Recently, a group of 12 Master Naturalists embarked on a 3-day engaged learning trip to Long Island, NY, where they each completed 16 hours of volunteer work. Working alongside Fire Island Seashore’s National Park Service scientists, volunteers used GPS techniques to map and monitor shoreline breaches from hurricane waters and to inventory the area’s recovering vegetation. Michael Bilecki, Chief of Resources Management at the NPS Fire Island Seashore, said, “the work completed was work we could not have expected to ever get accomplished without the help provided.”
The weekend also included marine restoration activities, with the planting of eelgrass in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Marine Meadows program. Together, the Master Naturalist volunteers and Marine Meadows representatives constructed over 350 planting units, which will add over 3,500 eelgrass plants to the coastal waters of the Peconic Estuary.
The service-learning weekend on Fire Island resulted in significant improvements to local habitat restoration and monitoring efforts, and volunteers were exposed to a myriad of different learning opportunities and hands-on management techniques. While building skills in various conservation field methods, Master Naturalist volunteers learned about the impact of the storm on local biodiversity, the importance of coastal resilience, especially in a new era of higher magnitude weather events, and the dangers of invasive species.