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Seagrass Restoration: Your Help Needed

The Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, along with several partners in the Seaside Heritage Seagrass Community Restoration Program, will soon begin the 2015 chapter of the largest seagrass restoration project in the world!  Will you help us advance this vital conservation work?

Eelgrass is a simple seagrass that once thrived in the coastal bays of Virginia. In 1933, an outbreak of disease and a major hurricane virtually wiped it out. The Seaside Seagrass Community Restoration Program has been conducting highly successful efforts to restore eelgrass in the nearby coastal bays since 1999. Click to learn more about the Virginia Seaside Heritage Program.

Over the past three years alone, 250 volunteers have contributed more than 1,200 hours collecting reproductive shoots containing ripe seeds from the underwater plants. The shoots were measured into water tanks, and the seeds were then cured, separated, and prepared for fall planting. 

To receive more information about the largest seagrass restoration in the world, please contact Jen Dalke, volunteer coordinator, at

Collection Dates

Collection dates for 2015 have not been finalized, but will tentatively fall between May 26 and June 6.  Dates are dependent on peak seed ripening and are subject to change. 

The schedule below is NOT the final collection schedule.  It is provided for reference only to show low tide and corresponding meeting times.

DateMeet at Oyster Boat RampLow TideTide Stage
5/267:30 am9:04 am0.6
5/278:30 am9:51 am0.6
5/289:00 am10:36 am0.5
5/2910:00 am11:21 am0.4
5/3010:30 am12:06 pm0.3
5/3111:15 am12:49 pm0.2
6/112:00 pm1:32 pm0.1
6/212:45 pm2:15 pm0.0
6/31:30 pm2:59 pm- 0.1
6/42:15 pm3:44 pm- 0.1
6/53:00 pm4:33 pm0.0
6/64:00 pm5:52 pm0.0
6/7No Volunteers  
6/8No Volunteers  


How You Can Help
  1. Volunteer! The actual collection schedule will be dependent on weather, as well as seed ripening. We try to collect a few days before peak ripening, during peak ripening and a few days after peak ripening, all of which can be difficult to predict.
  2. Training: View the video and photo slideshows found on this site to get an idea of what you’ll be doing. On-site training will be conducted at the beginning of each workday.
  3. Make a donation. Can't attend the event, but still want to help our seagrass restoration efforts and other projects at the Virginia Coast Reserve? Your monetary donation will make a difference. Donate online today to support Conservancy programs on the Eastern Shore.
  4. Contribute gear. Donate or lend us wetsuits and/or snorkeling equipment.
  5. Advertise. Email or call up your friends and share this page via social media.

More Information

Who: Volunteers. We’re looking for at least 100, preferably volunteers who have experience snorkeling, who are comfortable with being underwater, and/or who participated in past years. We can fit 10 people on our boat (see transportation section below) and can only take those who are actually collecting.

What: Collect seed-bearing reproductive shoots from underwater eelgrass plants. During low-tide collection, the water will be about waist deep. Trips will last from 5 to 6 hours.

When: Late May to Early June.  Note: weather and timing are variable, and trips may change on short notice. It is important that volunteers are flexible. For those who are inexperienced, we highly encourage you to sign up for at least two collection days.  The 2015 collection schedule is not yet available - look for dates to be set in early May.

CANCELLATION POLICY: It is important to note that volunteers need to be flexible, as collection trips may be canceled last minute because of weather, choppy water, wind, etc. A call in system has been set up for volunteers to check the status of the day's collection. It is the volunteer’s responsibility to determine if a collection date has been canceled. Call 757-607-6179 and listen to the message announcing the workday status. The latest we would cancel is 4 hours before collection, but typically we will make the go/no-go call by 9 p.m. No one will be answering the phone. Do not leave a message.

Where: In the seagrass meadows of South Bay off Oyster, Virginia, on the Eastern Shore. Volunteers will be leaving the dock in Oyster at varying times based on the tide.

Transportation: Volunteers board an open 24’ Carolina Skiff to get to the collection site. If it’s not too rough out, we can take as many as 10 volunteers on the boat, but we prefer only 8. On days with more than 10 volunteers, we have to find a second boat and captain which is usually a 24’ Privateer holding about 8 volunteers.
Lodging: If you need overnight accommodations please contact one of the following local businesses.

Gear: You need a face mask, snorkel and towel(s).  If you have a wetsuit and hood, please bring it. Water temperatures are typically 70 degrees F.  We will have some wetsuits, face masks and snorkels available, but you will possibly have to share and sizes vary.

What Next? If you are interested in signing up to receive more information about the largest seagrass restoration in the world, please contact Jen Dalke, volunteer coordinator, at 434-951-0572 or


Thank you to our partners for making this event possible.

Hampton Roads Community Foundation William and Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research
Norfolk Southern Foundation

US Army Corps of Engineers

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration          Virginia Marine Resources Commission
The Campbell Foundation Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper
The Volgenau Foundation  



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