On Saturday, July 13 at 1:30 p.m., 500 free vertical oyster gardens (VOGs) and the installation hardware were delivered to Gulfport’s Municipal Marina as part of a grassroots project in partnership with the city led by the non-profit Tampa Bay Watch (TBW) of Tierra Verde. The next step in the process is going to be the recruitment of local citizen scientist volunteers who will help to monitor the VOGs every three months, said Jon Ziegler, one of the two local co-organizers. Ziegler also works for TBW and is Gulfport’s Gecko Queen. Each VOG encourages 50 to 100 juvenile oysters to attach where they can grow to adulthood, said Eric Plage, an environmental specialist with TBW. When each oyster matures to a maximum of about 70 to 80 millimeters in size, it can filter from one to five gallons of salt water per hour. A $5,000 mini grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program is funding the project. Pictured from left are unloading volunteers Sue Harle and Dina Gamma, both of Gulfport; Marina Director Denis Frain; Tony Fields, marina assistant; Ziegler; and, Vice Mayor Paul Ray who is also a local co-organizer of the effort. To find out more about being a citizen VOG scientist in Gulfport or to volunteer, visit facebook.com/groups/488922755008780/.
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