Wetland on Wheels

Date: Nov 04, 2017
Time: 10:30 AM - 6:00 PM

The Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has sought to educate students, teachers and the general public about the fragile Coastal Bend environment through its “Wetland Explorer” excursions into the region’s bays and estuaries since July 2004.

Now, thanks in large part to the generosity of a local business owner and two grants from area foundations, Jay Tarkington, director of the Center’s Aquatic Education Program, is able to bring the environment to the classroom through the Center’s “Wetland on Wheels” traveling display.

The Earl Sams Foundation recently awarded a $25,000 grant to start “Wetland on Wheels,” a hands-on program designed to provide quality scientific-based knowledge about the functions and value of wetlands with a special emphasis on how wetland organisms adapt and survive the loss of critical habitats. Gus Cargile of Industrial Fabricators donated the trailer that will carry the interactive, multimedia teaching tool to schools, festivals and special events such as Bayfest, Sea Fair and the annual Earth Day celebration that are held in the Coastal Bend region.

“Research shows that children’s environmental experiences form the foundation for their future relationship with the environment,” said Tarkington. “Having the ability to bring this interactive display to students is especially important because they are the ones who will be making the environmental decisions in the future. In school, they learn about the rain forests of South America and the coral reefs of the Caribbean, but they’re not taught about the bays and estuaries that are critical to the Coastal Bend environment.”

Setting up the display in school parking lots and other suitable venues allows students to experience the wetlands “up close and personal” without time-consuming bus travel that results in missed class time. The various replications and taxidermy displays of coastal animals and organisms are augmented by age-appropriate materials that are distributed to all participants. Multimedia presentations and lectures by environmental educators teach participants about local issues concerning the sustainability of bays and estuaries.

“By working with students of various ages, we hope to make a significant impact on the overall health of our local and global environment,” Tarkington said. “Our hope is that everyone who participates in our various programs will learn about their environment so they will be able to make well informed environmental decisions in the future.”

“Wetland on Wheels” is an extension of the Center’s “Wetland Explorer” program, which allows participants to venture into the Coastal Bend’s bays and estuaries to observe and research natural habitats which are not easily accessible. Tarkington began the tours in August 2004 using a 36-foot shallow-water research vessel purchased and renovated with a grant from the Ed Rachal Foundation.

The boat, which was re-commissioned as the “Ed Rachal R/V Wetland Explorer,” has made more than 120 trips into Coastal Bend bays and estuaries with an estimated 2,500 participants taking part in the half-day trips.

A typical excursion includes mini-lectures on environmental issues, island exploration and, weather permitting, kayak trips. In addition, Tarkington conducts teacher workshops on topics including coastal ecology, economics, history and the impact of humans on wetland habitats.

“The workshops are centered around field trips within the Coastal Bend and provide teachers with information on our region,” Tarkington said. “Teachers can only teach what they know and through this type of continuing education they are able to integrate these topics into the classroom.”

In spring 2005, the Ed Rachal Foundation provided an additional grant to develop the Center’s Estes Education and Research Station currently under construction on Talley Island between Estes Cove and Aransas Bay. The site, which will further enhance the educational experience of the wetland tours, was selected because of its biological diversity, which includes mangroves, tidal flats and sea grass beds that are home to numerous species of birds and fish.
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Wetland on Wheels
Nov 04, 2017 | 10:30 AM - 6:00 PM
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