Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

Mary Grace McClellan did some of her time working with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s mission, which can be found on their website, is this: “The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance of Northwest Florida State College is an organization committed to sustaining and providing optimum utilization of the Choctawhatchee Basin watershed. CBA provides opportunities for citizens, educators, and technical experts to promote the health of the Choctawhatchee Basin watershed.” CBA monitors the quality of the Choctawhatchee Basin watershed, the seagrass, and the oyster reefs. These are all key factors in a healthy water system.
            I volunteered for CBA’s “Touch Tank” at the Destin Seafood Festival. The Touch Tank is a tangible aid for explaining to people (mostly children) what the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance does and why it is important. To set up the Touch Tank, we first went out to Joe’s Bay with a seine net to collect samples of the life that the CBA helps to foster by building oyster reefs (which we also took a sample of) and promoting seagrass growth (we had a very very small sample of that, too). Once we had our critters, we set up our tank at the Seafood Festival. We put the fish and other samples of in a shallow bin so that kids could reach in and touch all the things we had collected.
            Oyster reefs are important because oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Water needs to be filtered to avoid the water becoming eutrophic, meaning that the water has become too nutrient-rich to sustain life. Filtered water also promotes water clarity, which can help the sunlight reach underwater vegetation. Larger oyster reefs also act to break wave energy before it reaches the shore, which aids in shoreline restoration. A lot of life can flourish around the oyster reefs as well, which is important for the ecosystem as well as for the tourist industry.
            The sample of seagrass we had often brought the comparison to some pipefish that we caught for the Touch Tank. Aside from securing shorelines, seagrass is very important for the promotion of the pipefish population. The pipefish can pretty much exclusively live among the seagrass because the two look so similar, a fact that I think the parents and kids alike found pretty interesting.

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