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Wading Right In

Discovering the Nature of Wetlands

Where can you find mosses that change landscapes, salamanders with algae in their skin, and carnivorous plants containing whole ecosystems in their furled leaves? Where can you find swamp-trompers, wildlife watchers, marsh managers, and mud-mad scientists?  In wetlands, those complex habitats that play such vital ecological roles.

In Wading Right In, Catherine Owen Koning and Sharon M. Ashworth take us on a journey into wetlands through stories from the people who wade in the muck. Traveling alongside scientists, explorers, and kids with waders and nets, the authors uncover the inextricably entwined relationships between the water flows, natural chemistry, soils, flora, and fauna of our floodplain forests, fens, bogs, marshes, and mires. Tales of mighty efforts to protect rare orchids, restore salt marshes, and preserve sedge meadows become portals through which we visit major wetland types and discover their secrets, while also learning critical ecological lessons.

The United States still loses wetlands at a rate of 13,800 acres per year. Such loss diminishes the water quality of our rivers and lakes, depletes our capacity for flood control, reduces our ability to mitigate climate change, and further impoverishes our biodiversity. Koning and Ashworth’s stories captivate the imagination and inspire the emotional and intellectual connections we need to commit to protecting these magical and mysterious places.

264 pages | 30 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Ecology


"Authors Koning and Ashworth embark on a thorough, yet accessible, treatment of the biology of wetlands, wetland protection and restoration, and the important role of wetlands in maintaining biodiversity and ecological health. They approach their teaching goal by presenting engaging personal stories recorded by diverse subjects, including individuals who live near wetland sites (even kids on neighborhood field trips) as well as scientists and researchers who study wetlands and wetland restoration. The authors provide information in a straightforward way, with minimal technical or scientific jargon and with due attention to making necessary technical terms accessible...Thanks to this friendly presentation style and the authors' craft of storytelling, this book will be attractive to all readers interested in wetlands and wetland biology. Highly recommended."

K. R. Thompson, Missouri State University | Choice

"The importance of wetlands cannot be overstated. They play a vital carbon sequestration role in a changing climate. Coastal wetlands are also a protective bulwark between ocean and dry land and provide a haven for a huge range of resident and migratory wildlife. The authors’ efforts to highlight these benefits and to inspire a love of—or at least a tolerance for—mud, wind, and damp, flat horizons make this book an excellent and engaging introduction to these ever-changing ecosystems."


"As demonstrated in the stories of the book, when people get to know wetlands and understand their oddity and importance, they feel an urge to conserve them. This is the function of the book. The reader is immersed in stories and adventures of field biologists who work in wetlands and learns about the biology and complex dynamics of these unique habitats in a simple and engaging way."

Conservation Biology

"In this book, Koning and Ashworth take readers into numerous engaging stories of wetland scientists, explorers, and managers who have devoted a lot of their lives to understanding and protecting enjoyable, inspiring, and motivating read for everyone to understand and appreciate the beauty and wonders of wetlands. And the efforts Koning and Ashworth put into this book should be praised."

Qiang He | Current Biology

"Ever dreamt of saving turtles squashed on highways? Of creating clean water and carbon sequestration? Of undoing the havoc humanity has wrought upon nature? Then read Wading Right In. It interprets crucial science for the layman and sometimes reads like a novel, depicting wetland-loving characters irrepressibly driven to protect nature. . . . Authors Ashworth and Koning discuss the science of ecosystem services to assess mitigation, the legal process of compensating wetlands loss in one place by creating wetlands in another. The assessment involves water filtration, flood control, carbon storage, shoreline protection and species diversity—not dry details but valuable tools for activists. This book inspired me as much as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson."


"The promise of this book is in its title, and the authors deliver on that promise.Wading Right In: Discovering the Nature of Wetlands explores the various categories of wetlands and the history of human involvement in wetlands, while highlighting stories of the people who work to understand and protect them."

The Quarterly Review of Biology

Wading Right In is your personal guide to some of the most astounding, essential, fun, and endangered places in the world—areas you can probably find not far from your own backyard, but perhaps never appreciated or understood. Thanks to Koning and Ashworth’s engaging stories, vivid descriptions, and professional expertise, my eyes opened anew to the wonder and power of wetlands. This book is not only a joy to read, but a clarion call to protect these vital areas. Wading Right In belongs in the hands of not only every naturalist and outdoorsperson, but every responsible citizen.”

Sy Montgomery, author of "The Soul of an Octopus"

Wading Right In explores the wondrous nature of wetlands through the rich and personal stories of scores of wetland scientists. Written for a lay reader, Koning and Ashworth’s engaging prose is packed with information regarding the incredible diversity and amazing adaptations of wetland species. Anyone who reads this book will be compelled to wade into a nearby wetland to see it with new eyes.”

Tom Wessels, author of "Reading the Forested Landscape"

“What Koning and Ashworth have done is create a book that not only combines stories, but brings in science, law, history, and the future. What a wonderfully fun and educational book. From looking for the eggs of a butterfly under the leaves of sedges in wet meadows to rounding a corner and finding whooping cranes in marshes, to viewing old growth wooded swamps in New Hampshire, this book really achieves its goal: getting the public to see the wonders of wetlands as if they were actually in the field.”

Ingeborg E. Hegemann, professional wetland scientist, senior vice president of the BCS Group, Worcester, Massachusetts

Table of Contents


Introduction: Sun Turtles and Superstorms

1          At the Water’s Edge: From the Aquatic Zone to the Emergent Marsh
2          Wet Meadows: Not Too Dry, Not Too Wet
3          Pond-Meadow-Forest, Repeat: The Beaver’s Tale
4          Stuck in the Muck: Bogs and Fens
5          Wooded Wetlands: Basin Castles and Big-River Swamps
6          Vernal Pools: Believing in Wetlands That Aren’t Always There
7          Salt Marshes: A Disappearing Act
8          Wetland Restoration: Changing Techniques, Changing Goals, Changing Climate
9          Beauty, Ethics, and Inspiration



American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, Subaru: SB&F Prizes

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