The best way to learn about water: For students at wetland, the answer is get right into it

Some Ohio State students this fall are finding their classroom all wet. By design. In fact, they may often wear waders.

Five of the university’s courses are meeting at, and in, the Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park during autumn semester 2014, part of a plan to increasingly use its 52 acres of marsh and mud, frogs and geese, fish and water for teaching.

The School of Environment and Natural Resources manages the wetland complex with support from OARDC. The park lies near the north edge of Ohio State’s Columbus campus.

Taking classes there “is a real experiential learning process for the students,” said OARDC scientist Suzanne Gray, an assistant professor in the school (pictured, second from right). “They’re able to get their hands wet, literally, and I think that’s important.”

Video: SENR graduate student Alayna Dorobek talks about her research at the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. (CFAES Communications.)

“I know from experience that that is the best way to learn — it’s to hear something and then be able to see it and touch it and smell it.”—Alayna Dorobek, graduate student, School of Environment and Natural Resources

Students, new classes make a splash

  • The park’s fall courses are Stream Ecology, Methods in Aquatic Ecology, Wetland Ecology and Management, two sections of Taxonomy and Behavior of Aquatic Invertebrates, and a fisheries and wildlife science seminar called “Behavioral and Physiological Responses to a Changing World.”
  • Boardwalks crisscross the park’s experimental wetlands, which include two main 2.5-acre marshes and a 3-acre billabong, or oxbow lake. The modern Heffner Teaching and Research Building holds room for labs and classes.
  • The Olentangy River, a source of the swamps’ water, flows close by and is used in the courses as well.
  • To contact the scientists: Mazeika Sullivan at; Suzanne Gray at

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