On Saturday, May 12, nearly 25 volunteers from the UCF Alumni Association’s Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter and Space Coast Alumni Chapter, along with UCF undergraduate and graduate students, joined on an oyster restoration project at Canaveral National Seashore in Volusia County. The project was in conjunction with the Brevard Zoo and The Nature Conservancy’s ongoing efforts to help restore oyster reefs in both the Indian River Lagoon and Canaveral National Seashore ecosystems.
UCF Professor Linda Walters started the Oyster Reef Restoration Project in 2005. The oyster mats, constructed from mesh and oyster shells, are placed in the water to provide a natural substrate for oyster larvae to settle. Each mat is made up of 36 oyster shells recycled from local restaurants, hand drilled and attached with zip ties. The mats are then transported to each location where they are attached to each other, forming a large quilt-like structure where the new oysters settle and grow. Volunteers worked on the project’s 51st reef, which has been named “UKnighted.”
Research has shown that the oyster mat restoration technique is very successful. After one year in the water, more than 75 new oysters can settle on each mat. Once the oyster population becomes stabilized, it will equate to cleaner, clearer and less eroded estuaries that will help sustain an abundance of habitats for approximately 149 species.
This project is heavily based on community support. It relies on volunteers to help construct the mats and even more to help place them in the lagoons. To date, more than 28,000 mats have been constructed thanks to the help of more than 25,000 volunteers.