By Sally Voth
A Shenandoah University professor who has made the outdoors his classroom is being honored by a writers' association.
Woodward Bousquet and his students will be presented with the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association's Joe Penfold Memorial Award for Grassroots Conservation Efforts on April 18 at Shenandoah University's annual Warrington Science Symposium.
Marie Majarov, a Winchester photojournalist who is a board member of the Mason-Dixon Outdoor Writers Association and president of the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, nominated Bousquet for the award.
She wrote an article on his and his students' work on the Abrams Creek Wetlands Preserve in the November/December issue of "Virginia Wildlife Magazine."
Bousquet, who is a professor of environmental studies and biology, is in his 20th year at the university.
"Our project work at the wetlands began in 1998," he said. "I had a small group of students who began studying water quality in Abrams Creek, and we became interested in the really interesting wetlands along Abrams Creek about two miles to the west of our campus. I'm always looking for a practical project that does something useful for the community and teaches the students some marketable skills."
The Virginia Natural Heritage Program had been studying the wetlands for years, but needed more ecological research, which is when the students stepped in, Bousquet said.
"Over the years, the students have found ways to share this information with the community and to help members of the community appreciate what a special place the Abrams Creek Wetlands is," he said.
They've presented information to the Winchester City Council and the Frederick County Board of Supervisors -- the 50-acre wetlands straddles both entities -- Bousquet said. This led to the establishment of the wetlands preserve in 2003, he said.
"The preserve is Winchester's first formally protected natural area," Bousquet said.
Just last week, 110 kindergartners visited the wetlands on a field trip, he said, and students in the past have developed interpretive signs for the area.
"Something that I'm very pleased with is this is a reward not just for Woody Bousquet," the professor said. "It's to Woody Bousquet and the students in the environmental studies program at the university."
He said there has been great cooperation with the city, the county, the state heritage program, and the university. Shenandoah University has supported the students' work at the site, Bousquet said.
"If we don't make what we learn real-world oriented, then we're not doing our job," he said. "I appreciate Shenandoah University's efforts to encourage its classes to provide service to the community while they're learning, and also to provide experiential learning."
This was Majarov's first time writing about Bousquet and his classes.
"Their heart, dedication and excitement -- these students were so excited to show me around the wetlands and show me what they were doing, how they were taking samples and how they were measuring, how they were laying out plots for survey," she said. "Dr. Bousquet has a lot of passion for what he does. He's just very determined to be an excellent professor who really motivates young people."
There are 18 plants rare in Virginia in the wetlands, as well as 12 on the watch list and two found nowhere else in the state, Majarov noted.
"He saved a very special piece of wetlands, but has also launched countless students into doing environmental jobs, and well-prepared them for those jobs," she said.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org