Volunteers as Oyster Gardeners

ID-100154534(Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

by Robert Barossi

Oysters are not just for making pearls and eating at raw bars. As the National Oceanic and  Atmospheric Administration points out on their page about oyster reefs in Chesapeake Bay, “Oysters are filter feeders, consuming phytoplankton (free-swimming algae) and improving water quality while they filter their food from the water. As generations of oysters settle on top of each other and grow, they form reefs that provide structured habitat for many fish species and crabs.”

These oyster reefs are also highly susceptible to pollution, reduced water quality and increased runoff. These and other factors can lead to the decline of oyster populations and the destruction of oyster reefs. Today’s story, out of Florida, describes how volunteers are helping to bring back oyster reefs which have seriously declined over time. Volunteers in the area have been growing oysters which are part of an oyster reef pilot program. If the program works and the oysters begin to clean the water, more reefs will be created in other locations. As the article mentions, the “oyster gardening” program could have wide-ranging and long-lasting effects, thanks in large part to the dedicated volunteers.

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Volunteers Are Cleaning Up, Part 2

Rocks in Still Water(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

This morning, I couldn’t help but notice the number of stories about volunteer cleanups. Maybe it’s just that time of year? Or maybe these events are just happening more than ever. And being reported about more than ever in local news outlets.

Roughly four hundred volunteers participated in this event in State College, PA, led by ClearWater Conservancy. The volunteers cleaned up the area’s watershed at fifty different important sites.

Up in Minnesota, an impressive number of volunteers  also showed up for this event. Led by Cascade Meadow Wetlands & Environmental Science Center, the effort, which included many students, cleaned up the trash in a large wetland area.

Finally, some two hundred volunteers in Maryland showed up at Fort McHenry to clean up trash and waste. Led by the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Aquarium, the volunteers cleaned up lots of trash while also performing tasks such as tree planting and trail maintenance.

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Earth Day Volunteers

Through the Trees(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Environmental volunteers work hard every day of the year, no matter the location, weather or job to be done. They are also a big part of Earth Day, a day when people who don’t normally volunteer get involved and do something to give back for the planet. To commemorate the day, here are some Earth Day Volunteer Stories:

Cleaning lakes in Missouri.

Picking up litter in Pennsylvania.

Restoring trails along the Pacific Ocean.

Cleaning parks in New Jersey.

As this story from Rhode Island demonstrates, cities, towns and states are having numerous Earth Day events all week long.

And some cities are hosting all-day festivals, like this one in Phoenix.

No matter what kind of event it is (and these are just a few stories out of many I came across) these Earth Day efforts will hopefully get people even more interested and involved in helping the home we all share, the planet Earth.

 

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Volunteers Build Homes for Bats

 ID-100286742(Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

by Robert Barossi

Bats are an often maligned and misunderstood species. They are also an extremely important part of natural ecosystems. Thanks to the Environmental Conservation Outreach Team at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, bats are getting a little help. In fact, according to this story, they are going to be getting a little luxury, as in luxury living spaces. Volunteers are working on “luxurious bat condominiums,” which will provide the bats with a perfectly-suited space for them to live, breed or hibernate, especially when natural sites for doing so are not available. The project takes the age-old bird-box idea to a whole new level, one which will hopefully protect the bats from future population declines.

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Volunteers Help to Map the Ocean Floor

P1000226(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Ok, so it’s not EXACTLY the ocean, but it’s a body of water that’s connected to the ocean. In this case, it’s Barnegat Bay in New Jersey, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean up along the Jersey coast for around 40 miles. And, as this press release points out, the bay’s ecosystems, especially in the soil at the bottom, have been seriously impacted over the years. And not impacted in a good way. Now, volunteers are helping the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to sample the soil on the floor of the bay. With the volunteers assistance, scientists have been sampling and mapping the soil, a process which will go along way toward restoring the bay’s ecological health. According to the release, “The Earth Team volunteer program helps the agency meet conservation needs in communities. Volunteers enable NRCS to stretch available resources and help put additional conservation practices on the ground.” Or, in this case, in the water.

