This summer, Georgia 4-H is recruiting an army of oysters to help ensure the future of the organization's coastal environmental education center.
Georgia 4-H, which is part of University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, is working with UGA Marine Extension to encourage new oyster beds along the marshy shoreline at Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island.
In early April, dozens of volunteers spent a Saturday morning filling bags with oyster shells. These bagged shells will be placed along the shoreline to create a new habitat for wild oysters and to spur the creation of new oyster reefs along the marsh's edge.
This new living shoreline, built from six truckloads of oyster shells along about 500 feet of marsh front, should resist erosion, create and improve the wildlife habitat, improve water quality and help mitigate sea level rise.
"A couple of years ago, we realized that the Horse Pen Creek was encroaching on most of the buildings at Burton 4-H Center," said Arch Smith, director of Georgia 4-H. "We began working with engineers to develop a solution to reduce the erosion of the creek bank and settled upon a solution that adds an educational component as well."
Building the living shoreline will provide an opportunity for 4-H environmental education program instructors to use it as a teaching tool for the 8,000 students who visit Burton 4-H Center annually to study coastal habitats and issues. Burton 4-H Center is one of five facilities operated by Georgia 4-H that provides environmental education programs.