The Mitchell College Beach Restoration Project
In 2013, after Superstorm Sandy had caused substantial beach and dune erosion, the Beach Project managed by the College’s STEM Department developed an experiment using recycled holiday trees to create an artificial root system to hold replacement dune sand in place. The trees were generously donated through Mitchell employee Ed Steward and Steward’s Christmas Tree Farm. STEM students, using their knowledge of conservation biology and the scientific method, decided where to place them and measured weekly sand accumulation.
This is only one part of the Mitchell Beach restoration project, which began in 2007 to address trail erosion and curb invasive plant species, including bittersweet and Japanese knotweed, that were harmful to the environment. A three-part plan was developed and carried out by STEM students, first to stop the erosion by installing fencing and planting American Beach Grass, then to remove invasive plants, and finally to replant the dunes with native frontal dune plants.
Following Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, the dunes were badly damaged, and students began the new project to restore the dunes in 2013. Seniors Alec Sahadi and Joe Salwocki, both Class of 2014, managed this as their Capstone/Internship project for their Environmental Studies major, including compiling data for possible publication. With grant funding from DEEP and Dominion, and with the holiday trees supplied free by Steward’s, the project has continued through 2016. An additional priority is to ensure that, in line with the Campus Master Plan, dune restoration and tree planting take into consideration the views of Mitchell Beach and the Thames River enjoyed by the community around the College
Department chair Kim Blake comments, "The project demonstrates a great way for all students taking biology courses at Mitchell to put mission into action. We say Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and this is a way that we've been able to exemplify all parts of this mantra."