A team of UConn students, faculty, and staff advisors has won second place in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2021 Campus RainWorks Challenge.
The UConn team’s project, titled Ecologic L.I. Sound, presented a redesign of the Avery Point campus that uses native plants and green infrastructure features to mitigate the effects of stormwater pollution on the terrestrial and marine ecology of Long Island Sound.
“This is a really wonderful reflection of how UConn’s research, education, and extension outreach can help tackle current challenges and work towards a sustainable future,” says Sohyun Park from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Park served as a faculty advisor on the project. “The interdisciplinary team brought together an array of expertise to make an impact for residents in Connecticut.”
One of the most pressing threats to the ecological health of the Sound in the area around the Avery Point campus is stormwater pollution. During storms, the water that falls builds in velocity and volume as it passes over areas of the ground with impervious cover, like paved roads. Through this process, the water picks up chemicals and other pollutants, bringing them into the sewers which feed into the Sound.
Ecologic L.I. Sound uses native plants that were present before the urbanization of the area to intercept runoff and reduce the amount of pollutants that make their way into the water.
In the plan, “living shorelines” use oyster reefs to reduce wave energy to protect salt marshes and the sea wall while filtering out pollutants. Planting native species on the bank can help prevent erosion along the sea wall.
The plan also disconnects large areas of impervious cover from the traditional sewer system that leads directly into the Sound. It increases vertical space use through the construction of a green parking garage and repaving old roads and parking lots with pervious asphalt.
The plan creates spaces that showcase the native species it seeks to protect and where people can gather and collaborate.
“This project offered great insight into the integrated approach needed when addressing issues of sustainability,” says landscape architecture major and team member, Benjamin Zaccara ’22 (CAHNR). “The differing perspectives and skill sets on our team allowed us to look at problems and potential solutions from all angles. This translated into a balanced design which optimized the benefits of green infrastructure to have an impact well beyond the treatment of stormwater.”
The RainWorks Challenge is a national competition that engages college students in the design of on-campus green infrastructure solutions to address stormwater pollution.
The student team included Benjamin Zaccara and Ryan Gussen, landscape architecture majors; Kelsey Adamson and Fiona Casey, environmental engineering majors; and Alex Joslin, environmental science major. The faculty and staff advisors were Sohyun Park and Mariana Fragomeni in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture; Michael Dietz in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment and the UConn CLEAR; Juliana Barrett with the Connecticut Sea Grant and CT NEMO; Sean Vasington, director of UConn Site Planning and Landscape Architecture; and Ben Roccapriore, facilities director of Avery Point.
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