First week of Wetlands…

UW Bothell's wetlands

UW Bothell’s wetlands

Science begins with curiosity… in my opinion. Many times people are bogged down by scientific terms when they think about science and they forget about this essential element. If we have no curiosity or desire to find out why… bears hibernate in the winter, our blood is red, colds produce sniffles, etc….. we would not have science. I do not fashion myself a scientist because when I think of science – I think of equations and periodic tables. However, what I do have is curiosity. This is the beauty of an Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences (IAS) program like the ones offered at UWB. IAS programs approach a student’s educational journey through many different lenses. [And the bonus in this class is that we get to go for nature walks as part of our curriculum!]

The UW Bothell campus is built on what used to be the Truly Ranch and hosts 62 acres of protected wetlands. You can read more about the UWB Wetlands and restoration here: This facilitates the teaching of the course Wetlands and Our Watershed and yet, it also offers a conundrum because we are learning about restoration while attending school in an area that perhaps, ideologically – should not have been utilized for a college campus. But that is a longer conversation. This post will focus on foam; and not the kind you find in a tasty beverage, but rather that which is found in a stream.

I mentioned that curiosity fuels the “art of science.” With so much information at our fingertips, curiosity is quickly fed. Hopefully this does not mean people will stop searching for their own answers since it is so easy to Google information. For our first Saturday class we went for a walk in the UW Bothell wetlands. I saw a two forked creek with foam gathering in a spot near some lodged branches. My first thought was that foam was related to pollution. However, since I saw this occurrence in a protected area – the UW Bothell North Creek Wetlands, and because I have seen foam in other remote locations, I wondered if this was a natural phenomenon and what caused it. I did a quick Google search and found that foam is often a natural occurrence in streams. According to Davis (2014) foam is created when plants break then mix with water and rise to the surface creating surfactants. When surfactants meet wind by being propelled against a log jam or at the base of a waterfall, foam is created. Davis also mentions that surfactants also provide convenient transport for bugs in a stream [which in turn, may attract and feed fish]. For more information, check out the ARRI website here.

Jeffrey C. Davis, Aquatic Ecologist of The Aquatic Restoration and Research Institute.


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