Lynn’s Watson Institute scholars recently participated in a tree-planting restorative effort at Virginia Key, a 1,200-acre barrier island in Miami.
The island, home to a wide range of coastal habitats, is situated within a highly productive marine corridor consisting of extensive tracts of seagrass beds and coral reefs. Organized by the volunteer-based Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MUVE), the social activity sought to engage residents in restoring coastal environments that once thrived in Miami.
“I didn’t know what to expect as we headed down to Miami to volunteer with MUVE,” said James Okina, freshman. “It was the most beautiful feeling knowing that many years to come our efforts would stand tall, defying the fiercest of conditions.”
MUVE’s approach to ensuring a healthy environment focuses on educating volunteers and the community about environmental stresses. Particularly, its goal is to have locals be active participants in making a difference.
“The MUVE project encourages those in the local community to take action for their surroundings through encounters with science and nature,” said Fernando Bretos, MUVE executive director.
With the help of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, invasive species were removed from the area before it was flattened for optimal planting. Once the area was cleared, MUVE volunteers were needed to stop the return of these invasive plants. After much research and insight from those surrounding the area, it was determined that an area at the top of the dune was most suitable for native plant species – beach creeper, cocoplum and saw palmettos – to thrive.
As the Watson students recognized, this event served both community service and personal fulfillment purposes. Aligning with the vision of the scholar program at Lynn, this initiative allowed participants to leave an environmental legacy while also furthering ecological awareness in South Florida.