Conserving Wetland Values
“Approximately 20 years ago I found and recorded vernal pools around Marlboro,” says Rebecca Chalmers, who graduated in 1998 with a Plan of Concentration on amphibian ecology and conservation. “Now I am tasked with protecting those very pools.”
As a district wetland ecologist for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Rebecca helps identify and protect approximately 100,000 acres of wetlands and buffer zones in southern Vermont. Along with delineating wetland boundaries and identifying hydrophytic (water-loving) plants, hydric soils, and hydrology, Rebecca assesses the important wetland “functions and values” identified by the state—things like wildlife habitat, erosion control, and surface and ground water protection.
“I love the quiet in a wetland infrequently traversed by people. The plants seem so vibrant, in song somehow, when I’m in a diverse, healthy community,” says Rebecca. “This year I discovered new populations of a federally endangered plant and a rare salamander, both in the same wetland. I get to be outside in beautiful places, and I learn from everyone I meet.”
Rebecca is often required to negotiate with permit applicants to come up with alternate plans that have less environmental impact to wetlands. Permits may be for something as simple as a deck, as large as a cross-state power supply line, or as complex as a mountainside resort that affects dozens of wetlands in multiple ways.
When she is not traipsing through tamarack–red maple swamps, Rebecca enjoys camping, canoeing, bicycling, and exploring outside with her family. “Advocacy for the hearing disabled is a newfound passion,” says Rebecca. “I plan to use my regulatory experience to help others.”