage of certain plants. Formal monitoring involves taking photos, generating charts and graphs and comparing the growth or health of the area over time. Informal monitoring might involve a simple check to see if the area is alive and determining if the area is relatively healthy, given age and circumstances surrounding the area.

Education or skills required: The minimum education required to become a wetland specialist is to complete a bachelor's degree in science majoring in ecology or a similar discipline. To progress a career as a wetland specialist a masters or Ph. D. is required.

Wetlands Activity Sheet

Please answer this question on your Wetlands Activity Sheet.

Which two of the following items will the wetland biologist most likely check, in order to solve the mystery?

After exploring the information above and recording data you think is important on your worksheet, please consider what the next steps will be to solve the problem. Knowing what the problem is constitutes the first step. What second and third steps do you think the wetland biologist should take to bring this mitigation area back to life?

Glossary of Terms


Land consisting of marshes or swamps; saturated land.

Tidal Marsh

Marsh found along rivers, coasts and estuaries which floods and drains by the tidal movement of the adjacent estuary, sea or ocean.


The action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. In this case, the mitigation areas being monitored exist to reduce the ecological severity of building a golf course in an area with salt water marshes by creating new marshes.

Fresh Water

Any naturally occurring liquid/solid water containing low concentrations of dissolved salts.


Interfere with something causing damage or unauthorized changes.


The arrangement of the natural and artificial physical features of an area.