BY CHRIS POWERS
SC Staff Writer
From March 14 through March 17, East Stroudsburg University’s Marine Science Club took a trip down to the Chincoteague Bay Field Station in order to participate in a program called Alternative Spring Break.
Alternative Spring Break is a program sponsored by the Chincoteague Bay Field Station that allows students to travel to Virginia to do volunteer work, instead of the partying that many have begun to expect from spring break.
Devon Lukow, a member of the Marine Science Club, said, “It was a fun alternative to the stereotypical spring break excursions that come to mind.”
Jamie Reese, president of ESU’s Rotaract club, said, “Alternative spring break allowed students the opportunity to do something meaningful with their time. I took more from it than I could have taken from a weekend of partying, and I would do it again.”
The Chincoteague Bay Field Station, an off-campus site where many marine science students take summer classes, is located in Wallops Island, Virginia. This is very close to the shore that this program uses for the summer educational sessions.
The proximity of the shore is another reason why many students take advantage of this program.
Lukow stated, “It combined the rewarding experience of doing something good for the community with more conventional spring break activities, like visiting the shore with friends.”
The volunteering activities that were presented to students at this event reflected the educational and marine nature of the field station. Activities included setting up fish tanks, building kayak racks, cleaning up a roadside, and working on a conservation project on an oyster beach near Wallops Island.
The conservation project was of particular interest for many of the students from ESU attending the event. This project entails a two-pronged approach towards the restoration of a local environment in Greenbackville, Virginia.
The first part of this project involves controlling an invasive species of grass from Europe, called Phragmites. This weed invades the marsh areas and changes the composition of the soil. The changing composition of the soil makes it more difficult for native species of plants to take hold.
In order to control these plants, volunteers chopped them down and the seeds were removed from the tops of the plants to be destroyed.
The second part of the project involves fostering the growth of oyster reefs in the bay at Greenbackville.
Artificial reefs are being built by the schools involved in this project. These reefs help improve the biodiversity of the area, as well as help to prevent destructive forces from waves that degrade the beaches of the area.
Drew Constenbader, a marine science major at ESU, said, “The ocean means so much to me, so I was happy to help out with the efforts to improve the marsh, bays, and beaches there.”
In addition to being a great volunteering opportunity, students from ESU were able to meet many other students from other PASSHE schools, such as Kutztown, Millersville, and Shippensburg.
This was an important aspect of the weekend for Kyle Holiman, a marine science major. He said, “Overall it was an excellent experience and a good way to get to know people. It is important because it allows you to meet fellow peers interested in science.”
“Volunteering in order to give back to the science community is very rewarding,” said Lian Mlodzienski, a biology major from ESU, “Given the chance I would definitely go do it again because it was very rewarding.”
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