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Construction of a seagrass nursery begins as volunteers create the tank stands.

Volunteers at the nursery site helped us begin construction of the tank stands!

The Zoo’s Restore Our Shores (ROS) team is adding yet another conservation initiative to its impressive repertoire of ways in which it’s working to help the Indian River Lagoon. This time, in the form of seagrass.

In partnership with the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI), the Zoo is building a seagrass nursery in Melbourne Beach. Seagrass is the basis of a healthy lagoon ecosystem, so long-term, successful reestablishment of this critical resource will benefit all species in the Indian River Lagoon – even manatees – and be used in ROS restoration projects throughout the lagoon.

“As restoration efforts continue within the lagoon, the need to increase available seagrass stock for restoration is necessary,” said Ashley Rearden, the Zoo’s Conservation Curator. “We want to ensure that we can meet the need of providing this valuable resource.”

We have partnered with some incredible organizations as well as two seagrass experts to learn what we need to know to be able to answer this important call. “Answering the call” has become an unofficial mission statement of the Zoo, referencing our commitment to spring into action when we learn of a crucial conservation need.

Construction of a seagrass nursery begins as a staff member holds up a blueprint.

On January 20, dozens of volunteers met at the site, ready to begin construction of the stands our seagrass tanks will rest on. Construction of the nursery was funded by the Indian River Lagoon’s National Estuary Program (IRLNEP). The nursery plans include six 880-gallon raceways, or systems of four tanks, as well as six individual tanks with their own pumps for testing best practices.

The process of building a nursery is, as you can imagine, thorough!

“We are currently in the design and permitting phase,” said Ashley. “Equipment has been ordered. Other components include electrical and plumbing, installation of equipment/pumps/tanks, sand installation, water quality sampling and maintenance, and then, finally, the addition of seagrass!”

Construction of a seagrass nursery begins as volunteers create the tank stands.

Initially, we will be working with Halodule wrightii, or shoal grass, but plan to expand to other seagrass species at future nurseries.

We plan to finish the nursery construction by the end of March. Once planted, we expect the seagrass to take a couple of months to grow, and we’ll keep you updated along the way!

While the seagrass nursery will be overseen by a staff member, regular trained volunteers will be able to sign up for daily shifts to assist in day-to-day care of seagrass. Keep an eye out on our ROS website for volunteering opportunities!

It is thanks to the tremendous support of our community that we are able to expand our lagoon restoration work. To those of you who have been on this journey with us – thank you!

Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.