FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sacred Heart University will host Party for the Planet, a shoreline cleanup, restoration and environmental awareness event Sunday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Stratford Point in Stratford.
Party for the Planet will take place rain or shine, and activities are free and open to the public. Participants will join SHU Biology Professor Jennifer Mattei, her associates and volunteers from area schools to remove plastic and garbage from the shoreline and dig out invasive plants and replace them with native species. This preparation is just in time for the annual shorebird migration, horseshoe crab, fish and shellfish spawning season.
The event will support ongoing work to restore Long Island Sound’s coastal habitats and the wildlife they sustain by increasing marsh and upland areas while decreasing erosion, Mattei says. “Coastal areas of Long Island Sound and the wide variety of species that live at the interface of sea and land are experiencing significant environmental and habitat challenges due to erosion, pollution and human development,” Mattei explains. “Coastal habitats, particularly fresh and saltwater marshes, intercept runoff from farms, lawns, industry and waste-water treatment plants and actually clean the water before it runs into the Sound. While coastal habitat restoration benefits many species, we benefit the most from nature-based shorelines for protection from storm events and by enjoying clean water, air and the beauty of nature.”
The salt marshes and recently installed dunes may someday provide species like the endangered piping plover and least tern with new nesting grounds, Mattei adds. Spawning horseshoe crabs, now protected from harvest on Stratford beaches, already have been using the restored areas, which have accumulated more than 12 inches of sediment, to bury their eggs.
Mattei stresses that before the crabs and other spawning creatures who rely on the marsh, beach and dune habitats can safely spawn, the areas must be cleaned of plastic bags, straws, fishing line and other garbage that accumulated over the winter along the shorelines of the Sound and its tributaries, such as the Housatonic River.
The preservation efforts at Stratford Point have been ongoing since 2010. Projects include the installation of an artificial oyster reef, where oysters have started to colonize; the planting of low marsh grasses, high marsh grasses, dune grasses and wildflowers; and a mosaic of upland coastal trees and shrubs. The long-term strategy, according to Mattei, is to restore the synergy and interactions among coastal habitats and establish a coastal education and research center.
Mattei and her colleagues at SHU also have been the drivers of an ongoing effort called Project Limulus to study and conserve the horseshoe crab population in Long Island Sound, which has been found to be declining. Teams of students, faculty and citizen scientists join to count and tag horseshoe crabs in late May and June. In connection with that, a free lecture entitled “Project Limulus: A Community Research Program will begin at noon on May 2 in SHU’s University Commons auditorium. More information on Project Limulus is available at www.projectlimulus.org, and information on continuing efforts to preserve Connecticut’s shoreline can be found at www.sacredheart.edu/livingshorelines.
Sponsors of Party for the Planet include the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, The Maritime Aquarium and Audubon CT at the Stratford Point Living Shoreline, with support from the town of Stratford and the Stratford Rotary Club. Refreshments will be served. Stratford Point is accessible from 1207 Prospect Drive, Stratford.
About Sacred Heart University
As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus, which is located about an hour from Manhattan and 2.5 hours from Boston. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland. More than 8,500 students attend the University’s eight colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business; Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, yet at the same time develops students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives and professions and in their communities. A spirit of service, entrepreneurship and social justice is the essence of who we are and can be seen inside and outside the classroom as students learn how to make a difference far beyond Fairfield. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 384 Colleges–2019 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 267 Business Schools–2018 Edition. It also placed SHU on its lists for “Happiest Students” and “Most Engaged in Community Service,” each of which comprises only 20 U.S. schools. Sacred Heart has a Division I athletics program. www.sacredheart.edu