Dean’s Service Corps Travels to Chongming to Clean Up Wetland

a group pic of students after they picked up trash
Mar 3 2023

Last weekend, 15 students from the Dean’s Service Corps traveled to Chongming Island for an environmental cleanup at the Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve. Community Engagement and Outreach Coordinator Zoe Zhang said this was the second of what she hopes will be regular monthly trips to the island to do cleanups. 

Sophomore Jade Wen helped organize the trip and other DSC activities with a focus on environmental and animal protection, including events on vegan lifestyle and animal protection. The group traveled an hour to Chongming Island, had lunch together and listened to a lecture on the natural habitat in Dongtan wetland area and the impact of manmade pollution. Finally, the group picked up trash on the waterfront. 

A shot of the ocean with birds flying over it.

The cleanup took place in Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve.

Wen said she was startled by the impact the pollution has had on the natural environment.  “The beautiful view of the water in the distance and the trash right next to us-I don’t know how to describe that kind of feeling,” she said. “There was so much trash in this beautiful place and it created a really contrasting site.” 

Sophomore Christine Liu joined the trip. Liu said that she enjoyed getting off of campus and being in nature was a nice escape.  The amount of trash, though, left a lasting impression. “Now I every time I see a plastic bottle I will remember the feeling of picking up plastic bottles and foam plastic in the wetland,” she said. “It was very hard and took a lot of effort. We’ll remember how we deal with plastic and how we deal with marine animals. It’s kind of like an unconscious feedback in our mind.” 

A student picking up trash

Students clean up trash on Chongming Island.


The group collected four large sacks of plastic bottles and foam from the wetland waterfront, but Liu and Wen said they were surprised that the group barely made a dent in the large amounts of plastic they found.  “There was still a lot of trash left, and they told us we were already finished,” said Liu. The goal of the trip, of course, was not to completely clear the wetlands of plastic, but rather to help students understand the importance of the wetland ecosystem and learn about the relationship between man-made pollution and marine biodiversity. 

Dean’s Service Corps members with the trash they collected.

Dean’s Service Corps members with the trash they collected.

Aside from the wetland environmental cleanup, the DSC and its 20 student leaders lead about 15 events per year covering various issues, including working with disadvantaged groups, the elderly, and environmental and animal protection. Zhang said that the DSC partners with around 20 local NGOs and social organizations to put on these activities. 

The Dean’s Service Corps is NYU Shanghai’s central hub for community outreach, arranging a variety of activities throughout the academic year for students to engage with the community. “Basically we serve as a bridge,” Zhang said, “a platform for community members, especially undergrad students, to learn about society, real Chinese society, through practical service learning and first hand experiences.”  She added that the DSC offers students a way to give back to society and make an impact. “[These activities] also help them take the learning from their classes into the real world,” she said.