 

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Volunteers Along the Highway


ID-10019463

(Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

by Robert Barossi

It’s likely that your state has an Adopt-a-Highway or Sponsor-a-Highway program. According to the program’s official website, 49 out of 50 states utilize the program and have stretches of highway which have been adopted by organizations, businesses, religious and community groups, etc. As this article from Minnesota demonstrates, it’s often environmental groups and their volunteers who take part in this program. In the town of Worthington, it’s two such organizations, Worthington FFA and Ocheda Beavers 4-H Club, which have led the way in adopting and caring for stretches of highway. This has included a number of children who have worked along the highway after school to pick up trash and litter. According to the article, in Minnesota, “48,000 volunteers… clean up more than 10,000 linear miles of highways.” While that does help to beautify the roads and save the state money, it also goes a long way towards helping the environment and ecosystems along that 10,000 miles of road.

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Volunteer Toad Detour

ID-100609(Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

by Robert Barossi

At this time of year, toads, frogs, salamanders and many other species are on the  move. They are leaving their winter homes and heading to nearby spots to spend the spring and summer. In Roxborough, a suburb of Philadelphia, volunteers are working as a sort of crossing guard, watching over a “toad detour” during this important migratory period. Volunteers work during the evening hours, watching for the toads and making sure they make it safely across a heavily traveled road. According to the nearby Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, the detour has significantly minimized the population decreases caused by street-crossing toads being hit by cars. This work, and the volunteers who are in large part making the work possible, is going a long way to protect and preserve the toads and their essential role in the local ecosystem.

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Volunteers and the Lake Sturgeon

IMG_0214

(photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

The images and messages created by environmental organizations often use iconic and instantly recognizable species. Polar bears. Pandas. Wolves. Eagles or birds of prey. These species are often beloved and revered, and there are certainly good reasons for their status and their use as a conduit for environmental messages. On the other hand, there are thousands of other species that, while far less recognizable and beloved, still need our help. Numerous other species need protecting and preserving and volunteers are an essential part of this important work. This great story out of Michigan details how many volunteers of widely varying ages and demographic backgrounds work together to help protect the lake sturgeon. These aquatic animals have very long life spans and can grow to be rather enormous. They’re not necessarily cute and cuddly or what some might think of as “beautiful,” but they are an important and endangered species, one which is receiving  a measure of protection from a large group of dedicated volunteers. That protection may be paying off, or at least helping. According to National Geographic, the lake sturgeon, “has made something of a comeback. Strong efforts at righting environmental wrongs in the Great Lakes have improved conditions, and concentrated efforts to protect the fish have turned sturgeon into a spotlight species.”

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Volunteers Monitor Great Lakes Streams

Underwater Leaves

(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Wow, it’s been a long time since I posted a story on here. After such a too-long hiatus (mostly due to moving and some health issues), I’m hoping to be back on here regularly, posting at least a few times every week. So, without further ado…

The Great Lakes have been in the news a lot lately, for a number of environmental reasons, from algae blooms to invasive species. This story out of Michigan focuses on how volunteers are an enormous part of the effort to monitor the streams which connect to the larger lakes. While the article puts some emphasis on the Michigan Clean Water Corps, it includes a number of other interesting  and important aspects of stream monitoring in the area. One is that the volunteers are often monitoring populations of insects and small aquatic species, rather than chemicals. It’s an interesting switch from other monitoring practices that focus on testing for things like phosphorus or dissolved oxygen (in a sense, a way to test the water’s quality and collect data which focuses on biology rather than chemistry). Also important is the fact, as the article mentions, that volunteers are doing these kinds of monitoring tests across a number of states (five are mentioned) and for many different organizations, from nonprofits to government agencies. It’s more evidence of how a task as big and daunting as monitoring the waterways connected to the Great Lakes takes many people working in many places, and most of them are volunteers.

If you have enjoyed any of the stories on this blog, read more in my eBook, Being Where You Are: How Environmental Volunteers Impact Their Community and the Planet Every Day

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