Marine biology class helps repair local ecosystem

The marine biology class recently traveled to the Lordship Coastal Grassland Habitat Management Area on Stratford Point to assist Sacred Heart University professor Dr. Jennifer Mattei with an ongoing restoration ecologyproject. Restoration ecology is a specialized branch of environmental science that focuses on renewing andrestoring damaged, degraded or destroyed habitats in the environment by active human intervention. 


Students helped Dr. Mattei conduct bird surveys, prep the shoreline for a new artificial reef system and repair deer fencing. The students have been studying marine ecosystem structures and the human impact on those systems and recently completed a unit on restoration ecology principles. The field trip gave them the opportunity to examine a degraded salt marsh system up close and personal as well as learn about the techniques ecologists are employing to try to restore the marsh system at Stratford Point to a functional and healthy system.

Dr. Mattei plans to install 150 feet of artificial reef to help protect the coastline from the intense erosion damage done by storms such as Hurricane Irene and Super storm Sandy. Before construction can begin, she needed to ensure that there were no piping plover or least terns using the management area for nesting, as both birds receive federal protection and cannot be disturbed when breeding. Luckily, the students failed to spot either bird at Stratford Point. The area below the low tide line had to be prepped for the reef project by removing all clam and oyster shells. Students formed a line and walked the length of the beach collecting shells and depositing them further down the shoreline where, hopefully, oyster spat (babies) will settle and form oyster reefs, adding another layer of storm protection for the fragile coast. The students helped repair deer fencing to protect emerging, native upland shrub lands.

By assisting Dr. Mattei with her work, Lauralton students made a valuable contribution to the repair of a shattered local ecosystem.


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