Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Conway River Park, Conway, South Carolina, USA

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Conway River Park, Conway, South Carolina, USA
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Sydann600



Registered: December 2021
City/Town/Province: Glen Burnie
Posts: 2
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There is a quote hanging on the wall in my room that says "Be the change you wish to see in the world" by Ghandi. In the background, the sloped mountains overlook where the energetic sea meets the steep cliffside. The combination of the picture and quote represents what type of life I would like to live. There needs to be more people that will speak for the environment and will lead by example. So, where do we start? The simplest, yet possibly hardest, step is to start in your own life and lead by making sustainable decisions day by day. I have learned from classes and internships that we need to foster the connection between people and nature. If that connection is created, then society will start to become greener. We can aid in making this connection by sharing our own experiences and knowledge with people.
For example, the outdoors have been a part of my life from a young age. First, by living in Central New York, two hours from the Adirondack Park; then, by living on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. My interest in conservation started when hiking with my family. From competing in my first orienteering competition when I was five years old, to summitting multiple high peaks in aspiration of becoming an Adirondack 46er, I have always been drawn to the outdoors. My grandparents furthered my interest in the environment by planting a 1500 black-walnut orchard where we weeded and trimmed trees year after year. My interest in marine conservation started when I moved to Maryland and took a one-semester Marine Science class in high school. Immediately, I was in awe of the vast marine life hundreds of meters deep when learning about hydrothermal vents, and of the microscopic organisms that synthesize more oxygen than trees. However, the fact that piqued my interest is that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the depths of our oceans. I have since gone to Coastal Carolina University to study Marine Science and Biology. Using the knowledge that I have gained, I have interned with Guest Relations and Education at the National Aquarium and have become one of the first people to study artificial reefs off the coast of Myrtle Beach. We hope that understanding these complex ecosystems will aid in managing these systems efficiently.
The intertidal area, particularly along the beach or marsh, are high-energy systems that are heightened areas of change due to their beauty. One ecosystem service that they provide is acting as a water filter. Large particulates and granules are trapped in the sediment leaving clean water to enter the water table. However, in the last handful of decades, these areas have frequently become littered with anthropogenic trash. From cigarette stubs to tires and plastic cups, many items can be found along these low-lying areas. In order to lessen the amount of trash going back into the ocean or ending up in the system of many types of organisms, I organized monthly clean-ups for my residents ranging from September 2020 to May 2021 on behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project.
Last academic year, I was the Resident Advisor (RA) for Seafloor at Coastal Carolina University. In 2020, the Seafloor was comprised of 48 students that were studying marine science. The premise is for Seafloor to have extra programs and activities that relate to the major and expand their knowledge. One program that my residents loved to participate in was going to beach or marsh clean-ups. In Fall 2020 we organized three clean-ups and in spring of this year we had four clean-ups. Most were focused along the beach ranging from downtown Myrtle Beach to Garden City. Two were completed along marsh systems in Conway at the Conway River Park and Conway River Walk. Typically, we would have a dozen students show up for the event as it was volunteer-based and we would split into groups to cover more area. I would provide small plastic bags from a grocery store instead of garbage bags to reduce unnecessary waste. We would document any trash gathered in the Ocean Conservancy's Clean Swell App. As a group, we picked up 30 to 40 pounds of trash at each event. During our March beach cleanup at downtown Myrtle Beach, we partnered with Coastal Carolina's Shark Club. They brought recycled gallon buckets with them to place trash in instead of using plastic bags. After discussion with some residents, we decided to obtain gallon buckets and paint them as a community for Seafloor to use this year and for years to come. We painted our buckets in April and used them for our last clean-up of the semester in May.
Many of the ideas that were used for these clean-ups, including the use of the Clean Swell App and recycled materials, came from an earlier project during quarantine in the summer of 2020 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS3CZIN8I0g&t=4s). I was back in Maryland at this point and my father and I were having a typical discussion about pollution in the environment. We decided that we could not change big-item issues but could have an impact by picking up trash along the waterfront in our community. What started as a one-day outing turned into 55 days where we covered 3000 feet of intertidal area and collected 1664 pounds of trash. If two people working about two hours a day can have this type of impact, imagine if we had more people, even if it was one more! Talking to other people about your interests and thoughts can formulate bigger events and impacts than one can begin to imagine. While 1664 pounds of trash is a large number and some may focus on big-ticket trash, we did not stop picking up the numerous bottle caps and confetti along the way. It is similar to those around us and the actions we take. We can have a large impact even by doing the smallest of actions like turning the faucet off when we brush our teeth or eating one meatless meal a week. If we live what we believe and set the example, we may impact someone in our families or group of friends.
These projects impact the environment directly as there is less trash and plastic in the ecosystems. The materials cannot end up in the digestive tract of organisms or seep into the soils. The intertidal zone has frequent visitors and a trash-free area is visually more appealing as well. The beach or marsh interface is the last land-mass before the vast ocean. If trash is not taken out of these systems, then they will most likely be taken out to sea and have larger effects than anyone can imagine. If a plastic bag has been discovered in the deepest point in the Mariana Trench, then there is no barrier to where trash can be found. Many organisms have been discovered in the ocean but a large percentage have not. The impact of anthropogenic sources of trash may be catastrophic or incapacitating but humans may never know as these organisms have never been discovered and some ecosystems are difficult to study. The deep sea is limited by depth, pressure and light; caves by accessibility and light; polar regions by temperatures and sometimes depth as well. If we cannot understand these ecosystems in its entirety then we will never understand our impact. Taking the time to pick up trash on a scenic walk on the beach may have positive implications, although we may never see them. This is how we can set the example by doing seemingly mundane things like picking up a neighbor's forgotten trash at the beach or along a stormwater area. You may inspire others in the process and provoke conversations that help amplify your message of change.
This particular Apprentice Ecologist Project has given me the confidence to help others establish or strengthen their connection with the environment. Some residents have gone back and visited the areas we had clean-ups as they are beautiful ecosystems close to campus. I have found hope in our generation as well as be the example that younger generations can look to for guidance. Educating each other in areas that we may not know is crucial to understanding the bigger picture of sustainability and conservation. Learning about the environment and passing knowledge to our peers and future generations is the next greatest thing anyone can accomplish. This project has inspired me to continue doing outreach to the community, particularly children, as they are the future of our society. Aiding their connection with nature is of the upmost importance to a successful and sustainable future economy.
Date: December 31, 2021 Views: 915 File size: 19.9kb, 4058.7kb : 4032 x 3024
Hours Volunteered: 168
Volunteers: 25
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 21 & 17-22
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