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Voluntourism Spotlight: Tampa Bay Watch

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In Florida, travelers head to Fort De Soto park for the beaches, camping, kayaking, and even to take ferries to other parts of the state.  But you can have a more immersive experience in the park when you volunteer with Tampa Bay Watch. It’s all about oyster shells, sea oats and, of course, good old-fashioned elbow grease. Tune into Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio on Saturday for more information and check back every Wednesday for more voluntourism opportunities.

Decades ago, the Tampa Bay waters were polluted, but with the help of organizations like the Tampa Bay Watch the park has been restored to its natural splendor. Founded in 1993, the organization has been a driving force in protecting and restoring the wetlands in the Bay area. And one of the main tools they use is oyster shells.

The shells are made into oyster bars that help purify the waters in this area. The oyster shells come from local restaurants and are dumped in a holding area. Volunteers sort through the piles putting them into the plastic mesh. The mesh bags are then placed in the water to become an oyster bar that is used as a natural water purification system – removing plankton and other organic particles out of the water.

Studies have shown that oyster reefs can purify up to 50 gallons of water a day.

Another Tampa Bay Watch project has volunteers plant sea oats to ensure proper protection from hurricanes and other natural elements. The sea oats also provide a home for the sea turtles that nest in the area. It gives them a bit of elevation so the tides don’t wash away the harvesting eggs.

Keeping the eggs safe is another important part of preservation; volunteers put wire over the nest to keep away unwanted visitors.

Lastly, volunteers also help with essential beach clean up and beautification projects.

All of the volunteer jobs are simple, but they add up to a cleaner, more environmentally friendly beach.

If you want to join the Tampa Bay Watch, the organization welcomes volunteers of all ages and abilities. You can even help for one day. Click here to fill out the online volunteer application and don’t miss all the Tampa Bay Watch’s upcoming volunteer events.