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Biology Department Celebrates Earth Day with Event at Stratford Point

Faculty and students combat shoreline erosion with help from community volunteers

Brian Hamilton

The Biology Department celebrated Earth Day this year with a project at Stratford Point that had volunteers planting saltmarsh grass to help restore the eroding shoreline. The event, spearheaded by Professors Jennifer MatteiLaTina Steele and Jo-Marie Kasinak, took place on April 21 and 22.

Students of all ages and local volunteers learned how to care for our fragile coastal habitats and estuaries. “The Lordship Cub Scout Pack 74 in Stratford were the first to volunteer,” declared Kasinak, who also is outreach coordinator of Project Limulus. “These scouts, who help us with our horseshoe crab study, already understand the value of the beaches and saltmarsh for the survival of fish and wildlife.”

Coastal development, pollution and continued harvest of fish and shellfish have changed the very structure and function of the shores of the Housatonic River and the Sound, Mattei noted.  She and Steele have been studying the use of ‘living shorelines’ to combat the effects of climate change that are contributing to coastal erosion.

“The celebration serves as an educational event to teach participants how to care for estuaries and restore their ecological services that we rely on,” said Steele “We need to find more natural solutions to these problems and not just try to wall out the sea.”

In addition to student volunteers from SHU, the University’s biology clubGreen SHUs environmental club, and alumni participated.

“Sacred Heart’s alumni engagement staff is enthusiastic about inviting our alumni to be a part of this Earth Day celebration. We have encouraged them to donate and help as much as they can,” said Todd Gibbs, executive director of alumni engagement. “As a community, SHU is very proud of the research the faculty conduct to restore the shoreline, and we hope to demonstrate strong support for this event.”

Sponsors of the event included The DuPont Company, Thunderbird Environmental Group and SoundView Brewing Co.

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