Posts Tagged ‘hydrology’


The Lake Michigan coast, on the South Side of Chicago. Photo by Zach Mortice.

In 2014 alone, 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater made its way into the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Commission. On its way there, this stormwater degraded the rivers and streams it flowed through and caused flooding in areas where hard surfaces terminally halt its infiltration.

To deal with this regional calamity, the Great Lakes Commission and Lawrence Technological University have launched a new initiative to disseminate technology and techniques that can mitigate untreated stormwater pollution, the Great Lakes Stormwater Technology Transfer Collaborative.

This partnership between the Great Lakes Commission, a Michigan-based nonprofit that works to protect the ecology and economic health of the region in the United States and Canada, and Lawrence Tech’s Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute will leverage the commission’s widespread industry contacts with the school’s technical expertise.  (more…)

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A retired cranberry bog inspires an innovative approach to wetland restoration.


In 2005, Glorianna Davenport began to think about retiring the cranberry farm she owned in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In the late 1980s, the 600-acre farm was producing 1 percent of Ocean Spray’s cranberry harvest, but Davenport had become concerned about the amount of pesticides being used—and the way those pesticides were applied. “Because cranberries are grown on former wetlands, we had to farm with helicopters,” Davenport says. “And spraying chemicals from helicopters is not really great in a densely populated area.” Davenport, a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Laboratory, whose husband bought the cranberry farm in the early 1980s, could also see the handwriting on the wall for older cranberry farms, with new cultivars producing five times as many berries, farmed in places easier to access than wetlands and river bottoms. “The industry was changing pretty radically,” Davenport says. “The way we had been farming was really the legacy of another era.”

Davenport learned that a nearby cranberry farm had been restored back to wetlands—said to be the first project of its kind in the United States—and that she was eligible for assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wetlands Reserve Program, which pays farmers to take land out of production to preserve, restore, and enhance wetlands on their properties. The program was established by the 1990 Farm Bill. In 2008, Davenport decided to retire from MIT to undertake the restoration of Tidmarsh Farms. With federal and state funding in hand, she began working with the state’s Department of Fish and Game to pull together an interdisciplinary team of state and federal scientists and river, wetland, and other experts to help restore the bog at Tidmarsh Farms, an effort that took several years.

Ten thousand years ago, glaciers moved down across the northeastern United States, then retreated. As they did, big chunks of ice were left, forming (more…)

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Working in a multidisciplinary firm means every day is different.


You certainly never get bored in a multidisciplinary office. A landscape architect might find herself reviewing federal endangered species listings, hydrology maps, or legal frameworks for land use planning in the daily shuffle, and these are just some of the diverse types of work likely to be present. Industrial mining methods, vernal pool construction, and high-rise plumbing systems could also come into play. The number of landscape architects working in these professional environments is growing as businesses find a competitive edge providing full, in-house services for site development projects that require expertise from designers but also from scientists, legal teams, and engineers. Four landscape architects at the center of these integrated office types share insights about collaboration, isolation, and the willingness to learn something new each day.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

Weston & Sampson, Boston

Gene Bolinger, ASLA, Vice President

What are lessons learned from working in a multidisciplinary office for more than 25 years?

Staff at Weston & Sampson (clockwise from left): Elise Bluell, Associate ASLA; Cassidy Chroust, ASLA; Desmond Fang; Brandon Kunkel; and Farah Dakkak, Associate ASLA. Image courtesy of Weston & Sampson.

I came to Weston & Sampson through an acquisition, and I’ve been here since the fall of 1991. Weston & Sampson is an environmental and infrastructure engineering firm, and it’s one of those old, legacy northeastern firms. It’s been around since 1899. One of our larger clients is the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, and at any given time, we have  eight to 10 projects under way with the City of Boston. We’re pushing up against 500 people in our organization and, again, we’re mostly in the Northeast, with the largest projects in Massachusetts, for sure. Just recently the firm went to a discipline-based structure—we’re actually six disciplines. One of the disciplines is the design discipline, and I manage the design discipline. I’ve become accustomed to working within a multidisciplinary realm, and I celebrate what’s great about it and try to take advantage of what’s great about it.

If you’re sitting back on your hands and you’re assuming that people are going to be delivering exactly what you want at the exact moment you want it, you’re so mistaken. So, that’s why you can’t let things (more…)

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Disparate but urgent efforts to address sea-level rise in the Virginia Tidewater, one of the country’s most important strategic centers, are striving to keep up with visible realities.


The first question that sprang to Ann C. Phillips’s mind soon after she moved to Norfolk, Virginia, in 2006 was, “Why, when it rains, does the whole place submerge?”

She wasn’t referring only to dramatic weather events, although Phillips, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, landed in Norfolk during a bumper crop of those: Norfolk saw more major coastal storms and hurricanes in the 2000s than in the four previous decades combined, according to the city government.

Harder to fathom were the floods caused by light rains and “blue sky floods” triggered by lunar tides. Tidal flooding affects low-lying areas of Norfolk nine times per year on average.

These more regular floods were unlike anything Phillips experienced growing up in Annapolis, Maryland. They’re an alarmingly routine part of life in Norfolk and the surrounding Hampton Roads area (more…)

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The compensatory mitigation mandate opens a dynamic arena for landscape architects.

From the August 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.





The song of the red-winged blackbird, although instantly recognizable, is hard to put to words, as even Roger Tory Peterson, author of A Field Guide to the Birds, found. These syllables are his best efforts. The trilling, almost metallic-sounding warble evokes summertime, cattails, and the watery landscapes where Agelaius phoeniceus goes to breed.

But at this moment I’m not seeing cattails. I’m at the edge of a parking lot behind a pizza restaurant in a suburb north of Boston, looking at a large pit, about 10 feet deep, filled with Phragmites australis, the infamous invasive species that, along with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), is the scourge of wetlands in the Northeast, choking out cattails and other native species that provide food to the bird population. A few spindly red maples have colonized the embankment, along with some riverbank grape (Vitis riparia), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and Rosa multiflora, a pretty though sprawling shrub introduced to America in 1866 to provide rootstock for hybrid roses and now classed as a pest in many states. Despite the red-winged blackbird’s bright song, this is a dismal place, especially in the fading afternoon sunlight, a bit of wasteland left behind by development, one of millions of similar places across the country.

This blighted spot, however, is a mandated compensatory wetland mitigation under (more…)

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