“Are you going to tell us why you’re holding that tube?” a man asks Joe Morina on a sunny Saturday in October at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Rice Rivers Center.
“I’m going to take a soil core once we get down to the beach,” Morina responds. “to show you the soils, and talk more about the soils, and plants, and what makes them unique.”
Morina has been frequenting the Rice Rivers Center—a 494-acre field station devoted to environmental science that sits on the banks of the James River in Charles City, Virginia—since he was an undergraduate studying biology at VCU. Now, as a Virginia Sea Grant graduate research fellow, and PhD student at VCU, he continues visiting the Center to study its wetlands, especially how their soil-dwelling microbes cycle nitrogen.
Today, he’s taking 20 Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) volunteers on a tour of the Rice Rivers Center property to teach them about wetlands. Morina partnered with the CBF for the outreach component of his Virginia Sea Grant fellowship. Through CBF events like this so-called Wetlands Walk, he aspires to inform citizens of the importance of wetlands, and wetland restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
After Morina leads the volunteers down a steep forest path to the Center’s tidal freshwater wetland, he asks the group: “What is a wetland?”
“That’s a trick question!” contends one woman.