What is a seep?

A seep is an area in which groundwater reaches the earth’s surface from an underground aquifer and keeps the area wet even during dry summer months. Seeps are an important resource for small wildlife, birds, butterflies and other insects, and many different plants.

Seeps are relatively rare, but there is one on Webster University’s home campus. Webster is developing this site, called the Natural Area, as an educational and ecological preserve.

Biology research in the Natural Area

Since the retention pond was dug behind the parking garage, many changes have been made to the Natural Area to make it more “natural”.  Jeff Depew can speak to the specific efforts that have been made over the years, including planting of native plant species, and installation of an aerator.  At the same time, many of my biology students have been working at the Natural Area for the last two and a half years to try to understand how all these restoration efforts are affecting biodiversity in the area.  Specifically, we have been focusing on the bacterial species that are found in the water.  Bacteria are found everywhere, and bacterial diversity can be used as a measure of health of an ecosystem.  We are working to determine what types of bacteria are found in the Natural Area, what is their abundance, and how their distribution changes over time.  I’ll show real data in later to demonstrate that the Natural Area appears to be moving in the right direction with respect to bacterial biodiversity!

Mary Preuss (Biological Sciences Department)

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