Shoreline Grasses Growing at Post’l Point Site

In the summer of 2018, CBA worked with Eglin Air Force Base, Corvias, and over 100 volunteers to create a reef breakwater and living shoreline to reduce erosion along Post’l Point. Nearly a year later, native marsh grasses and other vegetation are beginning to stabilize the land behind the breakwaters.

The photo below was taken in January 2019, during a very low winter tide.  During higher tides, the limestone rocks reduce the wave energy hitting the shoreline, changing the aquatic environment marsh grasses can use to grow.

 

The second photo was taken just last week. As you can see, the native smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) has not only been able to take root, but is now growing above the waterline. In addition to providing critical habitat, the grass roots will stabilize sediment, which further reduces erosion and can actually build out the shoreline itself.

Learn more about CBA’s living shorelines program – and how you can help – by clicking here.

Destin Forward Works with CBA to Build Living Shoreline and Refurbish Research Vessels

The 2018-2019 Destin Forward class has teamed up with the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) to build a living shoreline in Ross Marler Park and restore CBA’s research vessels for future monitoring and living shoreline initiatives.

The Destin Forward leadership class, a program of the Destin Chamber of Commerce, discovers the inner workings of Destin through monthly presentations and field trips. Each class completes a project to give back to the Destin community. This year, Destin Forward members chose the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance because living shoreline and monitoring projects have a direct impact on citizens of and visitors to Destin.

“We challenge the class each year to find a need in our community and a solution to that need, and it should have a long-lasting impact on the Destin community. There is no question that maintaining top-level water quality is a major need for us, so this project fits perfectly with the tourism industry and for quality of life for our residents,” explains Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP, Destin Chamber President & CEO. “It’s good to see that they’ve learned from their classes. They should be congratulated on their hard work, not just the fundraising, but the physical labor as well.”

After raising funds during the annual Pins and Pancakes event at Uncle Buck’s in the Destin Commons, Destin Forward members volunteered with CBA for two days in March to build a new reef breakwater in Ross Marler Park, bag recycled oyster shell for a future living shoreline, and refurbish and restore CBA’s 19-foot Mako research vessel. Because of the class members’ efforts, the reef breakwater will provide habitat and reduce erosion along the Choctawhatchee Bay, while CBA’s Mako will continue to bring staff and volunteers across the watershed to conduct critical monitoring and restoration initiatives.

“Nearly all CBA staff go through the Destin Forward program,” explains Alison McDowell, Director of CBA, “So we are thrilled that this year’s class chose to invest in our waterways through their unique service project. They worked hard!”

Designed to provide a hands-on learning experience into the issues facing the Destin community on a day-to-day basis, Destin Forward accepts up to 25 business professionals for each 9-month class. Participants learn from experts in many different fields, including the environment, boat safety, tourism promotion, and government affairs. Class begins in August with a welcome reception and ends in May with a graduation.

CBA Welcomes New Monitoring Coordinator!

This March, Jenna Testa joined the CBA team as the Monitoring Coordinator!

“I am beyond excited to contribute to the CBA mission in preserving our local waterways,” she says, “Growing up along the Emerald Coast, I have always been fascinated by our marine environment and the life it supports.”

Jenna earned her undergraduate degree in Biology at Florida State University. Interested in animal behavior and wildlife conservation, she worked and volunteered as a wildlife rehabilitator, zookeeper, and marine animal stranding coordinator. While gaining critical experience, she completed her master’s degree in conservation biology through Miami University in 2018.

“My unique graduate program enabled me to travel to Belize, Australia, and Africa to learn with and amongst conservationists, scientists, and locals,” she continues, “My master’s portfolio focused on incorporating marine conservation into the community of northwest Florida. So, I am thrilled to be a part of CBA and help continue to teach others about what we can do to conserve our local resources as well as what conservation can do for our community.”

As Monitoring Coordinator, Jenna is in charge of managing sampling at over 130 water quality sites throughout the bay, completing seagrass surveys, working on monofilament recycling, and helping new and ongoing research projects. Welcome Jenna!

CBA Joins 1% for the Planet

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) has been accepted into the unique 1% for the Planet network. Members of the network give 1% of their revenue or individual earnings back to environmental nonprofits each year. As an organizational member of 1%, CBA is now eligible to receive these gifts to improve swimmable, fishable waterways.

Each nonprofit organization entering 1% for the Planet is nominated by a business or individual already participating in the movement. After donating to CBA programs for two years, New Belgium Brewing Company nominated CBA.

