By Natalie Stephens
Cedar Key locals, “snow birds”, Gainesville students, and travelers from all over are coming together to volunteer with the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station for their Spring 2020 living shoreline volunteer events! With groups ranging from 5-15 volunteers per day, these environmental enthusiasts have done a whole lot of good in just a few days!
If you aren’t a local Cedar Key resident or an avid NCBS blog reader you might be asking, what is a living shoreline? Living shorelines utilize natural elements, such as oysters and grasses, to prevent and reverse coastal erosion. At the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station, Drs. Savanna Barry and Mark Clark are spearheading living shoreline restoration efforts, including the living shoreline volunteer days in Cedar Key. Living shorelines are built to dampen wave energy and increase sediment accumulation, but they can also create crucial habitat for fish, birds, and other animals who utilize the shoreline. In Daughtry Bayou, G Street and Airport Road are currently in the pre-construction phase of becoming a living shoreline. Volunteers are aiding NCBS staff with a wide range of restoration tasks during this phase. Keep reading below to learn more!
Oyster sill construction
One of the many activities volunteers participate in during the four-hour block of volunteering with the NCBS staff is oyster sill construction. First, volunteers assist staff by weighing out materials and cutting jute material, an environmentally friendly netting that is placed on the oyster sill. Then, the jute material is soaked in concrete and cast onto the triangular prism mold created by UF’s very own Dr. Mark Clark. After wrapping the triangular prism multiple times with the concrete soaked jute material, it is left covered with plastic for 1-2 hours to set up and harden. After the concrete has set, volunteers pull the concrete structure off the triangular prism mold and are left with an oyster sill that will be deployed as a part of the shoreline restoration. Once these oyster sills are deployed in the water, they will serve as a structure for oyster recruitment!
Another activity that volunteers, especially Master Gardeners, love to get involved with is marsh transplants! Volunteers are getting down and dirty in the marshes to help plant individual propagules of the marsh grass, Spartina alterniflora. Holes about 2 feet apart from each other are dug up and individual plugs were placed in the holes and re-buried into the often mushy peat-filled ground. Specifically, volunteers are planting grasses in areas that have been faced with large amounts of erosion due to development and natural processes along the shoreline. In only a few short hours, volunteers and staff have planted 1,897 plugs of marsh grasses! In a year or two, the outcome of these efforts will be a dense marsh of grasses along the shoreline! Volunteers, and staff, enjoyed “competing” with each other by making daily estimates of how many grasses were planted.
Volunteers also have the opportunity to get involved with oyster relays! Along the G Street and Airport Road living shoreline sites, there are several areas where sand fill and reef balls will be placed. Currently, these zones are covered in live oyster clumps. The job of volunteers is to relocate healthy oysters into adjacent zones to clear the way for sand and reef ball placement. With practically hundreds of oysters in the sector where volunteers must relocate them, at first it’s hard to fathom that you could even make a dent. However, volunteers with buckets of oysters are seen shuttling along the shoreline until the sector is free of oysters! The oysters are moving a short distance from where they were previously located, allowing them the opportunity to continue their remarkable water filtering abilities!
Here at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station we have the BEST volunteers! All of our volunteers come willing and equipped to get messy! Seasoned volunteers and even newbies aren’t afraid to get down in the mud and perform the range of restoration tasks on schedule for the day. You too can get involved with restoring the G street and Airport Road shorelines in Cedar Key. We have 3 more days of volunteer events Wednesday-Friday, March 10-12. We have also added on a new volunteer event for Sunday, March 15th. We are taking a maximum of 15 volunteers per day! More information can be found on the NCBS Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/846218515830874/. Additionally, volunteers must REGISTER at the volunteer signup page found here: https://volunteersignup.org/E4BYT. Come get involved with constructing living shorelines around Cedar Key!