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Jeron Leblanc

Summer Scholar 2020 Jeron Leblanc
Project: 
Making and Monitoring Microclimates in the Wetland
Program Year: 
2020
Major: 
Geology
Supervisor: 
Dr. Christine Hatch
Project description 

The project explores groundwater flow-paths, surface water mixing, underground thermal regimes and soil moisture monitoring to map the interconnected web of hydrology and ecology beneath the surface and ultimately helping to guide the management of the forests, native species, cold water fish habitat and optimal water quality. The projects takes place in a cranberry bog that is being restored to a freshwater wetland, the largest in Massachusetts.  Creating a natural wetland invovles the use of excavators to generate microtopography and bring freshwater wetland soils and seeds back to the surface. Soil moisture, a primary indicator of wetland condition, will be documented in detail. Soil moisture data will be collected along several transects at the restoration site as well as previously-restored, and retired (control) sites. 

What did you do for your internship and how did your work contribute to the goals or objectives of the project? 

This internship required a lot of education and training before working with any data. Familiarizing myself with the site geographically, topographically, and hydrologically were some of the first steps I took. I did this by combing over a few years of data and maps as well as reviewing papers published about the site from former students. I was able to work with Paul Wetzel (Director of the MacLeish Field Station at Smith College) to develop a plan of action regarding new microtopography test plots to be constructed on the site. We are hoping to test the effectiveness of artificial microtopography in a restored wetland which requires the application of the standard scientific method. I started by researching different kinds of wetland microtopography and then going into more detail about how to recreate some of those features to scale on the site.

I was in charge of identifying locations to be set aside for study applications of the kinds of microtopography that would be put in place and monitored as the wetland continues to develop: (a) control sites, (b) log placement, (c) slash placement, (d) and construction of pit and mound topography. I also helped determine what that microtopography would look like on the site. I am very pleased to announce that the microtopography was just constructed over the last few weeks and that my ideas were turned into reality on the ground!

How did the internship help you to understand or advance your own future goals (academic, personal or professional)? 

This project introduced me to Christine Hatch, an amazing human being who has shown me charismatic kindness and unrelenting drive on a daily basis. She has not only been a mentor but a true role model, both professionally and in character. Before taking on the project I had an interest in hydrology but wasn’t really sure what that meant outside of the classroom. After reading the project description I knew I had to apply, and I can say that it has single-handedly been the most transformative project I have taken on at UMass, both literally and figuratively (the cranberry bog has undergone a lot of construction recently).

Applying classroom concepts to the real world through the Tidmarsh restoration project has not only been extremely educational but has solidified my interest in hydrology. It has also opened my eyes to the different kinds of roles that professionals can take on after college and has truly pointed me in a new direction. Through this project I have been able to connect with all sorts of great people: from eager graduate students, to professionals leading the project, to construction workers to people who own and manage the land. More than just a restoration project, there is a community behind all of this that has given me a perspective not only on how everything works, but why everything works. It is an exciting that I can visit this site in 10-20 years and it will only continue to improve as a restored wetland. I can think of the people who helped make it happen and see the results I helped build. This has been a truly rewarding project, academically, professionally, and personally.

Map -  Town of Plymouth  Mass Audubon Manomet
Microtopography Guide at Tidmarsh West