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MCLA Students Restore Parts of the Hoosac River

05/04/2011

NORTH ADAMS, MA - Four environmental studies students at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) restored parts of the Hoosic River on Monday, May 2, when they planted native trees to add to the waterway vegetation in areas by Walmart and McCann Technical School.

The students - Perri Bernstein '13, Morgan Nankivell '14, Nathan Quinn '14 and Philip Santangelo '14, are part of MCLA Professor Elena Traister's "Green Living Seminar" class.

According to Nankivell, she and the other three students in her group share an interest in rivers. The project follows a lab they participated in last fall, where they studied various aspects of the Hoosic River.

"It has been great to do hands-on work so early in my education," Nankivell said. "I have been looking forward to this kind of thing, and I'm so excited that we, as students, have the opportunity to independently make a difference in the Berkshire community. The class and the project have provided a great way to further discover what I want to do with my education and have provided me with many networking opportunities."

According to Traister, the newly planted native trees - shadbush and gray dogwood - will stabilize the area's soil, filter pollutants and provide shade and habitat for stream organisms.

Acquired from Project Native of Housatonic, Mass., the trees were planted along sections of the river that has little vegetation. According to Traister, it's especially important that area waterways have enough shade because several species of trout that live in the region require cool, oxygenated water.

"Keeping the stream shaded is important for those fish to survive," Traister said. "It's also important because the roots of the trees help filter runoff and to keep contaminants out of the stream water so they help to maintain water quality in the stream."

In addition, a variety of insects live in trees. When they fall from the overhanging trees and into the water, they help to feed the fish, Traister said. "Helping to restore the natural vegetation that would normally be growing along the river is a great project for these students to be working on."

"The project has increased my knowledge on how plants can help maintain a river, in ways such as rooting the banks to prevent erosion and also how some plants do a better job at cleaning water than others," Santangelo said.

Quinn said, "All of the projects are working at the local level and, hopefully, are making more people aware of the problem."

"The idea of helping the environment has always been my top priority," said Bernstein. "By planting these native trees along the river, we are helping the river ecology and the nearby environment."