Students, faculty to help preserve Virginia coastline

A grant will allow students and faculty from Shippensburg University to help preserve and restore coastline in Virginia.

Dr. Sean Cornell, associate professor of geography-earth science, helped the Chincoteague Bay Field Station (CBFS) obtain a $64,400 Together Green grant from the Toyota Foundation for environmental restoration projects at the CBFS Greenbackville field site.

According to its website, the grants program “supports creative and ambitious projects that engage diverse communities and find innovative solutions to environmental challenges.” It also noted that since 2008, more than 216 projects have received Together Green Innovation Grants totaling almost $4.7 million to protect land, water and energy resources nationwide.

The grant runs through Fall 2014 and will engage Shippensburg students with community partners including the Nature Conservancy and the family-focused environmental organization Shore People Advancing Readiness and Knowledge, according to Cornell.

The grant will be used to help remove the invasive plant Phragmites australis from the 30-acre marsh property, and will support development of a living shoreline that can help minimize the impact of storms and coastal flooding as sea-level rise occurs. The team will also provide new “oyster castles” to encourage the recovery of oyster reefs along the shoreline and immediately offshore to help prevent erosion.

According to Cornell, “Sea-level rise, coastal flooding and shoreline erosion are emerging as some of the most important geo-environmental hazards of the coming decades. As we have just witnessed with Hurricane Sandy, our coasts are in jeopardy and we need to take a renewed look at how our coasts are changing.

“Virginia has a rich heritage based around the sea, and if this heritage is to be maintained, it is critical that we continue to educate our population and protect and preserve these natural resources for future generations.”