Civil engineering students help restore wetland in Mississippi
UD civil engineering students participated in a service learning project in Mississippi.
Students paint a colorful compass at the observation tower.

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1:09 p.m., Feb. 16, 2010----Seven University of Delaware civil engineering students recently spent a week in Waveland, Miss., assisting in a wetlands restoration project. All are seniors and members of UD's chapter of Chi Epsilon, a national civil engineering honor society.

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Accompanied by Jack Puleo, an assistant professor who serves as faculty adviser to the chapter, the students -- Sarah Dalton, Sean Davis, Mike Geddish, Greg Hastings, Chance Malkin, Nathan Mayercsik and Melissa Stewart -- made structural modifications to an observation tower, removed invasive species, established a wetland trail and planted native trees.

The nature preserve is on 1.1 acres donated to the Mississippi Land Trust in 2004. Hurricane Katrina struck the following year, toppling trees and leaving large quantities of debris in the area. Invasive species moved in, the trail became overgrown and the observation tower began to deteriorate.

“The land trust just didn't have the resources to complete this project,” says Puleo, “but it turned out to be perfect for our chapter because the students got a tremendous sense of accomplishment out of taking the work all the way from design to completion.”

Hastings, who is the 2009-10 president of UD's Chi Epsilon chapter, says, “This was a great experience for us, and it provided us with the chance to do something for the community on a smaller scale than the ongoing projects undertaken by Engineers Without Borders.”

Hastings adds, “A lot of effort has been dedicated to rebuilding homes and other structures in the areas ravaged by Katrina but the landscape hasn't been completely restored. It was great for us to be able to do something that really adds to the quality of life in the area.”

Dalton, vice president of the UD chapter, welcomed the opportunity to gain practical experience through a project of this scale. “We do problem after problem in our classes,” she says, “but it's not easy to gain hands-on skills in civil engineering projects because they're usually so large.”

The students were also grateful for the opportunity to experience the culture of a different area of the country. They flew in and out of New Orleans, met people who had lived through Katrina, and sampled red beans and rice, crawfish, jambalaya and alligator.

When the work was completed on Jan. 23, the site was rededicated and a UD-designed plaque was installed on the observation tower. The finishing touch? A hand-painted compass rose in bright colors, inscribed Resurgam, meaning “I shall rise again.”

The project was supported by a UD Alumni Enrichment Award, the UD Office of Service Learning, the UD College of Engineering, the UD Chi Epsilon Chapter, the Mississippi Land Trust, and Unabridged Architecture.

Article by Diane Kukich

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