Girl Scout Lea Bonner with CBF's Heather North.
Since my early childhood, I have had a passion for marine science and protecting our coastal ecosystems. My interest started with spending lots of time on the beaches, bays, and sounds in California, North Carolina, and Virginia. I enjoy swimming, sailing, and surfing and am concerned about how human activities are impacting our coastal systems.
For the past two years, I have participated in Marine Science summer education programs at the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute on the Outer Banks. When I discovered that currently there is no oyster collection program in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia, I decided to create one. My hope is to create a collection program that will help sustain the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay and educate restaurants on the importance of oyster restoration.
The Chesapeake's native oyster population plays a critical role in the Bay ecosystem. Oysters filter algae and pollution from the Bay waters. In fact, one adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day! But with pollution and overharvesting, the Bay's oyster population has been reduced to more than 90 percent of its historic level.
Through establishing a collection program for oyster shells in Chesapeake-area seafood restaurants, this project will assist in recycling shells to create oyster reefs to repopulate the Bay with healthy oysters. This project will also include an outreach and education program with restaurants and residents to support pollution prevention and sustainability of the Chesapeake's oyster population.
As a member of Girl Scout Troop 643, I rely on a sound foundation of science, community service, and written/verbal communications. Working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and local restaurants requires teamwork and development of partnerships. Through this project, I hope to gain knowledgeable insights in marine science, ecological science, and public engagement as well as valuable leadership skills.
Recently, I went to different restaurants around Chesapeake, asking them to participate in the collection program. I explained the details, including pick-up information and why I am doing the project. I showed the kitchen managers or owners the size and type of bucket we are using, and showed pictures of the oysters and collection centers. I gave them my contact information, brochures, and stickers, and answered any questions they had. I also showed them the list of restaurants that already participate in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Hampton. The restaurants that agreed included The Black Pelican, Surf Rider, Pirates Cove, Red Bones, Butcher's Son, and Kelly's Tavern. I plan to start collecting the oyster buckets from the restaurants very soon!
What does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your clean water story here!
UPDATE: I have been picking up oyster shells from various restaurants around Chesapeake, including Black Pelican, Surf Rider, Pirates Cove, Red Bones, Butcher's Son, Kelly's Tavern, and Wicker's Crab Pot. I take the buckets to my house, rinse the shells and buckets, and keep them in oyster baskets. Then, I take them to either the Ernie Morgan Environmental Center in Norfolk, Virginia, or the Norfolk Public Library. There, I empty the shells so they can later be taken to Gloucester Point, Virginia, and then back into the Bay!
On July 27, CBF's Virginia Oyster Restoration Specialist Heather North and I presented to Junior Naturalists attending a camp at The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. We talked to them about the importance of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, such as what they do and how they help the ecosystem. I explained my project to them and we both answered any questions they had. Then, they helped us by unloading baskets, creating oyster baskets, and filled the baskets.
On August 6, I did a presentation at CBF's Brock Environmental Center. After creating oyster nets, Heather North and I did a presentation on saving oyster shells, my project, and oyster gardening.