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Tennessee State University Wetland: An Urban Oasis in the Heart of Nashville (with Dr. Bill Sutton and Dr. Tom Byl TSU)

April 25, 2023


Aaliyah Cotton and Saniah Williams return turtles that were measured back to the wetland.

Tennessee State University Wetland: An Urban Oasis in the Heart of Nashville (with Dr. Bill Sutton and Dr. Tom Byl TSU)



Tucked in North Nashville on the campus of Tennessee State University sits one of the largest and most intact urban wetlands in Middle Tennessee. Referred to as the TSU wetland, this area drains a significant portion of North Nashville and filters harmful pollutants and sediments before the water enters the nearby Cumberland River. The wetland is a thriving ecosystem, providing a habitat for numerous aquatic frogs, turtles, and snakes, hunting grounds for bald eagles and blue herons, and a stopover for migrating neotropical birds. Nearby Tennessee State University students conduct research at the wetland and professors take their students outside for life-changing experiential education. Despite the many benefits of the TSU wetland for our community and environment, pressure to develop this remaining green space looms. 

Today on River Talks, we are joined by Tennessee State University faculty Dr. Tom Byl and Dr. Bill Sutton to share about the wetland and why it is crucial to ensure it remains intact.

About our Guests:

Dr. Bill Sutton is an Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Tennessee State University in the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Dr. Sutton also runs the Wildlife Ecology Lab at TSU. He is a broadly-trained ecologist with interests in global change ecology, wildlife biology, and biometry. His research has its theoretical basis in ecology (e.g., disturbance ecology and niche theory) with strong ties to management and applied conservation of vertebrate populations.

Tom Byl, Avion Brown, Devin Moore sampling below the wetland.

Dr. Tom Byl is a Research Scientist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and has been stationed at Tennessee State University for 27 years. Through a special partnership between TSU and the USGS, Dr. Byl serves as a professor conducting research and teaching students at the University.

In this Podcast:

  • Location and drainage area of the TSU Wetland
  • How to define a wetland considering biological indicators, hydrological conditions, and soil types. 
  • Role of the wetland in protecting water quality and addressing water quantity. 
  • Flora and fauna that are found in the wetland.
  • Research that Dr. Byl and Dr. Sutton have done at the wetland
  • How undergraduate and graduate students benefit from the wetland
  • The importance of protecting open space and wetlands.

Learn more about the resources mentioned in this episode:


Todd Stansberry, Dr. Bill Sutton, and Quest Agee measuring the length of a wetland turtle.


Devin Moore looking at the excessive algae growing on the wetland in April.


Dr. Tom Byl and Catherine Price at the TSU wetland during the flash drought.


Aerial images from 2004 and 2022 showing the growth of the wetland.