Researchers Expect Big Results From Small Marshland Restoration

Kate Sheehn and Loretta Leist are digging holes to make little homes for displaced parcels of juncas needlegrass.

"It's a lot of fun. I love getting my hands dirty," Sheehn says.

They're being planted by a pier so they can begin restoring the marshland that once surrounded the area.

"Marshes provide a great habitat and boundaries for habitat where a lot of the important fish species live down here," Sheehn adds.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab scientist Just Cebrian blames past disregard of the environment for why this area's natural needlebrush is gone.

"It used to be the way things were done in the past. It was about construction and getting things done as soon as possible and very little care for the environment," Cebrian says.

"It's very important that people realize that what they do has consequences. We need to be more careful," volunteer Loretta Leist says.

These 162 parcels are preventing erosion and restoring habitat in Jackson County, but that's not all. These plants are part of an even bigger experiment.

Cebrian is trying to find out which produces more efficient results, putting 36 plants in a block, or if just 18 will do.

"That's important to decide what the best way to restore the marsh is, and what's the most efficient way to bring back all of the benefits," Cebrian adds.

"I think it has a lot of potential," Sheehn says.

The results of this study will help others in the future who want to stop erosion, get better protection from storm surges, and restore ecosystems.

The results from the study won't be ready for another two years. Cebrian says this is the only study of its kind to ever be done.