Conway alums consider climate resiliency

On a sunny autumn day in New Haven, Kate Cholakis ’11 (Conway faculty) and Alison Maurer ’18 staffed Conway’s table at the Society for Ecological Restoration New England Chapter’s conference entitled “Connecting Communities and Ecosystems in Restoration Practice.” They ran into alums including Seth Wilkinson ’99, Alex Krofta ’15, and Robin MacEwan ’04, and friends of the school  in sessions about involving youth in urban forestry, using public parks as restoration labs, and integrating ecological functioning into agricultural lands both nearby (Maine) and abroad (Brazil).

The next day, low temperatures and constant rain could not keep Kate, Alison, Seth, and other SER conference attendees from trekking along the Connecticut coast in Stratford to study a living shoreline project. At low tide, they walked out into the ocean water to see reef balls—concrete reef modules that provide habitat for oysters and other sea creatures while dissipating wave energy and encouraging the deposition of sediment behind them (inland). The deposited sediment provides a medium in which to plant saltmarsh grass. (Tidal marsh has largely disappeared in this area, likely due to climate change.) The reef balls and expanded salt marsh minimize erosion on the banks located behind them.

This winter, a Conway student team will work with the Nature Conservancy and Town of Stonington, Connecticut on a living shoreline, planning-level project.

Photo at top: “Reef balls” in Stratford, CT are part of a living shoreline project. Photo: Alison Maurer ’18