Tampa Bay Watch, Inc. is a stewardship program dedicated exclusively to the protection and restoration of the marine and wetland environments of the Tampa Bay estuary through scientific and educational programs.
Bay Grasses In Classes
Started in 1994, Bay Grasses in Classes (BGIC) coordinates efforts at 18 middle and high schools across the Bay area to grow native salt marsh and then transfer it to large-scale restoration sites along the Tampa Bay shoreline. Through this program, students create, maintain and monitor on-campus salt marsh nurseries. BGIC provides middle and high school students with an educational resource to learn about ecological and agricultural practices, while enhancing the science-based curriculums at their schools. Students actively participate in restoration activities, and work side by side with scientists to perform wetland restoration in Tampa Bay.
Salt marsh plants have many benefits in the Tampa Bay estuary. The loss of coastal wetland habitats has resulted in major declines in fisheries and wildlife that depend upon these habitats for a portion of their life cycle. By involving our youth and educating them about the importance of salt marsh and a healthy wetland environment, Tampa Bay Watch is taking an active role in promoting education about challenges to the health of Tampa Bay and the solutions available through restoration.
The BGIC program is a two phase program. In phase one of the program, students maintain and grow the grasses in their nurseries at their schools. The nurseries are 16 by 16 foot lined ponds that can hold up to 5,000 plugs of salt marsh. During this phase of the program, students are involved with maintaining plant health by checking salinity and pH, fertilizing and overall maintenance of the nursery. The grasses that are raised in the nurseries are used as a teaching tool by providing an educational resource in teaching students ecological and agricultural practices and enhancing science-based curriculums.
The second phase of the BGIC program is to transplant the nursery-raised grasses at restoration sites around Tampa Bay. The student-cultivated salt marsh nurseries produce enough salt marsh grasses to restore 10 - 15 new acres of coastal tidal ponds per year. Each school nursery is capable of supporting between one and two rooting cycles per year, for a potential total of 2,500 salt marsh planting units per school, which are available free of charge to local and state environmental agencies conducting habitat restoration projects.
The goal of Tampa Bay Watch’s Bay Grasses in Classes Program is to provide middle and high school students with an educational resource to learn about ecological and agricultural practices, enhancing the science-based curriculums at their schools. These nurseries provide hands-on opportunities for students to appreciate and learn about the importance of salt marsh vegetation to the estuarine ecosystem. When planted, student-cultivated salt marsh aids in preventing erosion, absorbing pollutants, and providing shelter and habitat for important fish and wildlife species. Tampa Bay Watch strives to inspire students and teachers to become stewards of their environments while engaging them in the restoration of Tampa Bay through hands-on restoration efforts.