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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Savannah, Georgia, USA

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Savannah, Georgia, USA
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ATB522



Registered: November 2006
Posts: 25
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All Waterways Lead to the Ocean


As an avid fisherman, boater, and water sportsman, I care deeply about the health of the worlds’ waterways. Having assisted Clean Coast of Savannah on many river accessible beach cleanups, I’ve seen first hand the overwhelming amount of trash that lines the shores of coastal Georgia. The trash is smothering our marshes, hurting our wildlife, and bits of plastic are being swallowed by marine life.
An Apprentice Ecologist project on behalf of the NIcodemus Wilderness Project inspired me to host an event that would contribute to ocean relief on a global level while also offering my community, especially youth, a local conservation project to participate in. I decided to partner with Ocean Conservancy out of Washington DC because they study science based solutions for a healthy ocean and partner with citizen advocates to champion for ocean and wildlife protection. They also host the world’s largest international coastal cleanup each year in September. Data is sent in on all the trash removed and this data is used to track which items are found most often and where. By keeping an ocean trash index, Ocean Conservancy can change the way businesses package and ship products to keep the environment safer and cleaner. For example, half a million plastic straws were collected last year; straws endanger sea turtles, birds, and fish because they mistake them for food Ocean conservancy is reaching out with its sustainability directors to get national restaurant chains to “skip the straws”.
My project contributed on a global level because each of the 50 volunteers had an Ocean Conservancy collection site form and a trash index form downloaded from my website. Volunteer teams were able to choose the clean up sites they wanted to go to. Trash was collected on Tybee Island, Wassau Island, Herb River marshes, Skidaway River marshes, Little Tybee Island, Salt Pond, Cabbage Island, Hilton Head Island, and Dufuskie Island. The collection site was recorded in detail, as was each individual piece of trash collected. This information was tallied and returned back to the conservancy where it was entered into their trash index data bank.
The biggest hurdle I faced was promoting my event. I titled it “All Waterways Lead to the Ocean” and had signs printed and displayed them around my community. I also posted information and downloadable registration forms on our community Facebook and Nextdoor websites. My event was promoted on a local blog site. I contacted Savannah Riverkeepers, a division of Waterkeeper Alliance a global non-profit organization, to see if they would support my endeavor. They were hosting a clean up event that same day so we promoted our projects together.
Early on, I contacted a local sanitation company to help us with trash disposal. I also solicited local grocery and hardware stores for donations of trash bags, gloves, food and drinks. To thank all of the volunteers for their hard work, I organized an afterparty at the community pool that evening with dinner and a local band that donated their talent for the event.
The most memorable part of the cleanup was hearing the volunteers say the morning of the cleanup, ”Oh we’ll be back early, there isn’t much trash out there”. The same people were stunned 8 hours later sharing photos of the trash we all collected; a partial hull of a boat, a huge tangled mass of black piping, 6 tires, 5 crab traps, a gas tank, a kitchen sink, almost 50 bags of trash, miles of rope, and even a $20 bill. It both wowed and sadden us all. I was amazed at the determination of the volunteers. Some came in kayaks and two even came on paddle boards. They brought in a tire, a bag of trash, and a minnow trap-talk about balance! I even had volunteers on beach vacations over 100 miles away who participated by emailing me their forms!
Planning your own beach cleanup is much more labor intensive and time consuming than just showing up to volunteer at one, but it taught me a great deal. I learned organization skills, time management, and how to step outside my comfort zone. I had to prioritize, foresee change, and be prepared for possibilities such as inclement weather or injuries. I was touched by the outpouring of support for my project; how so many families wanted to do it together to get their kids involved. The person who wrote about my project on the Savannah blog site asked me to make the beach cleanup an annual event and told me she had sponsors interested in funding to make sure it happened.
I have gone on to get recycling canisters at our community boat ramp and am currently working on building and maintaining a monofilament recycling location at my local dock. Abandoned fishing gear poses a huge hazard for marine animals. It is known as “ghost fishing” and leads to entanglement and capture of animals that come into contact with discarded fishing lines. My advice to young people is to get involved because these resources are our future. We need to protect them and the ecosystems they serve. Ocean trash affects wildlife, tourism, fisheries, boaters, and swimmers.. I am hoping to raise awareness for my generation about how trash free seas fosters healthy ocean habitats which in turn means more jobs in industries such as fishing, tourism, drilling, and farming.
I began picking up trash in the marsh around my home with my family as soon as I could walk and I guess it’s in my soul. I just can’t pass it by. Fox News came out and reported on my project and incorporated a segment on Clean Coast so the public could do monthly beach cleanups. I think I said it best when they asked me why I chose to do this project,” Because going out on the ocean is a privilege and you should leave it better than you came.”
· Date: November 20, 2016 · Views: 537 · File size: 17.0kb, 113.7kb · Dimensions: 640 x 480 ·
Hours Volunteered: 400
Volunteers: 50
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 100
Trash Removed/Recycled from Environment (kg): 100
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