Applied research involves the art and the science of problem solving. It entails identifying problems in need of solutions, devising solutions, garnering necessary resources, and testing potential solutions to identify that which is effective and acceptable by virtue of cultural mores and the economic constraints of society.
For example, a logical sequence emerged in the late 1950s and 60s as the role of wetlands became better documented: clean water is important, wetlands clean water, large quantities of wetlands have been destroyed, existing wetlands must be protected, and new wetlands must be created.
This train of logic was never questioned seriously but the literature is replete with the necessary work defining "what is clean?", "what are wetlands?", and "how should they be protected?"
At the Environmental Center, the staff focused on the problem of creating and restoring wetlands. The need for sources of plant material led the College to create an aquatic plant nursery in collaboration with Providence Center, an educational facility serving developmentally disabled adults. Working together, college students and the disabled grow approximately 20 of the most common types of wetland plants for use in restoration efforts.
Once plants were available, the Center focused on the creation of wetlands for such purposes as shoreline stabilization, aquatic habitat creation, water quality enhancement, effluent treatment, and industrial site closure. Staff also began examining one of the more common threats to natural habitats- the displacement of native species by invasive species introduced from other geographic regions.
Current staff continue restoration efforts but also conduct monitoring programs to confirm factors affecting the environment and improve the selection of sites having the greatest potential for ecological gain through restoration efforts.