Can kelp, or seaweed, help clean up pollution in the Long Island Sound? Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology George Kraemer and several science students believe it can, and will conduct research to prove it in an innovative federal and state project administered by the Long Island Sound Study.
"This is an extraordinary project in which we will be part of a diverse team of scientists, fishermen, companies, and students who will share the $443,600 grant to develop a process to remove nitrogen pollution from and restore ecosystem services in North American coastal waters," said Ronnie Halperin, PhD, chair of the School of Natural and Social Sciences.
"Our participation reflects a growing recognition in the region about the excellence and activism of Purchase College's environmental studies and other science programs. We are thrilled to participate," she added.
Scientists, commercial fisherman, and 18 student researchers (including those from Purchase, the University of Connecticut, and area middle and high schools) will cultivate kelp to demonstrate the potential use of the native seaweed to naturally bioextract pollution from Long Island Sound, resulting in improvements in water quality. The group will then model the potential large-scale, nutrient-removal capacity of kelp.
The three coastal water experimental project sites are the mouth of the Bronx River, the coast off Fairfield, Conn., and the Thimble Islands off Branford, Conn. Participants ultimately hope to develop robust information to increase the use of "green infrastructure," that is, using natural biological communities like seaweed that already are found in our waterways to reduce water pollution from waste-water treatment plants and from homes, businesses, and communities surrounding Long Island Sound.
The grant was announced two weeks ago and is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, which gave the impressive grant to the University of Connecticut. A portion of the grant goes to Purchase College to help cover salary and stipends for the Purchase College participants.
The environmental studies B.A. program at Purchase reflects a new, interdisciplinary focus on the interactions among the sociopolitical, economic, and ecological systems where the natural world and human society overlap. This new approach offers challenges and opportunities for those motivated to help improve the health of our environment and the quality of human existence.