‘Audio field trip’ to celebrate campus wetland and remember campus zoologist

May 24, 2013

by David Tenenbaum

Photo: Stanley Dodson

Stanley Dodson, in whose memory an 'audio field trip' is being held at the Class of 1918 Marsh, holding up a jar of Daphnia from Lake Mendota.  Photo courtesy of Bill Feeny.

An “audio field trip” on Memorial Day will explore a restored marsh on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus — a part of the university’s Lakeshore Nature Preserve. The marsh, near the western end of campus, is a remnant of a much larger wetland that was drained for other uses such as growing corn.

Starting about 50 years ago, the marsh became an early experiment in marsh restoration supported by the Class of 1918.

Stanley Dodson, a beloved UW-Madison zoology professor and an expert on the biology and ecology of wetlands and lakes, took his students to the Class of 1918 Marsh. Dodson "was an advocate for studying small ponds," says John Magnuson, a professor emeritus of zoology and limnology. "He believed that small ponds like the 1918 marsh are especially useful to understanding the relationships between people and aquatic ecosystems."

Magnuson headed the audio field trip project for the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, in collaboration with preserve staff.

Visitors using the audio field trip can dial a phone number to hear about the marsh, its formation, history, and plants and animals.

“If you are walking around the marsh and see a toad, you can dial the access number and in seconds be listening to information on and sounds of the resident toads," says Magnuson. "It is like walking on a nature trail with a mentor at your side. The 1.5 minute audios are intended for a general audience."

A pocket-sized guide to the topics is available on the website of the Friends of the Lakeshore Preserve.

After Dodson died in 2009, his family encouraged donations to the friends group, Magnuson says. “We wanted an appropriate way to remember him. He was an outstanding teacher. Our goal was for the audio field trip to encourage learning and emulate the interactions he might have had with the students during a field trip.” 

To attend the Stanley Dodson Audio Field Trip, park in the lot opposite the Picnic Point parking lot and follow the signs. The tours begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 27; a potluck lunch will start at noon. Audio messages are available at 608 327-5715.