First Prize, LA+CREATURE International Design Ideas Competition 2020
Collaboration work with Bingjian Liu and Esther Jung
Program : Eel ladder, Eel habitat module
Site Location : Fishkill Creek, NY
American eels (Anguilla rostrata) are known to be mysterious nocturnal creatures. They spawn in remote and nutrient-poor places in the seas, and are rarely visible to people. However, what we didn’t know about eels is that they are migratory fish that travel long distances from ocean to small creeks and eventually return back to where they spawn, to die in the abyss. Even though eels are known to have a significant role in the aquatic ecosystem, their populations are plummeting. American eels have become scarce, with populations dropping by more than 90% in the past four decades. Restoration of eel populations is difficult unless we tackle the list of contributors to their decline: loss of habitat, dam blockage, fishing, pollutants, and changes in ocean currents. These factors make eel population management problematic.
This design focuses on New York’s Hudson River where industrialization and human activities have caused many hindrances in eel migration, as well as loss of their habitats. The project consists of two parts. Part one, the “eel oasis” creates habitat modules for eels on different parts of the Hudson River and tributaries where the ecosystem has become non-functional. These modules feature buoyant plastic reefs and limbs made of recycled plastics that offer eels a place to hide and rest as habitats on migration paths. Part two involves the construction of “eel ladders” on dams where glass eel (early stage eels) have trouble climbing up or using existing fish ladders. The eel oases and ladders together facilitate the eels’ long migration journey toward deeper creeks and smaller streams. In addition, these modules also serve as walkable trails for people to increase awareness of the eels’ presence and benefits to the aquatic ecosystem.