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University News

A Shore Thing: Learning from GCU’s Dr. Louise Wootton…on the Beach!

Island Beach State Park

“Wetlands along Barnegat Bay near the southern end of Island Beach State Park, New Jersey on August 21st 2013” by Famartin is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Jersey Shore may be known for its beaches and boardwalks, but there’s so much more.

That’s one of the lessons Louise Wootton, Ph.D., GCU professor of biology, told Aqua Kids TV during an episode focused on the Maritime trail and dunes at Island Beach State Park. Dr. Wootton, who also serves as GCU’s director of sustainability, shared her ongoing research on invasive grasses, dune health, and more.

“It’s all about looking at the dunes and learning why they’re so special,” says Dr. Wootton. “And it’s especially interesting because the Aqua Kids audience is middle-school aged children—children who have an undue amount of influence as environmental ambassadors.”

Louise Wootton
Dr. Wootton with the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award awarded to Georgian Court by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2014

How so? Often, middle-school students will take the lead in the households when it comes to being more vigilant about the environment. Dr. Wootton, who often gives community education presentations throughout the region, has heard from parents many times over the years. “Sometimes they complain, but more often they want to know, ‘What did you do to my child? They won’t let me fertilize the lawn or throw out recyclable trash!’ ”

High-quality programs like Aqua Kids reinforce those kinds of lessons. The Emmy-award winning program, which is hosted by teenagers, encourages youngsters to actively preserve and protect aquatic environments and wildlife. It’s the perfect age to influence more responsible behaviors, according to Dr. Wootton.

“They aren’t cynical yet,” she says. “They tend to talk about what they’ve been learning—and put it into practice. These are the children who are inheriting the mess we’re making, but they’re empowered to make a difference.”

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,200 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at HazletGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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