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Confessions of Seasonal: Everlasting impressions

Written on: September 16th, 2019 in Wetland Assessments

Samantha Stetzar, seasonal with the Wetland Monitoring Assessment Program

by Samantha Stetzar, University of Delaware Student

Working in wetlands

Wetlands work is not for the faint of heart. I won’t sugar coat it for you. Its dirty. Its messy. Oftentimes pretty buggy (even though we really lucked out this year). Yep. Wetlands can be all of those things. But – they are also so much more. I don’t think I’ve learned so much in one summer than I did working as a seasonal with DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring & Assessment team.

This year we focused primarily on wetlands in the Brandywine Watershed, or rather, the Piedmont region of Delaware. Since this watershed was so unique in that it contained elevation, topographical configuration allowing for seep wetlands to emerge, I got a closer look into how the protocol is adapted and modified. Due to the unique topography of the region, assessing these wetlands became more of a challenge in comparison to previous watersheds in relatively flat locations of Delaware. However, I welcomed the challenges!

Each and every site was a new adventure, whether it be trudging through an abandoned town – turned mitigation site to discover the most strangest depressions, or practically clawing our way up cliff-sides I never would have imagined existed in Delaware, and even trekking across a railroad bridge suspended 30 ft above a shallow creek . No matter what obstacle stood in our way, I was eager and ready. Through the whole summer I truly felt like a contributing member to part of a team working towards a goal much larger than ourselves.

As summer comes to an end

I find myself stuck in permanent wetlands detective mode, constantly surveying the landscape for indicators of wetlands

I didn’t realize until a week out of the job just how much of a profound impact this position had on my outlook on life. I’ve become more positive, patient and resilient. Not to mention the amount of knowledge I’ve learned from the many experiences and my amazing team members. By the end of the summer I find myself stuck in permanent “wetlands detective mode”, constantly surveying the landscape for indicators of wetlands and quietly naming off species within the local plant communities (thanks for the help with scientific names!). But this has something to say about DNREC’s wetlands team and phenomenal monitoring and assessment program.

This position was as much as a learning experience as it was a job; and I’ve left with so much more than when I started. I only hope more people will have an opportunity to realize the amount time and hard work wetland scientists dedicate to protecting Earth’s remaining wild spaces.

It’s important that we continue to assess and monitor the remaining wetlands that we have in order to ensure their existence for future generations to come. So I urge you, if you ever do get a chance to go out with a wetlands scientist, dive right in, no questions asked – just make sure you have hip-waders on first! Not only will you return with a myriad of knowledge and a renewed sense of appreciation for the natural world, but the satisfaction of a hard day’s work. So get ready. It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable!

But – I won’t leave you with just that…here’s some fun facts I learned working in the Brandywine Watershed with DNREC’s WMAP team:

View overlooking the rolling hills in Delaware's Piedmont region.
View overlooking the rolling hills in Delaware’s Piedmont region.
  1. Delaware does have some crazy elevation. Yes, you are reading that right. The state Delaware and elevation are in the same sentence! Believe me. We’ve climbed up most of them.
  2. Wetlands can be identified by the stuff we find in them. Yes. 99.9% of wetlands will contain at least 1 golf ball. We have proof. Typically we categorize a wetland by soils, plant community and hydrology. I’m thinking golf ball should be #4.
  3. If you are out working with Alison, its likely you’ll stop for ice cream. Like 95% of the time. Which is amazing…unless your lactose-intolerant!
  4. Some people manage to emerge from fieldwork unscathed (Kenny), but if you’re like me, you claw your way out of the last site resembling something closer to the creature from the black lagoon
  5. Finally, wetlands work is not for the faint of heart, but if you can get past the smells, stings and thorns, you’ll find some of the most rewarding work + people out there!

This post is part of a series of posts titled “Confessions of a Seasonal”, and is written by a summer seasonal worker of DNREC’s Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program.

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