The Edge of the Earth

Living on the Cape the past two and a half months has taught me what winter really means. I never knew it snowed at the beach until I came here. That being said, the weather hasn’t been able to slow down our work very much… I’ve had countless days of frozen feet and hands at this point. I work for Safe Harbor Environmental as a coastal restoration intern, but I’ve been thrown into many different aspects of what they do here. So far, I’ve planted beach grass to stabilize coastal banks, re-vegetated bare areas with native plants, dug dry wells for stormwater management, helped create permits and environmental management plans for new projects, gone to town meetings and conservation commission hearings, set up erosion control protocols for construction sites, and put in biomimicry to restore dunes. We have many jobs up here, which makes this internship such a huge learning experience and never monotonous. If you’re wondering what “biomimicry” is, it is a coastal restoration system that was set up by Safe Harbor to mimic the random matrix and performance of native vegetation. It mimics performance by collecting and stabilizing sand from storm winds. We use 14 inch wooden shims and place them randomly on beaches and eroded areas to build up sand and restore dunes. Before I arrived here, they were able to build up 22-24 feet of sand in just two years for one of their projects. Here is a photo I took of a biomimicry project we started when I first arrived and has already had quite a bit of sand collection.

My project was initiated after a client consulted us about her bare area outside her house, which is located on a bayside beach in Provincetown. We inspected the site and found that there was vegetation growing around the bare area, but something (maybe a disturbance or drought) caused this bare section to die off. We took soil cores to see if we could find answers, but nothing was able to give us clarity. I was given much of the reigns on this project since it was to become my internship project and together, my supervisor and I decided on a diversity matrix of native vegetation to be planted here in order to see what species (if any) are successful. We based the vegetation choices on what we observed growing in the surrounding area. The plantings were postponed a couple times due to it being blizzard season, but we finally were able to get them in a few weeks ago. I am currently monitoring the site and measuring the woody stems to detect growth. There won’t be much to see for a couple growing seasons, but hopefully I will be able to get some preliminary data (dead or alive and possibly some minor growth) before I leave this place. Here is a photo of me planting at the site. 

Fair winds!

-Caitlin H.(iggins)