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Teaching Marsh: Background

The Teaching Marsh at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is a one-acre site restored to marshland for both practical and educational purposes.  The marsh is designed and maintained by VIMS wetlands experts to naturally remove contaminants from Coleman Bridge storm water runoff, improving water quality in the York River. The Teaching Marsh also provides a demonstration area for regulated wetland plant species identified in the Tidal Wetlands Act of 1972.  The Wetlands Program at VIMS is charged by the Commonwealth to educate various interest groups, such as local wetlands boards, about the functions and values of tidal wetlands.

The Teaching Marsh was excavated and planted in the fall of 1999.  Gravel paths Footbridge at Teaching Marsh and a footbridge guide visitors through the project.  Plant labels assist with identification of each species.  Please check the site map for a description of each numbered viewing station.  The first viewing station is located at the concrete boat ramp just inside the entrance gate to the VIMS Boat Basin (campus map).

To see a before and after photo of the marsh as it grew, click here.


What is a Wetland?

"Wetlands are lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is ususally at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water...Wetlands must have one or more of the following three attributes: 1) at least periodically, the land supports predominately hydrophytes, 2) the substrate is predominately undrained hydric soil, and 3) the substrate is nonsoil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at sometime during the growing season of each year." Cowardin, Carter, Golet & LaRoe, 1979, Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States, USFWS.


•  A wide variety of grasses, shrubs, flowers and trees are adapted to both fresh and salt water wetlands. Where each plant grows in the wetlands depends on the frequency and salinity of tidal inundation.

•  Wetlands provide important ecological functions by stabilizing shorelines, absorbing nutrients and other pollutants, and providing food and cover for native wildlife.

•  Even dredge material can be incorporated into an environmentally sensitive shoreline landscape.

•  Non-vegetated wetlands also provide important habitat, especially in concert with vegetated marshes.

For a look at Teaching Marsh photos/video...click on the marsh camera or for an interactive map that allows the user to point at an area of interest and learn more...take a cybertour with our map.