St. Johns County 4-H Marine Ecology Club reported to Historic City News that member Nick Wiswedel is leading a community service learning project aimed at determining the best foundation for growing Spartina in an artificial environment.
Using hydroponics to grow Spartina plugs at the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, Wiswedel says the club hopes to learn the most efficient substrate for growing the grass that is useful in restoring shorelines damaged by erosion.
“The 4-H Marine Ecology Club continues to be one of the reserve’s favorite success stories,” said Michael Shirley, director of the GTM Research Reserve. “The hard work and dedication of the teams and volunteers who work with them is truly impressive.”
The club received an Aquatic and Marine Education and Conservation mini-grant through the University of Florida 4-H Youth Development Program which goes towards the cost of the research. The $300 mini-grant is funded by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. These mini-grants benefit 4-H club youth, local communities and the environment, according to an announcement from the program.
In studying local shoreline erosion, the club decided this short-term project could have the greatest impact. The Spartina grass is a natural deterrent to erosion. Finding efficient ways to grow Spartina in artificial environments will help make the grass more available to meet demand. Wiswedel says the club plans to share their findings with other coastal communities who face the same issues.