SER-TU Mammal Tracking on World Wetlands Day

Animal footprints in the snow at the Trent Nature Area Wetland Complex. Photo by Shannon Farmer.

February 2 was World Wetlands Day. A group of volunteers for the Society for Ecological Restoration Trent University chapter (SER-TU) and I got to walk around the Trent Nature Area Wetland Complex looking for signs of animal life. We enjoyed tracking foxes, squirrels, crows, and mice through the prints they left behind in the snow. Walking in the wintertime is always a neat experience when you get to stop to listen to the sounds of nature. We were walking on top of a wetland which meant sometimes you could feel pockets of ice below your feet or hear the Otonabee river flowing in the background.

Our goal was to get out in nature on World Wetlands Day to appreciate the beauty of wetlands while simultaneously collecting data for a SER-TU wetland restoration project. The reason we chose winter tracking is because It can be hard studying mammals in the summer when ecosystems are beaming with life and places to hide, but snow in the wintertime means distinct marks like footprints can be seen. Studying these prints in detail tells a story about the mammals still using the land.

Last winter we focused mainly on tracking within a farmer’s field located directly adjacent to the wetland complex. This is because our club hopes to eventually lead a restoration project of the field, back to a natural wetland state. In preparation for planning the restoration, we expanded our scope to include some of the more established wetlands on campus and that is where we spent the afternoon today! We call this “baseline” data, and this data helps guide management strategies later on down the road.

One of the main take away messages our group has learned by surveying this land for so long is that it has been highly impacted by land use change over time. Most notably, by the farmer who has been collecting hay from the wetland every summer inhibiting the growth of natural vegetation. Now knowing this, SER-TU has presented suggestions to the Trent Nature Areas Committee to expand the boundaries of the Wetland Complex Nature Areas to include the farmers field so it will be protected for future generations.

We are hopeful that our recommendations for the Wetland Complex will be included in the 2020 Lands Plan and that our continued research of the wetland complex provides volunteer experience to students for years to come. The motto for SER-TU is think big, start small!