A simplified diagram of one specific ecosystem.
Since Oregon State University is often associated with both natural resource management and engineering, it should be no surprise that we have a very active Ecological Engineering program. To understand what ecological engineering is, it helps to be acquainted with the concept of an ecosystem, and the study of ecosystems, which is called ecology. Ecosystem is defined as “a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.” Ecology is the study of the relationships between organisms and between organisms and their physical environments. The word “ecology” is also associated with a political movement that recognizes the necessity of protecting our entire ecosystem. Some components may seem unimportant from a human perspective; however, the very definition of an ecosystem implicates that the well-being of each and every piece of the system affects the well-being of the system as a whole, and thus other individual members (I’m talking about us). Ecological Engineering is the design of sustainable systems consistent with ecological principles that integrate human activities into the natural environment to the benefit of both. According to the Ecological Engineering Undergraduate Program, “this approach emphasizes diversity, resilience and adaptation to maintain sustainability.” Oregon State University is among the national leaders in this discipline.
The OSU Ecological Engineering Student Society is a student organization that collaborates on Ecological Engineering projects at OSU. Recently, the EESS teamed up with Landscape Management, a shop within Facilities Services, to restore a bioswale, using principles of ecological engineering. When Lars Larson, Vice President of the EESS became aware of a bioswale in a small drainage ditch near the Tennis Pavilion that has not been functioning as effectively and efficiently as it could have been, he approached Bill Coslow, the Landscape Supervisor, about re-engineering the area.
Lars Larson (left) and the Landscape Shop (right)
Staff from Landscape Management and members of EESS came together on a Saturday and cleared invasive species like Himalayan blackberries, planted 770 plants in three hours, including sedges, rushes and other plants designed to slow runoff due to heavy Oregon winter rains. According to Coslow, “The plants and the rocky waterway slow erosion down, and also help filter runoff containing motor oil and brake line fluid, keeping pollutants out of our storm-water system.”
Get Involved with the Ecological Engineering Student Society!
The EESS meets every other week of the academic year (beginning the second week of each term) in Gilmore Hall 2345, to discuss projects, field trips, and fundraising. Each term they take one field trip and host a guest speaker. In order to become an official member of the EESS, you must be an OSU student, sign up for the club through SLI (Student Leadership and Involvement), and attend at least one meeting per year. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page.