REU student contributes to “eco-concrete” project for restoration efforts

By Maria Gabriela Gonzalez Starchek

Diane Stonestreet presents her research at the REU symposium.
Diane Stonestreet presents her research at the REU symposium.

South Florida’s ecology is affected by sea level rise and shoreline erosion. Diane Stonestreet is looking to develop an eco-friendly concrete mix. 

When she embarked on her university career, she had a sense of obligation to use her skills and knowledge to help preserve the planet and environment. The mechanical engineering major at the University of Maryland had been looking for a research program that would allow her to gain experience in the environmental field and prepare her for graduate school.

“Out of all the REU programs, the FIU Institute of Environment’s Coastal Ecosystems Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) was the one that called my attention the most,” Stonestreet said.

Working under the mentorship of Sara Pezeshk in the Robotics and Digital Fabrication Lab, Stonestreet spent six weeks contributing to the “Bio-Tile” project led by the institute’s CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment (CAChE). She studied different types of concrete mixes. After determining which mixes were strong enough for use in coastal infrastructure, she cast them into molds with different surface textures. 

“We are currently awaiting results on how the mix design or surface texture may promote biodiversity at the shoreline,” Stonestreet said.

It is vital to preserve coastal and marine ecosystems and the species that call these environments home. Stonestreet’s contribution to the Bio-Tile project aims to create a hybrid living shoreline capable of reducing coastline erosion and promoting mangrove and seagrass restoration.

“If we start to spread awareness about the weight sustainability and biodiversity have in our environment today, we would be doing a huge favor to future generations,” she said.

After graduation, Stonestreet plans to further her education and later teach engineering at the college level.