Volunteer Al McKegg collects eelgrass shoots in South Bay, Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Restoration Success Volunteer Al McKegg collects eelgrass shoots in South Bay, Eastern Shore of Virginia. © Alex Novak/The Nature Conservancy

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Eelgrass Seed Collection

Virginia

The Nature Conservancy and partners in the Seaside Seagrass Community Restoration Program are once again gearing up for the largest seagrass restoration project in the world!

Volunteer snorkelers are needed to collect millions of eelgrass seeds offshore of Oyster, VA on the Eastern Shore. The water has just started warming up and the eelgrass shoots appear to be developing right on schedule!

Spots for this year's eelgrass collection are filling up fast! Our greatest need for volunteers is on Monday, June 3, Tuesday, June 4, and Wednesday, June 5.

To sign up, please contact Jennifer Dalke, volunteer program manager, at jdalke@tnc.org or call 434-951-0572 (w) or 540-335-1302 (c).

Collection Schedule

Volunteers meet and depart from the Oyster Boat Ramp. Trips typically last 4-5 hours. Dates with a strikethrough are full and taking waitlist volunteers only.

  • Tue, May 28—8:30 AM
  • Wed, May 29—9:15 AM
  • Thur, May 30—9:30 AM 
  • Fri, May 31—10:45 AM
  • Sat, June 1—11:30 AM
  • Sun, June 2—12 PM
  • Mon, June 3—1 PM
  • Tue, June 4—1:45 PM
  • Wed, June 5—2 PM

The collection schedule is dependent on weather, as well as seed ripening. 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. 

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.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

GEAR: You need a face mask, snorkel, towel(s), swim suit (wear on the boat), snacks/water and sunscreen. If you have a wetsuit, please bring it. We have around 16 wetsuits in various sizes from men’s S-XXL and sizes are skewed to more smaller ones. Most of the wetsuits are 3/2mm which is lightweight. If you have a wetsuit hood, bring it as you may get cold. You may need to share wetsuits if you don’t have one. Face masks and snorkels are also available on a limited basis. The water temperature will be around 65-70 degrees F. You may also prefer some type of water shoe. 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.

Join Us

Learn more about our seagrass restoration efforts and what to expect during the volunteer collection days.