Rushing for Restoration!

Guest post by Faith Blackall

On October 9, 2021, EarthEcho youth leaders, Tampa Bay Watch, and Manatee County Department of Parks and Natural Resources united to host an impactful habitat restoration project at the beautiful Robinson Preserve in Bradenton, Florida.

The morning started off as an ideal crisp October morning while the participants were briefed on the importance of the work about to be done, along with how to do it safely and successfully. The first task at hand revolved around the Black Needle Rush Plant. This plant creates a thick, bushy barrier along the shoreline of brackish water sources. Many species, such as crabs, terrapin, and even small rabbits, rely on the protection of this plant. After putting on gloves and glasses, the fun part began. We walked down to one of the canals in Robinson Preserve and partnered into groups to start planting. The warm Florida sun created picturesque surroundings to work in, diligently working and laughing from across the banks with one another. After about an hour and a half, our group was able to plant all 1,000 black needle rush plants along the waterline. It was a huge accomplishment and one we were all very happy about! A group of people, ranging from middle school age to adults and everything in between, some established friends, some strangers, were able to team up together to do something we know will improve the health of our local marine environment.

Next our group was led over to a different canal where we engaged in a population survey study using dip nets. We were the first group to ever do the population survey in this region. Dip netting involves gently bouncing a small net along the bottom of the body of water, then raising it to see what is in that area. Bins were placed along the bank with aerators submerged into the water to be used as a holding center for anything the group found. They group decided to spread out a bit hoping to find different species in different areas. Some people stayed ankle deep in search of bottom dwellers, some knee deep for something in the middle, and some went thigh deep to look for larger wildlife. On this trip, we found a few jellyfish, a few fish, and a snail. Data collected from surveys like this one can help us better understand the long-term impacts of our restoration work!

Tampa Bay Watch, EarthEcho International and Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources brought together a group of people who all were eager to make a difference in our area and did precisely that! Coastal restoration is such an important project that turned into a super fun morning for everyone involved. Though some people walked in as strangers, no one left as one!

Editor’s Note: This collaborative coastal restoration project is part of OceanEcho 30x30, an initiative led by EarthEcho’s youth leaders to elevate youth voices in support of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030. A key pillar of this work is focused on coastal habitat restoration as an avenue to connect local youth and communities to the importance of ocean health and ocean-based climate solutions. A special thanks to Tampa Bay Watch, Manatee County Department of Parks and Natural Resources and all who participated!