Morgan Bakinowski

Mangrove Project – Morgan Bakinowski ’19

Morgan Bakinowski ’19 developed and implemented a mangrove restoration project in her home community recently that involved (in true UWC fashion) education for local students, volunteerism for community members, and support from local businesses and schools. Morgan supplied UWC-USA with the following report of her work:

Mangrove Project: Indian River Lagoon

From humble beginnings at Alphabet Farms Preschool in Palm City, a large crop of red mangrove seedlings has been successfully transplanted into the Indian River Lagoon. After learning about mangrove ecosystems, environmental sustainability, and recycling, the kids at Alphabet Farms (ages 4 to 6) planted over 100 propagules last August in reused plastic milk jugs. With hard work, and the lives of the thousands of perishing fish and birds of the lagoon in mind, 100% of the initial crop survived. Even in preschool, a place many consider “square one” in education, Martin County is perpetuating a future generation of environmentally-aware leaders.

The transplant, carried out with the help of the Environmental Study Center’s Camp W.E.T, was also a huge success. 5th grade campers took to the river aboard the “River Scout” and dug holes for nearly 60 red mangrove seedlings. Focusing on the habitats these plants create, the kids learned about the enormous range of estuary creatures that depend on mangroves. They also focused on mangrove roots as areas for barnacle beds to grow and develop. While the sprawling roots help eliminate floating debris, barnacles filter the water further, fine-tuning water quality and combating the detrimental effects of the Lake Okeechobee discharges. With a record-breaking summer of rains and releases, the pressing threat of blue-green algae on biodiversity is becoming more and more apparent. Rather than waiting around for the day they could no longer swim in the lagoon or see the dolphins playing by the sandbar, these kids helped take a stand in the sand.

The other 50 mangrove seedlings were donated to the Florida Oceanographic Center to be used for research and coastline rehabilitation. In a groundbreaking new project the FOC has launched, the mangroves will be transplanted in the middle of artificial oyster beds. By layering bags of empty oyster shells collected from local restaurants and bars, the shell formations will provide a place for new oysters to cling to. Adorned with a mangrove seedling in the middle, the roots will grow around the formation, ensuring that changing tides and intensifying storms won’t impact the shoreline and suck up the sand. Think of it as a less dramatic, environmentally integrated sea wall, but without the negative implications of ecosystem disruption. These structured aids are helping to rehabilitate the estuary, creating more space for wildlife and safer, more biodiverse coasts for us all to enjoy.

None of this would have been made possible if not for the support of this community. From wood and soil donated by our local HomeDepot and Pinder’s nursery, to milk jugs and plastic containers divided from neighbors’ recycling bins, this has truly been an uplifting example of a community coming together on multiple levels in order to face and deal with a pressing environmental problem. I hope people will see this project as an illustration of a new, mobilized, youth-based force of citizens we are all witnessing take action in Martin County. I want to be a part of a generation that cares about how our decisions impact the environment. After all, beyond just the health of our waterways, it’s our futures we’re protecting. Moving forward from the success of this year’s crop, the plan is to double the seedlings for next year. I can’t wait to collaborate with these schools and organizations again in order to have twice the positive impact.”

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