Grumman volunteers award Friends of the GTM Reserve

Volunteer Coordinator Shannon Rininger informed local Historic City News reporters that the 2017 Northrop Grumman “Excellence in Volunteerism” award program is making a $5,000 grant to the Friends of the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas Research Reserve.

This award is part of a program recognizing Northrop Grumman employees who have demonstrated a dedication to volunteerism at nonprofit organizations or to educational outreach. The recipient’s chosen organization receives the grant.

“Because of the Northrop Grumman volunteers, the GTM Research Reserve can build more oyster restoration projects, and with more projects, we will have more data regarding their effectiveness,” said Dr. Michael Shirley, director of the Research Reserve.

Northrop Grumman’s environmental initiative, called GreeNG, is an internal program that connects employees to community volunteer opportunities and allows them to log their volunteer hours.

“A gabion is a wire basket used for restoration and enhancement projects such as oyster reef building,” Dr. Shirley told Historic City News. “In March 2017, the Northrop Grumman volunteers led a gabion build at the Research Reserve. Volunteers cut, molded, clipped and filled gabions with hundreds of pounds of recycled shell.”

As they learned about the science of experimental gabions, the Grumman volunteers began offering suggestions and devised a better way to build gabions using their FabLab, a fabrication laboratory with 3D printers and laser cutters. Working with 375 yards of wire provided by the Reserve, they built 200-plus gabions in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken.

A month later, volunteers participated in a shoreline restoration project; loading and unloading tons of recycled shell as well as planting seagrasses, installing signage and building oyster habitat. Additionally, for Earth Day, GreeNG organized a program for their fellow employees about the importance of the estuarine ecosystem and their oyster project.

“What’s incredible is how proactive they are in reaching out to us about how they can help,” said Ellen Leroy-Reed, executive director of Friends of the GTM Reserve. “It is not unusual to receive a call from someone on the GreeNG team asking how a reef is coming along or that they have an idea on how to improve a gabion’s construction to make it more effective.”

Friends of the Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas Research Reserve support the Reserve and Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserve’s “Oyster Recycling and Restoration” program by providing needed materials, equipment, transportation and supplies.

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