Habitat Connectivity Through Arts and Storytelling

By Anjali Madgula

In the midst of a public health crisis and extreme weather events, green spaces offer both refuge and reflection. During the global pandemic, we’ve embraced parks and shared areas knowing that open air environments can better protect us from airborne viruses.

At the same time, climate change asks us to question the binary narrative of natural versus built environment. Despite our long term trend of fragmenting ecosystems with roads, pavements, and developments in an attempt to separate human spheres and natural spheres, our everyday systems demand a complete infringement of that binary when our trash ends up in rivers and our pollution affects all living beings.

And what about wildlife who find their homes sectioned off by bustling traffic or fish whose travel routes are disrupted by human made barriers and culverts? Watershed volunteers across New Jersey and New York have been using data tools to determine what habitat connectivity restoration could look like to create new passageways and mitigate disrupted ones.

And fortunately, local artists and scholars have been hard at work to tell the story of the past and future within our watershed. Their projects remind us that accessing the narrative of habitat connectivity is very possible when we interrogate our coexistence via art and local knowledge of our natural world. By encouraging meaningful outdoor experiences we can challenge dominant narratives that reduce our natural world to just “scenery” and “background”.

March2RUGardens On September 25th

On September 25th, 2021 from 10 AM to 1 pm, community members will host a march from the Rutgers Cook/Douglass campus to the Rutgers Gardens. Yes, you heard that right! Locationally, Rutgers Gardens is isolated from being accessible to walkers and bikers as it requires travel via highway. The march will take unique routes to advocate for carbon neutral ways for us to reach the beautiful Gardens. As participants take this two mile walk they will be accompanied by incredible live performances of dance, music, and storytelling. Guests will learn from speakers about the history of the land that Rutgers was built on. To register for the event click here. And look out for the LRWP’s informational table at the end of the event!

#lookfortheriver FRAME in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park

The LRWP along with Colab Arts and Rubble R & D have completed our multi-year design and sculpture installation in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park. The FRAME sculpture aims to tell the story of the Raritan River over days, seasons, and years via a crowd-sourced photo database. The floodplain in Boyd Park suffers repeat flood inundation due to climate change and sea level rise. Through repeat digital photography we can understand possibilities for restoration and regeneration along our floodplains. We ask that park visitors participate as civic scientists by sharing their photos on Instagram using the hashtags #lookfortheriver and #lookfortheriverboydpark and tagging us @lookfortheriver.