From Field to Lake main content.

Evolution of the landscape

A block of ice embedded in sand and gravel melted about 15,000 years ago, leaving this pond known as a glacial kettle.

Plants and animals gradually settled here, forming distinctive wetland communities such as the cattail marsh with its many inhabitants, shown in the right section.

As sediments built up, they provided drier ground for a succession of woody plants, and marsh turned into swamp where plants like Skunk Cabbage and Cinnamon Fern grow, shown under the Red Maple in the center section.

The field at left was created when people cleared the land.


Wetlands are key environments for maintaining the diversity and abundance of living things. While some plants and animals thrive in the cleared land with its stream, creating a field eliminates much of the diversity that the wetland supports. People have come to appreciate the importance of wetlands, and there a efforts to protect and restore what remains.

Life in early June

In spring, the time of this scene, many plants and animals reproduce. Flower clusters of the Skunk Cabbage are already shriveled at the plant base, and the Cinnamon Fern’s spore-bearing leaves are conspicuous in the swamp. The Jack-in-the-pulpit attracts Fungus Gnats, while bees pollinate irises and buttercups in the field. Salamanders have laid their eggs in temporary pools among the trees; Bullhead Catfish guard a school of young.

Muskrats nibble on the Cattails in the pond and also use them to build a shelter. Caterpillars feast on plant leaves and butterflies they become feed on nectar of flowers. The Box Turtle eats insects as well a mushrooms and fruit. Other insect hunters range from dragonflies and the Diving Beetle to the Bullfrog and Brook Trout. Many kinds of plants and animals find their niche in the pond or forested swamp.


Each field, stream, marsh and lake is a different environment which supports different plant and animal inhabitants. Many of these are dependent on one another for their well-being, or even for their existence.

To maintain life in an area there must be a balance between the supply of food plants and the number of animals present. Man, by changing an environment, interferes with this balance in the natural world. These changes may be due to the cutting of a forest, draining of a lake, or by the introduction of plants and animals which would have no natural enemies in the area.