High School Student Helps Oysters Flourish in Virginia

Laney talks to oyster gardners-1171x593

Laney Bonner, a high school student from Chesapeake, Virginia, became an oyster gardener through her Gold Award application for Girl Scouts. She now helps teach new oyster gardeners about the program.

Laney Bonner

Laney Bonner has become a great promoter of CBF’s oyster gardening program, all while keeping up as a student at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Virginia. Laney wrote the below about her oyster gardening work, which she started as part of her Gold Award application for Girl Scouts.

Over the last few months I have been partnering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to support the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance goal of adding 10 billion new oysters to the Bay by 2025. I want to help them achieve this goal by informing the public about the need for improving water quality and sustainability of the fishery in this sensitive ecosystem.

Laney empties a bucket of recycled oyster shells into a large pule of oyster shells that will be used by oyster gardeners.

Recycled oyster shells become home to baby oysters through our oyster gardening program. Once the oysters are big enough, they will be planted in sanctuary reefs.

Laney Bonner

Oysters are the Chesapeake Bay’s natural filters. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. While the Bay’s oyster population has been diminished, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is working on restoring the Bay by giving volunteers a chance to help regrow the oyster population. New gardeners attend a short seminar to learn about growing oysters. After the seminar they take home baby oysters on recycled oyster shells and two cages for them to grow in. Gardeners grow and clean their oysters for a year and then return them to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to be planted on a sanctuary reef.

I have helped at multiple CBF oyster gardening events, from Wachapreague on the Eastern Shore to Norfolk to Hampton. At most events I discussed advocacy with the returning gardeners. I also presented a short advocacy ask during the seminars to the new gardeners. I asked them to sign a letter to the governor asking him to support funding for agricultural best management practices and the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund in Virginia’s upcoming budget.

I enjoy meeting all of the gardeners and learning about how each of their oysters grew in their particular environment. They all have different stories to tell. They often talk about how the different salinities of the water, and how the water movement in their location affected their oysters. I learned so many new and exciting things at each event and can’t wait to spread my knowledge with others! I know through all this great work we are making a positive difference in our environment.

What’s Next?

With the help of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation I hosted an event at Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, on July 20. We built new cages for the gardeners to use. I am hoping to bring all of the gardeners in Norfolk together to meet each other and talk about their oysters with the help of Amy Flora, CBF’s new oyster ambassador. She will carry on my project when I’m finished.

Laney Bonner, CBF oyster gardner

Issues in this Post

Chesapeake Oyster Alliance   Eastern Oysters   Student Leadership   Volunteers   Water Quality   Women's History and the Bay   CBF in Virginia  


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Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or advocating for a clean Bay, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

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