A Day in the Life of a Seagrass Volunteer

Our eelgrass workday begins with an early-morning boat ride from Oyster, Virginia. 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

The team from VIMS uses a barge anchored in South Bay to prepare for their day’s work. 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. © 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

Scott Marion and Martin Wunderly of VIMS collect eelgrass trimmings with a boat-mounted mower. The process is similar to mowing a lawn; 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!’ VIMS Dr. JJ Orth responds with a dive and surfaces clutching the day’s last eelgrass shoot. © Daniel White/TNC

We load up the day’s haul for transport back to holding tanks. 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 30 million seeds across more than 4,700 acres in four bays — the largest, most successful seagrass restoration project in the world. © Daniel White/TNC

Read more about our work at the Virginia Coast Reserve in Nature Conservancy magazine.


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