Seniors taking the environmental studies capstone have been working all semester on projects focused on helping to revive the community and promote a cleaner environment.
The students have been working with several different organizations across the state on projects ranging from restoring native species to New Jersey forests, to creating educational materials and lesson plans, to changing the way Seton Hall itself cares for the environment.
Judith Stark, an environmental studies professor who co-teaches the capstone class, spoke about the importance as it relates to the University's Catholic mission.
"In his teaching on the environment, Pope Francis calls us to 'ecological citizenship.' As a Catholic university, Seton Hall has an essential role to play in this task. Our work in environmental education helps all of us–students, faculty, staff, and administrators–become ecological citizens," Stark said. "The 'ethics of ecology' helps us to 'grow in solidarity, responsibility, and compassionate care' for each other and for our common home. At Seton Hall this is our mission, our task, and our passion in the face of the enormous environmental challenges of our times. We embrace these challenges with faith, hope, and love."
In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 2018, Seton Hall will host its fourth annual Eco-Fest on Wednesday, April 18. Three nonprofit organizations partnering with Seton Hall will be in attendance: NJ Highlands Coalition, Food and Water Watch, and Clean Water Action. For more information on this year's campus celebration, click here.
This story is the first in a three week series highlighting the 12 senior capstone projects. With Earth Day taking place in the month of April, these stories highlight the work students are doing to promote sustainability and respect for the environment.
Finding Solutions to Contaminated Soil Issue
Samantha Cracolici, Lukas Howe, and Caitlin Delaplain are working with the Essex County Environmental Center, focusing on an herbal garden that has been left unattended for almost 15 years. The garden is bordered by an old railway, resulting in high levels of lead and arsenic in its soil. The group's original intention was to revive the garden by planting herbs. Since discovering the tainted soil, they have redirected their project towards removing the contamination.
The group has discovered plants that can restore the nutrients in the soil once they get the toxins out of it. Since these students will not be able to see the entire project through to completion, they are developing a transition plan for new groups to continue working towards refreshing the garden.
For more information on their project, view their blog here: https://ecpcapstone.weebly.com/
Repopulating New Jersey Native Plants
Catherine Rutherford and Kaitlynn Bunch are collaborating with the New Jersey Audubon, a statewide membership organization committed to fostering environmental awareness and protecting New Jersey's wildlife. They have been working at the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary to repopulate New Jersey's native plants. They are rebuilding the lifted garden beds and the outdoor classroom for educational activities. They are also helping to clear out the non-native plants that have taken over the gardens and have replaced them with New Jersey native plants such as milkweed. Additionally, they have created a certified monarch station, to help monarch butterflies as they migrate.
Read more about the work they are doing here: https://catandkateadventur.wixsite.com/mysite
Combating Destruction of Natural Species of Plants
Shae Coniglio, Vanessa Smith and Brianna Lelinho are partnering with the South Mountain Conservancy to get rid of invasive species of plants and regenerate the growth of natural species in four enclosures throughout South Mountain Reservation. They explained that the invasive plants, such as certain shrubs and vines, take over the area and prevent natural species from growing. They sought out a way to remove the invasive species naturally, without using pesticides. The group hopes that once they are removed, the native species can be planted and can survive without the invasive plants growing again.
Visit their blog to learn more about their project: https://envlsomo.weebly.com/
Supporting Access to Local Fresh Food
Jack Pitts and Michael Ziegler are working with Newark Science and Sustainability Inc. to establish a farm to table initiative in the Newark community. They are creating a garden and planting various seasonal fruits and vegetables that community members will receive each week. Participants will be provided with locally grown food for 20 weeks. There will also be an option to sponsor a family, so those who cannot afford the program can still receive fresh food.
In one of his blog posts, Ziegler stated, "This year, we are attempting to grow many more herbs and perennial plants, plants that will require less water and less upkeep, but still have great relevance in a healthy garden. Although many fruits and vegetables will be grown, we want to focus primarily on plants that will attract pollinators as well as provide tasty food to residents in the local community. When thinking of plants we will grow, we will keep basic permaculture principles in mind, making each garden as efficient and bountiful as possible."
Read more about this new initiative on his blog: https://sashorticultureshu.weebly.com/