“1% for the Planet is a global organization that connects dollars and doers to accelerate smart environmental giving” the organization explains. According to the 1% for the Planet mission, “1% for the Planet is a credible and accessible way to support the environment. It’s not always easy to know where and how to support good work. Most businesses and individuals don’t have the expertise to develop their own environmental giving strategies, and few have the time or resources to sort through the dizzying array of options for how to make a difference.” 1% provides that guidance.

1% for the Planet accepts nonprofit organization in six core issue areas: climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife. CBA remains under the “water” umbrella category. Originally founded in 2002, 1% for the Planet “members have given more than $200 million to environmental nonprofits to date.”

“1% for the Planet allows us to reach a brand new audience not only in our region, but nationally as well,” explains Alison McDowell, Director of CBA, “We appreciate that 1% for the Planet encourages partnerships through monetary gifts, but also through volunteer events, in-kind contributions, and raising awarness.” McDowell continues, “Each gift will be invested into the Choctawhatchee Bay watershed to preserve the heart and soul of our community for generations to come.”

Earth Day Celebration in Fort Walton Beach

CBA will be on-site for the Earth Day Celebration in Fort Walton Beach on Saturday, April 13th from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Liza Jackson Park, 338 Miracle Strip Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548.

The theme for Earth Day 2019 is “Protect Our Species.” Although many vendors that will support the theme, other vendors will include a focus on recycling, electric vehicles, solar energy, water education, plastic pollution, and more. To view a list of vendors, visit www.earthdayfwb.com.

Earth Day Fort Walton Beach is proud to be part of Drive Electric Earth Day. Drive Electric Earth Day is a national campaign to share information about electric vehicles. JuicedCar will be onsite to discuss all you need to know about electric vehicles.

Musical guest, Asa Hooks, will provide entertainment during the hours of 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

The intent of Earth Day Fort Walton Beach is to educate the public and increase awareness about environmental and social issues at local, regional, and global levels to engage, empower, and encourage public involvement towards positive resolutions. CBA will have games for kids and information on our wonderful natural resources!

Stay update on the event on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/earthdayfwb/

Okaloosa County, Dewey Destin’s, and CBA Bring Interactive Lionfish Lesson to Fort Walton Beach High School

“Who’s ready to eat some lionfish?”

A slew of hands shoot up, the culmination of an interactive lesson about invasive species as part of CBA’s Spat On! program in Fort Walton Beach.

Jim Shirah, chef at Dewey Destin’s, placed the fillets on a hot pan, steam rising in the air of the classroom. Flipping the lionfish a few times, he placed the pieces onto a plate, ready for sampling. The students lined up.

Invasive species lessons are part of CBA’s Spat On! program. The initiative provides students with several hands-on activities and lessons that foster their understanding of oyster ecology and the estuarine habitat.

Spat On! encompasses both field experiences and in-class assignments. To introduce the students to oyster restoration, students help construct an oyster reef by bagging recycled oyster shell and placing the material at the end of the school year.

Amanda Briant, CBA Education Coordinator, began the lesson with an introductory presentation on invasive species and their effects on native ecoystems, before introducing Alex Fogg, Marine Resources Coordinator at Okaloosa County. Immersed in combating the invasive lionfish population by creating a seafood market for the species, Fogg traced the introduction and spread of lionfish, as well as different efforts used to curb the growth of their numbers.

“Events like this are great because they encourage removal efforts through commercialization of the fish, i.e. asking for it at the restaurant, or actively removing the lionfish themselves (when they get old enough),” Fogg explains, “The students were surprisingly interested, and most tried the lionfish at the end of the class.”

Chef Schirah showcased filleting a lionfish, removing the venomous spines, taking a look at the stomach contents, then removing the beautiful meat for cooking. Students came in closer, taking photos on their cell phones and oohing and aahing over the delicious smell filling the room.

Everyone who tried the fish loved it, all agreeing that they would order lionfish if offered at a local restaurant. “This is my new favorite fish,” one enthused.

Hands-on, taste-bud focused invasive species demonstrations provide students with a real-world solution to an ecological problem, prompting them to think creatively about landscape management and restoration.

Jack E. Davis to Give Talk on Pultizer-Prize Winning Book: The Gulf

 

On February 4th at 7 p.m., Jack E. Davis will give a talk on his Pulitzer-prizing winning book “The Gulf.” The event will feature an introduction by Commissioner Kelly Windes and NWFSC President Dr. Stephenson, and take place at the Sprint Theater on the Northwest Florida State College in Niceville. Book proceeds and donations benefit the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.

