Don’t forget: National Estuary Day Celebration

The University of Central Florida will honor coastal areas such as estuaries and lagoons during a National Estuary Day Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Events will be held nationwide that day to educate people of all ages about these important ecosystems and what can be done to protect them.

National Estuary Day will be celebrated at UCF from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the main campus’ Biology Field and Research Center. Festivities will include pre-K book readings by local authors, science displays and arts and crafts.

The event will be led by UCF’s Biology Department and Arboretum, which have joined forces with the Canaveral National Seashore and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. The entities are working together to protect the Indian River Lagoon on the East Coast of Florida.

The many threats to the lagoon include pollution from storm water runoff, habitat loss and the invasion of exotic species.

Linda Walters, a UCF biology professor, knows firsthand how education and volunteers can help preserve local estuaries through her many years of work with the lagoon.

One of her most recent efforts included the conservation of Turtle Mound, a Native American Shell Mound in New Smyrna Beach that provides valuable historical and archeological evidence about life dating back to 800.

Walters and her team spent two days in June installing oyster beds and native vegetation around Turtle Mound to diminish erosion from winds and boat wakes. During the celebration of National Estuary Day, volunteers will create up to 250 oyster restoration mats and plant 500 mangrove and marsh grass shoots in pots. The mats and plantings will be sent to the lagoon in spring 2012.

There are many opportunities on campus for students and community volunteers to be involved in conservation efforts year round. The volunteer program at the Arboretum is ongoing, and interested volunteers can visit http://www.arboretum.ucf.edu for more information.

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