Florida Sea Grant and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation have created a new course for the Florida Master Naturalist Program that teaches Floridians about building “living shorelines.”

Living shorelines is a catch-all phrase describing shorelines protected from erosion by plantings of natural materials like oyster shell and mangroves as alternatives to seawalls.

LeRoy Creswell, Florida Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension in the Indian River Lagoon area, has developed the Coastal Shoreline Restoration curriculum. It consists of an introduction to living shorelines, and three core modules focusing on oyster reefs, mangroves, and salt marsh, which are all popular restoration materials.

Within each module, participants will learn the biology and ecology of the species used in restoration as well as its importance to a healthy coastal ecosystem and preferred restoration techniques.  Participants also learn how to select and monitor restoration sites.

“Whether you are a concerned citizen, a coastal property owner, or a restoration volunteer, the information provided in this course will help you understand the benefits of living shorelines as a restoration method,” said Shelly Johnson, coordinator for the statewide Florida Master Naturalist Program.

During the course, participants will spend some time in the classroom, and a full day in the field doing hands-on restoration work.

In Hillsborough County, for example, Master Naturalist volunteers have helped Tampa Bay Watch install stretches of living shoreline along portions of Hillsborough Bay. Their approach entailed submerging small cement domes side by side in shallow waters to form the base of future oyster reef. Eventually, free-floating juvenile oysters will  attach to the domes and build reef that improves water quality. The new reef barrier is also meant to reduce erosion caused by waves from ship traffic in the bay.

Creswell said that participants in this course will walk away with the ability to engage in their local community’s shoreline protection and restoration efforts.

“Many people recognize that our estuarine environment is in dire straits, but honestly confess that they don’t really know what practical measures can be undertaken by citizen-scientist volunteers with limited resources available,” Creswell said. “Graduates of this course will become valuable educators for community-based restoration programs that attract volunteers.”

Interested in the course? Find an instructor in your area and register today by visiting the following link: http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/fmnp/

Don’t see a course near you, or interested in becoming an instructor for this course? Contact Shelly Johnson, the FMNP program coordinator by emailing info@masternaturalist.org

The Florida Master Naturalist Program was developed by the University of Florida and is provided by many Extension offices and participating organizations throughout the state of Florida. For more information on course selections and descriptions, visit http://www.masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu/.