New bioswale serves as living classroom
The new bio-retention garden behind PC’s science complex not only captures and filters stormwater runoff — it also serves as a laboratory for students studying environmental science and animal behavior.
Biology students at Providence College have a new place to observe nature in action.
The College’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety and the Department of Biology have worked together to create the Dawn Redwood Living Laboratory bioswale, a garden that captures stormwater runoff from the roof of the new Ruane Center for the Humanities.
Located between the Albertus Magnus-Hickey-Sowa Science Complex and Eaton Street, the bioswale is named for a large tree next to the garden and is part of PC’s campus-wide stormwater master plan. Save the Bay, the nonprofit environmental advocacy and education organization, awarded its Environmental Achievement Award to the College in 2013 because it was the only higher-education institution statewide to adopt such a plan.
“We tried to tie the academic mission to our stormwater regulatory requirements, thus achieving compliance while enhancing the students' learning experience — not to mention improving the college landscape for all the college community to enjoy,” said Gale Gennaro, director of environmental health and safety.
At the garden’s recent dedication, Janet Coit, director of Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management, said the garden, which will capture stormwater right where it is, was a model that other builders should emulate.
“We hope you’ll do a lot more of this,” Coit said. “It’s not just beautiful — you’re also teaching your students.”
Faculty members such as Dr. Patrick J. Ewanchuk, associate professor of biology, Dr. Maia F. Bailey, assistant professor of biology, and Barbara Sullivan-Watts, special lecturer in biology, selected native plants for the garden. The plants and soils will filter water and remove contaminants before they return to the Narragansett Bay.
In addition, the plants will attract native pollinators, which students in Animal Behavior classes will be able to observe, Ewanchuk said. Those studying environmental science can test water quality and conduct soil and sediment testing, he said.
At the event, the Department of Biology also dedicated an Eastern redbud tree to Dr. Carol B. Crafts, professor of biology and plant physiologist, who retired after 41 years of teaching and research at the College.
— Liz F. Kay
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