Restoring RI’s Coastal Waters

Restoring RI’s Coastal Waters

On Saturday, June 18, a team of designers and scientists installed constructed reefs along the edge of an intertidal waterway in Providence’s India Point Park. Built of steel and concrete, the sculptural forms were designed by students in RISD’s Landscape Architecture and Sculpture departments to encourage bivalves – such as oysters and mussels – to settle along the coastline.

“We have been collaborating for the past three years with scientists from the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and Roger Williams University in order to integrate art and science in a coastal restoration project,” says Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Emily Vogler. “We developed three spherical forms to encourage the settlement of shellfish, which filter the water, reestablish salt marsh vegetation lost to climate change and stabilize the coastline in the face of rising sea levels.”

These prototypes will be monitored for the next three years by citizen scientists, who will track shellfish settlement and test water quality. Unlike other constructed reefs that must be installed using cranes or barges, the forms developed by Vogler’s team are modular and can be constructed, installed and monitored by members of community groups as a means of helping to educate the public about coastal ecosystems and climate change.

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