By working with coastal stakeholders on an environmental improvement project each semester, DesignLab students help heal the ongoing degradation of the coastal environment. With over ninety-percent of the coastal prairie lost to over-development and cattle grazing; with most of the wetlands–nurseries for ocean life–now gone; and over ninety-five percent of seagrasses destroyed, the coast is under severe ecological strain. Add to that the trash, particularly plastics, that litters beaches and wetland edges; these are a another threat to natural habitats. And the bigger risks of global warming and ongoing subsidence add to the complexity of concerns facing each Gulf Coast resident.
But the good news is that many community volunteer groups–non-profits, schools and concerned citizens, working with local government and park services–have risen to the occasion to improve the environmental health of the places they live. To lend a hand, DesignLab student’s partner with a local community group each semester to help reestablish a more resilient natural environment. Student’s in the past have taken part in wetland clean ups, gathering trash in sensitive wildlife refuges. They’ve replanted native coastal prairie grasses in over-grazed heritage preserves. They’ve helped reestablish healthy live oak communities in public areas. As they gain a deeper understanding of their role in the global community through these efforts, Gulf Coast DesignLab students inspire action in others to help preserve the natural environment.