STRATFORD, Conn. — Have you got a passion for the environment — and some good sturdy boots?
Then maybe you’d like join a group of volunteers who will celebrating this Earth Day weekend by planting salt marsh grass to help restore the eroding shoreline at Stratford Point.
Professors Jennifer Mattei, LaTina Steele and Jo-Marie Kasinak of Sacred Heart University’s Biology Department will lead the group, which will be out at the point on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Students of all ages and local volunteers will learn how to care for the fragile coastal habitats and estuaries all over Fairfield County.
“The Lordship Cub Scout Pack 74 in Stratford were the first to volunteer,” said Kasinak. “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 structure and function of the shores of the Housatonic River and the Sound, Mattei said. 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 will serve as an educational event to teach participants how to care for estuaries and restore their ecological services that we rely on,” Steele said. “We need to find more natural solutions to these problems and not just try to wall out the sea.”
This event is open to the public. In addition to student volunteers from SHU, the University’s biology club, Green SHUs environmental club and alumni are expected to attend.
The first day will begin with participants planting salt-marsh grass plugs. Volunteers will work in small groups, planting the two-inch saltmarsh grass plugs in front of the newly installed artificial reef.
Other activities throughout the day will include a beach cleanup and nature walks led by staff and members of the Audubon Connecticut.
Thunderbird Environmental Group will provide complimentary lunch, snacks and drinks, and adults will be able to participate in beer tasting, courtesy of SoundView Brewing Co. The DuPont Company will provide planting tools and supplies.
The next day will follow the same schedule, with the goal of planting more than 15,000 saltmarsh plugs all told.
“If all goes well, the marsh will grow taller than most of the student volunteers by the fall!” Mattei said.