Snakes, birds, frogs, turtles, fish, salamanders, field mice and other creatures that call the Baker Wetlands home played host to almost 300 visitors Sunday afternoon during Baker's first Wetlands Field Day.
Guests entered the 573-acre area through the east gate at 35th and Haskell, and stopped at 14 information stations before exiting through the north gate onto 31st Street.
Roger Boyd, Baker biology professor and director of the university's natural areas, said he hoped to make the field day an annual event. "The wetlands are in jeopardy all over the United States," he said. "We're hoping to educate the public to the importance and value of the wetlands, so they'll take more of an interest in it."
Boyd said half the nation's wetlands have been intentionally drained for agriculture or development.
The field day stations featured information about the history and future of the wetlands, observation wells for measuring the water table and an example of a water control structure, prairie management and burning equipment, recycling information, and native wetland prairie and plant identification.
JERRY Shimek, a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency was on hand to discuss wetlands' functions mainly flood control, water purification and wildlife habitat.
Visitors looked through microscopes at organisms found at the wetlands, such as algae, zooplankton and fairy shrimp. Presenters pointed out goose and wood duck boxes, and offered a canoe trip down a canal to view a beaver dam.
The most popular stations, particularly for children, displayed animals native to the wetlands area. One booth featured western painted turtles, a snapping turtle, huge bullfrog tadpoles, a crawfish with her babies, fish and salamanders. The reptile station displayed a number of small snakes, and beekeepers staffed a honey bee demonstration.
CALVIN Cink, Baker University biology professor, identified chickadees, a water thrush, a phoebe and other birds he caught in a mist net, and held them for visitors to touch or observe. Thor Holmes, collection manager at Kansas University's Natural History Museum, displayed pelts of mammals common to the wetlands, including beaver, muskrat, mink, deer and coyote. Live field mice and prairie voles also were on exhibit.
The field day was organized by Earth We Are, a student environmental group at Baker, and the Jayhawk Audubon Society. Members of the two organizations staffed most of the stations.
Phyllis de Vries and her son, Niko, were part of the crowd that toured the wetlands. "I think it's real neat we've got places that the natural life we have is preserved and people could come see it," she said. "All these little stations are just fascinating."