Mad Island Marsh Preserve is part of an expansive coastal wetland system which, until perhaps 60 years ago, stretched nearly unbroken along the mid- and upper-Gulf Coast of Texas. The preserve consists of coastal prairie, freshwater wetlands (farmed, artificial, and natural), intertidal wetlands, and open water habitats. While the diverse habitats at Mad Island provide breeding, nesting, foraging, and loafing habitat for a variety of important species, these habitats also serve several other important ecological functions.
The marsh systems at Mad Island perform the basic intrinsic functions of all wetlands (i. e. , flood control, water purification, sediment retention), they also provide a buffer against saltwater intrusion into other more sensitive freshwater habitats. Habitat conservation and enhancement is the primary purpose of the preserve, however, education has become a significant aspect of the conservation effort as well.
Each year over 1,000 students from kindergarten to college-age visit the preserve and are taught, hands-on in the field, subject matter ranging from wetland and prairie ecology to entomology and marine biology.