SANDY HOOK, NJ - While the country is reeling from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, efforts are still underway to restore the extensive damage done by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) is on the job. Students developed and implemented a plan to increase dune vegetation lost in hurricane Sandy. Their efforts earned the school a Bronze Award from Eco-Schools USA a National Wildlife Federation program orchestrated by New Jersey Audubon here in New Jersey.
Dunes serve as a natural line of defense in protecting coastal communities during hurricanes and other storms. Destructive waves and storm surges from Hurricane Sandy badly damaged the dunes of Sandy Hook weakening this line of defense for future storms. MAST students identified one damaged area of particular ecological importance in an area within the park called the “critical zone”. This is the area where Sandy Hook is the thinnest and most susceptible to overwash and flooding form storm events. Working under the supervision of National Park Service’s Jeanne McArthur-Heuser and George Frame and MAST teachers, Liza Baskin and Clare Ng, students planted over 1,000 dune grass plants over a span of 3,000 feet along the beaches of Sandy Hook. Vegetation is an important part of the dune eco-system. The vegetation and dune grow together making it a more effective barrier overtime. The students efforts will help this process along.
“This issue hits close to home for us” says teacher Clare Ng. “Our school is located on Sandy Hook. The school suffered so much damage after the storm that we were displaced for the 2012-2013 school year. Many of the students working on the project lost homes in Hurricane Sandy or knew someone who did. The kids are enthusiastic about participating in restoring dune habitats so vital to our community.”
MAST participates in National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA, a program run by New Jersey Audubon in NJ that engages schools in efforts to improve student environmental literacy and skills. As schools progress through the program, they become eligible for awards. This dune restoration project earned MAST the Eco-Schools USA Bronze Award for their efforts in creating environmental solutions through student driven projects. New Jersey has over 240 schools participating in the program. 41 schools have earned the Bronze award, 15 have earned Silver Awards and 15 have earned the top honor, the Green Flag Aawrd.
“Marine Academy of Science and Technology is doing something really valuable here,” says Eco-Schools coordinator with New Jersey Audubon, Allison Mulch. “In addition to doing the important work of building coastal resiliency through dune restoration, they are empowering students to have a positive impact on their own environment and teaching them the value of community service.”
As the Eco-Schools coordinator for New Jersey Ms. Mulch works directly with schools to guide them through the program and provides free training workshops throughout the state. Though Eco-Schools USA is nationwide, her position is unique to New Jersey provided by a partnership with PSEG Foundation, National Wildlife Federation and New Jersey Audubon.
About NJ Audubon: New Jersey Audubon is a privately supported, not-for profit, statewide membership organization that fosters environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among New Jersey's citizens; protects New Jersey's birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and threatened species; and promotes preservation of New Jersey's valuable natural habitats. For more information: www.njaudubon.org.