By Brittany Hall-Scharf, Marine Agent II with UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County
Acres of smooth cordgrass and black needle rush are a common site along Hernando’s quiet coastline. These saltmarsh wetlands are often partially flooded and drained with saltwater brought in by the tides. Many different species of fish and wildlife seek refuge and hunt for food in these marsh grass areas. Additionally, these grasses help reduce flooding by holding saltwater between their blades and prevent shorelines from eroding.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure built along coastal areas coupled with human activities can contribute to the loss of these services that the saltmarshes provide. In response to this, the Florida Sea Grant program at the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Office partners with schools, clubs, and volunteers who grow these native plants for restoration projects.
Plants are typically cared for by students throughout the school year. Elementary students at Chocachatti even grow grasses in their classrooms during their science micro. High-school students needing scholarship hours often volunteer at the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Office, maintaining the main nursery that was hand-built by volunteer Sarge Dendy.
Despite the heat and rain, Florida Master Naturalist student Alice Mary Herden and her husband Don Herden volunteered their time to give the marsh grass nursery some much-needed attention. With schools and businesses closed over the past few months, little has been done to care for these grasses.
“Luckily for me, I have a husband who enjoys participating in volunteer projects,” Alice said. “We both have learned a lot from volunteering in projects Brittany needs help with.”
The Florida Master Naturalist Program is an adult education program for anyone interested in learning more about Florida’s natural environment.
“I am taking courses to further my education and knowledge about Florida’s amazing ecosystems and pass that knowledge on to others,” Alice said. “Learning never closes. Even though so many things have changed, how we learn shouldn’t be one of them.”
The UF/IFAS Extension Office is offering two online courses of the Florida Master Naturalist Program. To view their agendas and register, visit the links below.
The Foundation for the Gator Nation. An Equal Opportunity Institution.