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Eelgrass Seed Collection


A smiling man in a wetsuit, mask and snorkel stands in waist deep blue water and holds up eelgrass shoots.
Restoration Success Volunteer Al McKegg collects eelgrass shoots in South Bay, Eastern Shore of Virginia. © Alex Novak/The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy, along with partners in the Seaside Seagrass Community Restoration Program, is once again gearing up for the largest seagrass restoration project in the world!

We are looking for local (preferred) volunteer snorkelers and water lovers to collect millions of eelgrass seeds offshore of Oyster on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Details for Covid safe collecting are in progress—we will likely be able to take 8 volunteers divided between 2 TNC boats each day. We will not be providing masks and snorkels this year; volunteers will need to bring their own along with wetsuits.

Volunteers that can safely use their own boats and are familiar with navigating the area would be appreciated and allow more room for other volunteers on TNC boats.

The 2021 schedule is not yet available. Look for the schedule to be available in early May—volunteers must sign up to get updates as the event is very weather dependent.

To get on the list to receive more information as it becomes available, call or email Jen Dalke, volunteer program manager, at or 540-335-1302 (cell). Volunteers must read and sign our COVID field guidelines and health screening questions. Guidelines include having a mask readily accessible if working less than 6' apart, bringing hand sanitizer and confirming you have health insurance.

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.

Each spring since 2008, 30 to 40 volunteers have signed on to boost the now decade-long partnership. Volunteers collect reproductive shoots containing ripe seeds from the underwater plants. The shoots are measured into water tanks where the seeds are then cured, separated, and prepared for fall planting.


GEAR: You need a wetsuit, face mask, snorkel, towel(s), swim suit (wear on the boat), snacks/water and sunscreen. The water temperature will be around 65-70 degrees F. You may also prefer some type of water shoe or hood. You are responsible for your personal gear. 70 degrees sounds warm, but after an hour you will get chilly. Dress in layers.

TRAVELING: The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has toll charges. Visit the CBBT website for pricing and trip information.  

TRAINING: There will be on-site training each collection day. Volunteers will be trained on how to identify the reproductive shoots of the eelgrass plant and how to collect and bag them along with other related educational information.