Presentation on theme: "School children are always eager to learn about their environment and excited when they are allowed to participate. By demonstrating the importance of."— Presentation transcript:
School children are always eager to learn about their environment and excited when they are allowed to participate. By demonstrating the importance of a healthy ecosystem to children at a young age, we have the potential to create life-long stewards of the environment. Recently a student who was first reached in the 7 th grade returned as a college senior, majoring in an environmental field. Using a community restoration program to increase public awareness of shellfish resource issues Holly Dyar 1, Nancy Hadley 1, Michael Hodges 1, Allison Kreutzer 1 1-SCDNR The South Carolina Oyster restoration and Enhancement (SCORE) Program is primarily a community-based oyster restoration program. We strive to engage volunteers of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities with the objective of increasing awareness of environmental issues and inspiring further stewardship. By allowing volunteers to get their hands dirty (literally and figuratively!) building oyster reefs we encourage them to get involved in and give back to the environment around them. As we’ve grown as a program, however, we’ve learned that there are a variety of educational and interactive tools that we can use to get people invested in their environment. This poster will identify many of the activities we’ve found most effective and how we use those activities to engage volunteers while simultaneously helping us restore valuable habitat. Program Goal Outreach Events Diversity on the reef Fish Sampling Growth of SCORE Volunteers can be a free resource and, in general, are excited to get involved in science projects. As scientists and managers we can take advantage of that excitement and harness the power of a strong volunteer base to increase our impact on the environment. Preaching the oyster message As a community restoration program one of our main challenges is continuing to expand our volunteer base. We employ a variety of tools to recruit new volunteers while making sure to keep previous volunteers interested and active. Website Water quality monitoring: a long term investment Our water quality monitoring program provides volunteers an opportunity to get involved in a long-term project. They monitor basic water quality parameters near our SCORE oyster reefs on a bi-weekly basis. They then enter the data on our website where they can track the water quality at their site or around the state. Oysters in schools Oyster Reefs in Action Our website allows people from around the state, or even the country, to access information on oyster biology, our program, tools and links for teachers, and even pictures of our events and oyster reefs. For us, the website allows us a quick and easy way to stay in touch with volunteers without bombarding them with emails. We can post events and volunteer opportunities so everyone has a chance to get involved. This activity provides a great opportunity for volunteers of all ages to learn about the importance of good water quality for healthy oysters and a healthy ecosystem, as well as, the effect that oysters can have in improving the water quality of an area. The SCORE program benefits from this program in two ways. First, volunteers remain engaged year-round making them more likely to participate in our other restoration events. Second, the data generated from this program can help us identify the reason certain reefs are thriving or struggling, and therefore help us improve site selection in the future. This mural created by Fort Johnson Middle School (right) hangs at the Caw Caw Interpretive Center where it is seen by school groups from all over the county. Partnerships This interactive display at the Sewee Environmental Center in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge was created by art classes from Cario Middle School. Facts about reef inhabitants delivered in the voices of the middle school students capture the attention of adults and children alike. We have developed a classroom activity which allows students to see firsthand the diversity of invertebrates and fish that inhabit an oyster reef. This activity can be altered to be appropriate for all grade levels. This provides a unique opportunity for students to get out in the field and learn about the species diversity on an oyster reef. Using seine and gill nets students sample oyster reefs and bare shoreline to understand the habitat value of oyster reefs. This exercise can also be a valuable lesson in data collection and analysis. A collaborative art program with local schools encouraged students to learn more about oyster reefs and their inhabitants. This project resulted in the creation of two large murals which now hang in local environmental centers. Partnering with schools and existing environmental centers allows us to reach broader audiences. Career/Volunteer Fairs, Community Meetings, and Educational Events provide an opportunity for the community to talk individually to biologists and ask questions or voice their concerns The program is exposed via brochures, posters, presentations, and promotional items to increase overall awareness The heart of our project is still bagging shell and building reefs. Some volunteers go a step further and participate in the recycling of shell. These dedicated stewards work each week with restaurants and caterers to keep shell out of the landfills, and help make sure we have the shell we need to build our reefs. In spite of its strenuous nature, volunteers love to get their hands dirty building reefs when they realize the ecological impact of their efforts. Every field activity is an opportunity to expose the public to information on shell recycling, habitat restoration, and the benefits of oysters. By physically engaging volunteers in these restoration activities we hope to reconnect them to the environment and inspire lifelong environmental stewardship. The continuous growth of our volunteer base has allowed us to increase our restoration efforts and therefore our positive impact on the South Carolina ecosystem.