To which Garbisch says, "I really don't feel that way, but there does have to be some give and take. It's a battlefield now. There has to be accommodation where there are alternatives to improve environmental quality in conjunction with industrial expansion or development. After all, people are part of the environment, as integral a part as striped bass and ospreys. I don't buy the dog-headedness of some conservationists. They're not realistic."
Whatever the merits of the arguments, Garbisch is plowing ahead, literally, with research on marsh plants, including Phragmites communis, the common reed, ordinarily dismissed as worthless. The seeds of cordgrass and S. patens can be turned into edible flour. The Garbisch greenhouse at St. Michaels is alive with these plants and with pots of Scirpus robustus, the salt marsh bulrush, Juncas roemerianus, needle rush, and Typha angustifolia, narrowleaf cattail. Garbisch is interested in the potential of certain sedges, such as the bulrush, to absorb and detoxify phenols and other pollutants by plant metabolism. He has discovered that cordgrass will thrive in freshwater when seedlings are set in floating plastic boxes, and he is thinking of placing them on a polluted pond or on sewage lagoons to see if they will scrub the water clean. He is interested in using marsh plants, sea grasses and submerged aquatic vegetation as possible absorbents of polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs (SI, Sept. 1). "I would like to develop a screening test of aquatic plants and organisms—mussels, clams and oysters—to see if they will serve as 'sinks' for PCBs and pesticides," Garbisch says. "Some plants may metabolize PCBs."
No matter what happens and no matter what the critics say, Garbisch surely will continue to seethe with ideas. "Marshes!" he exclaims. "Twelve hours in a marsh gives you food for thought for months."