Virginia

Seagrass Restoration: Your Help Needed

The Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), along with several partners in the Seaside Heritage Seagrass Community Restoration Program, will soon begin the 2017 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.

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. 

VIMS and The Nature Conservancy have broadcast more than 70 million seeds to help accelerate the natural spread of eelgrass, which now covers almost 6,200 acres in South, Spider Crab, Hog Island and Cobb Island bays.

To receive more information about the largest seagrass restoration in the world, please contact Jen Dalke, volunteer coordinator, at jdalke@tnc.org.


Seed collection for 2017 will begin on Monday, May 22 at 10 a.m. See below for additional dates and times.  It is very important to show up if you sign up so that we can plan transportation and logistics appropriately.  Trips will last from 5-6 hours.  If you have not collected before, we highly encourage you to sign up for at least two collection days.

CANCELLATION POLICY: It is important to note that volunteers need to be flexible, as collection trips may be cancelled last minute due to conditions: choppy water, wind, etc. It is the volunteer’s responsibility to determine if a collection date has been cancelled.

We will send you an email if the workday is cancelled.  If you would prefer to have a phone call or text, please contact Jen Dalke at jdalke@tnc.org or 540-335-1302.

2017 Collection Schedule (all times are meeting at the Oyster Boat Ramp)

  • Monday 5/22 collection at 10 a.m.
    • will email, if cancelled, by 9 p.m. on the 21st
  • Tuesday, 5/23 collection at 10:30 a.m.
    • will email, if cancelled, by 9 p.m. on the 22nd
  • Wednesday, 5/24 collection at 11:30 a.m.
    • will email, if cancelled, by 9 p.m. on the 23rd
  • Thur, 5/25 collection at 12:30 p.m.
    • will email, if cancelled, by 8 a.m. on the 25th
  • Fri, 5/26 collection at 1 p.m.
    • will email, if cancelled by 8 a.m. on the 26th

The Nature Conservancy is not responsible for any lodging, equipment or travel costs incurred if a collection date is cancelled.

Gear

You need a face mask, snorkel, towel(s), swim suit, snacks/water and sunscreen. If you have a wetsuit, please bring it. We have 10 wetsuits in various sizes from men’s S-XXL, but choice tends to run to the smaller sizes. 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.

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.
 
For additional information or to sign up, call or email Jen Dalke, volunteer program manager, at jdalke@tnc.org or 434-951-0572 (w) or 540-335-1302 (c).


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. 

CANCELLATION POLICY: It is important to note that volunteers need to be flexible, as collection trips may be cancelled last minute due to conditions: choppy water, wind, etc. It is the volunteer’s responsibility to determine if a collection date has been cancelled. We will send you an email if the workday is cancelled.  If you would prefer to have a phone call or text, please contact Jen Dalke at jdalke@tnc.org or 540-335-1302. The Nature Conservancy is not responsible for any lodging, equipment or travel costs incurred if a collection date is cancelled.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 jdalke@tnc.org.


Partners

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  

 

 

GET TEXT UPDATES*