Prescott College Student Aides Puerto Rico Recovery

June 22, 2018 - By Sara Reveile

Michael Reveile worked to clear damage from Hurricane Maria as a senior project.

Michael Reveile

Launching his senior project, called Post-Hurrican Disaster Relief: Sustainability and Restoration Ecology of a Small Scale Landowner’s Property in Puerto Rico, with a two week field assignment, Michael Reveile (‘18) researched the succession and restoration of the island’s tropical ecosystem after the natural disturbance of Hurricane Maria. He and two other Prescott College students, Sara Reveile and Randy Davidson, were offered a special opportunity to perform disaster relief using their environmental backgrounds and skills. In the municipality of San Sebastian where Michael focused his work, he found that thousands of citizens were still without power when he arrived on December 15, 2017. Not only did the hurricane create a great deal of structural damage, the environment had also undergone tremendous disturbance. Shocked by the slow recovery, Michael was eager to “extend all efforts as much as possible during his field assignment”.

Joel and Judy Houts, the property owners of the two acres Michael worked on, experienced a particularly devastating loss of the environment around them because of the deeper value it possessed. For half a decade, the couple had been hosting Christian-based camps for teenagers to come and immerse themselves in nature. In addition to hosting these camps for children traveling from all over the United States, the land also provided a special place of exploration and solitude for the local children. As Pastor and Pastora of their neighborhood in San Sebastian, Joel and Judy Houts have welcomed many to share the joy their land has brought them. Therefore, it was extremely important to the Houts and Michael to ensure the land was restored.

Michael working alongside his wife, Sara, brother-in-law Randy, and their family members, was grateful for “the opportunity to grow closer with family, expose myself to a new culture, and contribute to post-hurricane recovery”. Michael Reveile and his crew of family members and friends started the project expecting not to be able to finish. To Michael’s surprise, “Our motivation and emotional connection to seeing the land restored allowed for us to accomplish more than I ever thought possible.”

The next step was to create a ecological restoration management action plan. This plan was given to the Houts to be followed at their discretion. The steps that have been completed so far have been clearing the dead and downed trees and removing hazardous trees from walkways. The cut debris was organized into chipping and milling piles. The chipping piles will be spread across the property to enable fertilization and accelerate succession of the tropical forest that surrounds them. Michael and his family also documented what types of trees survived the hurricane, the Houts will use this data to monitor their growth in the years to come.