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  • Our eelgrass workday begins with an early-morning boat ride from Oyster, Virginia, to a barge anchored in South Bay. The Conservancy’s Bo Lusk provides a brief orientation before we hit the water. © Mark Godfrey/TNC
  • Lusk dives down for a handful of eelgrass and separates the seed-bearing reproductive shoots. For about 10 days in late spring, the shoots are in the prime stage for seed collection. © Daniel White/TNC
  • Professor Robert ‘JJ’ Orth (in white cap) and his team from VIMS use the barge to prepare for their day’s work, while the Conservancy’s Kate Hibbard hits the water and concentrates on collecting her first bag of eelgrass shoots. © Daniel White/TNC
  • Volunteers spread out across the shallow bay toward Wreck Island, a state-owned natural area preserve. Wreck lies between the Conservancy’s Ship Shoal and Cobb islands in the chain of protected barrier islands off the Eastern Shore. © Daniel White/TNC
  • How do volunteers collect up to 10 million eelgrass seeds during a roughly 10-day window? A handful at a time. © Mark Godfrey/TNC
  • From tiny shrimp-like amphipods to sea turtles, eelgrass meadows provide food and shelter for an intricate web of marine life. Here, a hermit crab scuttles across a horseshoe crab shell. © Bo Lusk/TNC
  • While snorkeling, volunteers encounter a variety of sea snails and shellfish, including knobbed whelks, clams and the occasional bay scallop. © Mark Godfrey/TNC
  • A little off the top, please: Scott Marion and Martin Wunderly of VIMS collect eelgrass trimmings with a boat-mounted mower. The process is similar to mowing a lawn, and the eelgrass will soon grow back. © Daniel White/TNC
  • As the tide falls, most volunteers switch from snorkeling to wading. © Daniel White/TNC
  • ‘Hey JJ, you missed a seed!’ Dr. Orth responds with a dive and surfaces clutching the day’s last eelgrass shoot. © Daniel White/TNC
  • We load up the day’s haul of eelgrass for transport back to the Conservancy’s holding tanks at Oyster or the twin facility at VIMS. The seeds will be extracted, stored in sea water until fall and then sown back into the seaside bays. © Daniel White/TNC
  • VIMS and the Conservancy have broadcast upwards of 23 million seeds, accelerating the natural spread of eelgrass across more than 2,400 acres in four bays — the largest, most successful seagrass restoration project in the world. © Daniel White/TNC
Virginia
A Day in the Life of a Seagrass Volunteer

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