Celebrating Our Estuaries
Seong Cho, center, and students for the the environmental studies program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington pitched in to fill bags with oyster shells.
Mike Giles of the federation staff work a Bob Cat to fill tubes with oyster shells.
For National Estuaries Day, two of my enviro-friends and I got into my car to drive up from Wilmington to the Coastal Federation’s Morris Landing Clean Water Preserve in Holly Ridge. We prepared ourselves with the proper footwear and bug spray, and we were ready to bag some oyster shells. We, along with 68 other volunteers, enjoyed listening to the mayor pro tem of Holly Ridge tell us how much he appreciated us coming out to help preserve the estuary. It was a wonderful feeling to know we were about to participate in something that was going to make a big impact in the town.
Soon, we were all watching the Bobcat fill the racks of bags, and we got to work. We had a great system going and everyone had a job: putting the bags on the PVC pipes, putting the pipes in the racks, hauling out the filled bags and cinching them off. The staff members of Gahagan & Bryant Associates, a coastal engineering firm, were a huge help with the heavy bags.
My graduate advisor was there along with his class of freshmen from the environmental studies program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. The class, called Green Wave is part of the program’s Cornerstone Learning Community. They had the best system of all of us. They created an assembly line of workers and had a great time doing it. Every time I looked over they were singing a song or laughing about something, and they never skipped a beat in the process. We bagged for two hours, even though it did not feel that long at all. The total came to 1,200 bags of oyster shells and marl. It was definitely a sight to see, and I think everyone felt like they had accomplished something great.
After a well-deserved break, my friends and I started planting some Spartina alterniflora seedlings along the shoreline of Stump Sound to help restore salt marsh habitat. With half of the volunteers on deck for this, we had planted 300 seedlings in less than an hour. The other half of the volunteers were picking up trash and pulling seine nets. The volunteers got to see some of the crabs, fish and shrimp that depend on oyster reefs and salt marshes for habitat. At the end of the day, all of the volunteers joined together for a big group picture, and then we said our farewells.
The 2012 National Estuaries Day taught me that when a community comes together, you can make great strides in conservation. In just a few short hours, we were able to achieve so much. I cannot wait to see the true fruits of our labor when all of those oyster shell and marl bags are in place in the sound. This day will stay with me for many years to come, and I hope that I will be able to celebrate many more of them.
-- Elizabeth Lange, intern, graduate student in the UNCW environmental studies master’s program