Biology Student Group Helps Restore Portion Of Colley Bay Shoreline

Old Dominion’s Biology Graduate Student Organization (BGSO) recently restored a degraded wetland area along a portion of the Lafayette River inlet near the campus as part of its ongoing volunteer efforts.

Sixty feet of shoreline along the northeast side of Colley Bay - behind Larchmont Elementary School and about 100 yards east of Rogers Hall East - got a new border, created with coconut fiber coir logs, backfilled with sand and populated with about 700 Spartina alterniflora plants, a perennial deciduous grass often found in intertidal wetlands.

BGSO, which sponsors local wetlands cleanups each semester, got the ball rolling on the Larchmont Elementary Wetland Restoration project last December when it asked the Highland Park Civic League for cleanup recommendations. That initial contact evolved into a collaborative effort, also involving the city of Norfolk, Larchmont Elementary, the Lafayette River Wetlands Partnership and the Elizabeth River Project.

“This started as a wetland cleanup idea, and the wetland restoration was pitched to us by the city and the civic league,” said Matt Semcheski, BGSO wetland preservation officer and a doctoral student in ecological sciences at ODU. “We were excited to be involved in this community-wide effort.”

The students took tide and elevation measurements, wrote permit applications and planned the design of the wetland itself. The project covered a total area of about 900 square feet. Long-term plans call for establishing a forested buffer inland.

“At our site, there was no vegetation, and a steep, eroding bank littered with debris, including concrete and asphalt - a non-natural shoreline,” Semcheski said. “This is bad for the environment for a number of reasons, the two biggest being erosion and runoff. No vegetation means no roots holding the sediment in place.

“With every tidal cycle or storm, more of the existing shoreline is washed away. With no vegetation to absorb and cycle the nutrients in storm-water runoff, these nutrients go directly into the water, which can trigger algae blooms.”

The project involved about a dozen ODU students.

The city of Norfolk provided approximately $4,000 for the purchase of materials.