URI student works to restore Pawtuxet River

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Warwick resident wants to make positive impact on the world

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 1, 2007 – Born on Earth Day, University of Rhode Island junior Vanessa Venturini has always wanted to make a difference in the world.

An environmental science major from Warwick, Venturini took an important step in that direction last fall by working on a project to restore the Pawtuxet River through the URI Coastal Fellows Program.

The restoration project was important to her because the area is about five minutes from where she grew up. “It really hits close to home. I’ve been to all of the public and planning meetings about this project,” said Venturini.

She said the project involves removing some of the waterfall in the river and potentially adding a fish ladder or rock ramp so fish can come back into the river to spawn.

Her goal in doing this project was to inform the public about its importance. “There is a lot of opposition to the project right now because the waterfall is so visible and it is such a popular sight in the Pawtuxet area,” she said. “I wanted to make people less opposed to it and more educated about the benefits of the project and how it will restore fish to the river.”

Venturini, who would like to pursue a career in habitat restoration in rivers and wetlands, first became interested in this field during an internship at the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. As a freshman at New College of Florida, she helped restore mangroves and also led an environmental field trip through restoration sites for elementary school children.

After transferring to URI, she contacted the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which led to the fellowship and an internship. In addition to reaching out to the public with an informative brochure she created, Venturini also wrote for the Narragansett Bay Journal as part of the fellowship. She was also able to attend a habitat restoration conference in New Orleans.

Venturini said “the experience was awesome. All of the people I have met through the internship for networking and future opportunities is great, and writing the article for the newspaper,” she said, “that was a big accomplishment.”

Venturini’s project at the Pawtuxet River was made possible by the URI Coastal Fellows Program, a unique initiative designed to involve undergraduate students in addressing current environmental problems. Now in its twelfth year, the program based in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences teams students with faculty, research staff and graduate students to help them gain skills that will ensure their future success.

After graduation, Venturini would like to work for the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program. “I definitely want to stay in Rhode Island doing this type of work. I love it.”