Jack E. Davis is a professor of history specializing in environmental history and sustainability studies. Before joining the faculty at the University of Florida in 2003, he taught at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Eckerd College, and in 2002 was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Jordan in Amman.

Upon joining the faculty at UF, he founded the department’s student journal, Alpata: A Journal of History. His Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez Since 1930 won the Charles S. Sydnor Prize for the best book in southern history published in 2001. His next book, An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century (2009), received a gold medal from the Florida Book Awards.

The Gulf was a New York Times Notable Book for 2017 and made several other “best of” lists for the year, including those of the Washington Post, NPR, Forbes, and the Tampa Bay Times. In addition to winning the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History, The Gulf was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and winner of the Kirkus Prize for nonfiction.

“The book focuses on the foundational history and ecology that has shaped our region as a whole,” says Alison McDowell, CBA Director, “As a non-profit organization dedicated to studying and improving our natural environment, we are looking forward to meeting Dr. Davis and will use the proceeds from the event in our programs to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways in our community.”

The event is made possible through a generous gift from Jennifer Boxen.

Skinny water culture donates proceeds of 1st annual SWC Red Drum Classic to CBA

Skinny Water Culture hosted the 1st Annual SWC Red Drum Classic in Destin, FL, donating $600 to the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s (CBA) water quality programs.

Operating the tournament from Local Market, the target species was red drum. As they explain in their blog about the event, “The format for the tournament is really fun and easy:” the more spots on the redfish, the more points an angler racks up. All fish caught with a fly earned double points.

Over 40 entrants participated in the tournament, which took place on a chilly November day. Destin guide Captain Shawn Dahnke came in first place, bringing in two fish with 80 points. The team looks forward to bringing the tournament back to Destin in 2019.

“Anglers are critical stakeholders in our Choctawhatchee Bay watershed. They’re on the water every day, and many help us monitor changing conditions as well as build living shorelines,” says Alison McDowell, CBA Director. “Tournaments like this are a great way to have fun and give back, and we so appreciate Skinny Water Culture choosing CBA as their nonprofit beneficiary!”

Skinny Water Culture is an apparel brand with a full line of clothing for the discerning angler, including performance wear and lifestyle pieces. Based in our native Florida, Skinny Water Culture was created with the spirit and the future of the youthful angler in mind. They pride themselves on giving back to the community that has brought so much to their lives by promoting good stewardship within the fishing and coastal communities.

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is a non-profit organization striving to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways through monitoring, education, restoration, and research. For over 20 years, CBA has promoted water stewardship within the Choctawhatchee watershed, growing the network of supporters who join in CBA’s mission to provide a future for these precious, natural resources.

St. Joe Community Foundation Funds High School Oyster Program

To engage area youth in oyster restoration, the St. Joe Community Foundation is granting the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) $18,300 to bring their Spat On! program to 250 high school students in Walton County. In addition to providing monthly instruction and in-class lessons to foster understanding of oyster ecology and estuarine habitat, CBA will work with area high schools to build two new oyster reef breakwaters in the Choctawhatchee Bay.

According to the Nature Conservatory, 85% of the world’s oyster reefs have been lost due to disease, pollution, declining habitat and over harvesting in the last decade. This makes oyster reefs the most severely impacted marine habitat on Earth (Shellfish Reefs at Risk Report, 2009). The oyster population in Choctawhatchee Bay is no exception, and the decline has led to a reduction in biodiversity and water quality. As NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation reports, oysters are a keystone species in the estuarine habitat because of the critical role they have in maintaining the ecosystem, and each adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each and every day. Through Spat On! students will play a direct role in improving oyster populations in their communities.

“One of the best aspects of our program is that the students are learning and doing,” says Amanda Briant, CBA Education Coordinator, “There is nothing better than seeing their sense of accomplishment after they’ve built the oyster reefs.”

“This is a great and multi-purposed environmental education opportunity for local high school students,” said April Wilkes, Executive Director of the St. Joe Community Foundation, “not only will they have the outdoor hands-on experience to learn more about the estuarine habitat of Choctawhatchee Bay, they will also be improving a natural resource for the public by growing the bay’s oyster population.”

Since its inception, the St. Joe Community Foundation (“Foundation”) has provided more than $20 million in grants to improve the quality of life in the communities it serves.  The Foundation provides charitable grants toward the civic infrastructure of communities in Northwest Florida with a focus, but not a limitation, on Bay and Walton Counties. The Foundation’s primary focus is on strengthening education, improving healthcare, protecting the environment and supporting local cultural interests. These efforts help build healthy, caring, long-lived communities.