Water Body Essay This assignment is a 3-4 page essay in which you choose a river, lake, wetland, watershed, or even a coastline to describe and analyze, from both an ecological and personal perspective.
Choosing a Water Body
A good way to approach this is to write about lake, stream, wetland, etc. that you already know well — something you have had personal contact with and knowledge of; water for which you have a sense of place. For me, as an example, that might be Crooked Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — a small natural lake where my grandparents bought a rustic cabin back in 1960 and where I learned to swim, canoe, and fish as a child (and where I’ve brought my own children many years later). Or it could be the Des Plaines River here in northern Illinois — the waterway that slices through the middle of Joliet, my hometown, dividing the city into its East and West Sides.
For those of you who might not have a close connection to a water body, for whatever reason — and I realize that’s entirely possible — think of what exists within a place where you’ve lived for at least part of your life. What about that little wetland next to the subdivision, or the creek that runs through your neighborhood, or the canal where barges ply the waters delivering goods or industrial materials? Use this assignment to find out more about that body of water, and to assess your knowledge, attitudes, and/or feelings about it.
Writing Your Essay
Here are some questions to think about as you compose your essay. You should address everything on this list, but you do not need to respond to them in this precise order. They’re intended to help you generate ideas and make connections as you draft and revise your paper.
• Describe this body of water’s geographic location and essential character. Where is it? What communities does it touch/connect? What kind of aquatic ecosystem is it?
• What is the nature of your connection (or lack thereof) to this body of water? Why did you select it for this assignment? Why is it important to you — in the past, in the present?
• What are the defining characteristics of this water body? What makes it special, whether ecologically or culturally, historically or geographically? Conversely, how does it typify similar bodies of water elsewhere?
• Assess the ecological health of this body of water. Is it clean? polluted? damaged? altered? under threat? being restored? Find some concrete information about the quality of this ecosystem and comment on the state of that knowledge (i.e., what we know vs. what we don’t know).
• Building on some of the above analysis, think about how people connect to, use, exploit, care for, damage, and/or ignore this body of water. What is the state of its cultural health, in other words?
• Is this water body part of a sustainable ecosystem, in your view? Another way of asking that question is this: what will be the state of this body of water in 10, 20, 30 years — the same, worse, or better than it is now?
Tips for Effective Writing
• Include a brief intro to your essay, which sets out your overall impression of your chosen water body and previews the scope of your discussion.
• Make sure each paragraph of your analysis is focused on one major point, and flesh out that point with details — images, examples, evidence etc.
• When incorporating material from another source, indicate clearly when you are quoting or paraphrasing by using signal phrases and the appropriate punctuation and parenthetical references.
• Use APA style for your in-text references and include a “References” list at the end of your paper. For information, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/10

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