A retirement community has partnered with a group of UNCW marine biologists to recycle oysters and clean the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway.
"Giving back to our environment is something we can do now that we're retired," Oyster Recycling Project Manager Taylor Ryan said.
Ryan went to a seminar on oysters eight years ago. He immediately knew he had to take the idea and use it in St. James Plantation in Southport.
Volunteers collect hundreds of oyster shells. They are put in biodegradable bags to create the beds and let nature take over. Free-swimming oyster larvae attach to the dry shells and begin their reproductive system. In two to three years, adult oysters develop.
The oyster beds also act as a habitat for hundreds of creatures and help take care of the shoreline and protect it from beach erosion.
UNCW marine biology students are using the St. James oyster beds as a real life laboratory. Their professors said the experience is invaluable.
"They've had their classwork," UNCW Marine Biologist Troy Alphin said. "Now they work with this community in a real world setting."
Once an oyster bed is in place they help clean the water, prevent soil erosions, provide natural habitat and bird food.
Organizers said the whole community is getting involved, including the Boys and Girls Home of Lake Waccamaw.
There are nine oyster reefs at Waterway Park and the group plans to get more.
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