Local professor uses oyster shells to combat sea level rise, erosion

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News professor is bringing education and business together to combat erosion.

Russell Burke is a professor of environmental science and marine biology at Christopher Newport University. He works for the Biogenic Consulting Solutions, LLC & Broadwater Concepts.

Burke says there are many aspects to the business, including the creation of biogenic reefs to stop shoreline erosion.

“What we found was fresh shells, pseudo-fossils, and true fossils are good at attracting oysters and other critters to attract and flourish,” he said.

Burke builds biogenic reefs out of oyster shells. He says the designs are intended to be more affordable for private property owners and municipalities.

“Typically, the designs that are out there are very good, but very expensive,” he said.

Burke says the reefs stop the flow of water, protecting grasses behind them that can grow. He says he’s working with areas along the Eastern Shore and just returned from Tangier, where CNU donated six molds for the island to combat sea level rise.

Special Report: A Way of Life Going Under

“They are kind of at their wit’s end. They don’t have the tax base to invest in granite and concrete sea barriers, but they are interested in maintaining their way of life,” he said.

Burke hopes that the donation will get other community members involved so the area has a chance in the long run to fight back against the rising seas.