Rowan College of Engineering students dig right into environmental protection

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In Rowan University’s College of Engineering, learning isn’t limited to within the walls of a classroom. Sometimes it occurs right in the backyard.

In Rowan University’s College of Engineering, learning isn’t limited to within the walls of a classroom. Sometimes it occurs right in the backyard.

Forty student volunteers dedicated two Fridays this fall to sowing a new rain garden between Rowan Hall and the gravel lot near the football field. Two groups from the Engineering Learning Community and the American Society of Civil Engineers planted approximately 350 grasses and shrubs.

It was a collaborative effort between students and staff. Coordinated by two engineering clinic students, teams surveyed and designed the site, while Rowan Facilities staff handled the preparatory labor, putting in good soil and river rocks. Rowan landscaper Ed Thompson chose the plants. Student volunteers did the planting, and Facilities and volunteers will maintain the sites through the next few years/

Plants chosen not only absorb water, they provide a food source for birds and other animals. The rain garden features bluegrass, switchgrass, winterberry, Northern bayberry, chokeberry, cardinal flower and sumac, among others.

“Rain gardens are examples of things you can put in your own yard,” said Dr. Jess Everett, the civil and environmental engineering professor overseeing the effort. “I have one in my yard.” Signs at similar gardens in the Parking Lot D on campus educate Glassboro residents about rain gardens’ benefits with directions and resources for creating their own rain garden at home.

Bio-infiltration basins and rain gardens are part of sustainable storm water management systems. Due to development, too much storm water currently flows directly into streams. This causes stream flow to fluctuate wildly (causing erosion) and reducing water quality, according to Everett. The plants and soil in bio-infiltration basins and rain gardens naturally absorb the rain and slow its flow to streams. The plants also improve water quality.

The project is part of an ongoing initiative supported by a $330,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Watershed Management in conjunction with the Gloucester and Camden County Soil Conservation Districts. It is one of five student-designed bio-infiltration basins and rain gardens on campus.

“Students who participate will be able to watch the plants grow for decades to come. Every time they come back to campus they’ll be able to see something beautiful — and good for the environment — they helped create,” said Everett.

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