Cold-weather cities across the U.S. use salt to deice roads. It’s a simple, proven solution. It’s also degrading the environment.

The salt mixes with the ice as it melts. The resulting runoff contaminates waterways and negatively impacts amphibians, aquatic ecosystems, even drinking reservoirs. Not long ago, the most populated county in New Jersey issued health advisories because there was so much salt in the drinking water.

We started thinking about this problem. We realized certain plants not only tolerate salt, but also actually accumulate it.

So we’re currently studying specific plants native to the New Jersey shore. We want to know which ones can store salt. We’ll use our findings to inform the development of new runoff mitigation techniques.

This is an example of what we do. We study systems – built and natural – to understand how they work and why they fail. Then we challenge the status quo.

By relentlessly pursuing the optimal balance between urban environment and human health, we innovate for a healthier future.