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Preserving our waters, Tampa Bay Watch gives locals a chance to get involved

Preserving our waters, Tampa Bay Watch gives locals a chance to get involved

In St. Pete, one of the best things about living by the water is, of course, the water itself. We are surrounded by beauty and wildlife within the waters of Tampa Bay, though at the same time keenly aware of the dangers that water can present in times of crisis, if we don’t take action. It’s for those reasons – and many more – that we are so grateful for the work of Tampa Bay Watch.

Tampa Bay Watch is a community-driven nonprofit, and one of the most impactful organizations in the region. Headquartered in Tierra Verde (and with an amazing Discovery Center on the St. Pete Pier), Tampa Bay Watch works throughout the region leading restoration projects, curating educational programs, and spearheading outreach initiatives.

People posing on top of oysters
Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Watch

In fact, they were the team behind one of the most impactful projects in recent Tampa Bay history when Tampa Bay Watch staff and volunteers completed the “Living Shoreline” project in St. Pete’s Lassing Park. The project created natural barriers to bolster shoreline protection, which in turn helps protect the low-lying Old Southeast Neighborhood and all of its homes and residents. With hurricanes becoming stronger and stronger, our coastlines need the strength to match them.

Living shorelines, which Tampa Bay Watch is actively building throughout the region, are nature-based solutions to shoreline erosion, managing to encourage the growth of wildlife while also preventing erosion. Shell bags, often utilized in these projects, provide a stable base for new oyster colonies, enhancing marine biodiversity and water filtration. Oyster reef balls, another key component, create protective barriers that absorb wave energy and foster aquatic life. Additionally, native plants are strategically planted to stabilize soil, reduce erosion, and offer habitats for local wildlife, intertwining ecological restoration with shoreline protection.

In fact, Tampa Bay Watch is even using your night out on the town in St. Pete to protect our local marine habitats. Last year, they launched the “Shells for Shorelines” program that takes discarded oyster shells from local restaurants and uses them to restore oyster reef habitats, which are essential to Tampa Bay’s ecosystem.

Celebrate Earth Day with Tampa Bay Watch

With April serving as Earth Month – and the 22nd as the annual Earth Day – it’s the perfect time to not only show our appreciation for the work of Tampa Bay Watch, but to also share how people can involved. As a nonprofit, the organization relies on volunteers and charitable giving to ensure their important work can continue.

Next week is one excellent opportunity to get involved, and even without getting your hands dirty. On Thursday, April 18th from 5-8 pm, Tampa Bay Watch will host Eat, Art, Earth 2024. Local chefs will be on hand at Tampa Bay Watch headquarters dishing up incredible coastal-inspired eats with Earth-friendly ingredients, alongside great drinks. Plus local artists will display their works available for auction – all of them inspired by food. Our favorite!

Proceeds from Eat, Art, Earth help students from underserved local communities participate in meaningful marine science education programs hosted by the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center. Learn more and get tickets here.

More Earth Month events include:

Tampa Bay Watch Armchair Chats – Tuesday, April 16, 6-7:30: Dive into the world of local ecosystems in this interactive chat with local experts illuminating the significance of these corridors.

Wetland Nursery Planting Initiative – Tuesday, April 16, 9 am – 12 pm: Volunteers will plant bare-root seedlings, nurturing the future backbone of local habitat restoration projects in Fort DeSoto Park.

Oyster Shell Bar Installation – Thursday, April 18, 9 am – 12 pm: This activity involves filling mesh bags with shells and arranging them along the coast by MacDill Air Force Base to spur oyster colony development and improve marine biodiversity.

Earth Day: Vertical Oyster Garden (VOG) Giveaway & Oyster Reef Ball Construction – Monday, April 22: Celebrate Earth Day by adopting a Vertical Oyster Garden (VOG). These gardens, made from recycled shells, support marine life and improve water quality, showcasing our commitment to oyster conservation.

Volunteer with Tampa Bay Watch year-round

Of course, the work for Tampa Bay Watch continues all year, and for those who want to be a part of it, there are a plethora of options. In addition to financial giving or becoming a member, there are constant volunteer opportunities to join the team and help make a tangible difference. There even regular internships available.

Tampa Bay Watch thrives on the commitment of those who are passionate about preserving the natural beauty and ecological balance of our region. Whether you have a few hours to spare or are looking for a more long-term commitment, volunteer involvement is crucial in helping them achieve their important mission.

Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center is a must-visit for families

Kids playing
Phot courtesy Tampa Bay Watch

Of course, while the professionals are out around the bay putting in the work, local kids and families can get in on the fun, too. The Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center is Tampa Bay Watch’s educational space on the St. Pete Pier, where interactive displays highlight the local ecosystem, as well as Tampa Bay Watch’s past and present work to restore it. From holding a live turtle or participating in educator-led programs to taking a boat-based eco tour, the options for experiential learning are endless.

The Discovery Center regularly hosts in-depth programming, such as this April’s lionfish and squid dissections, the Bay Babies class showcasing Tampa Bay invertebrates, or the Walking With Wildlife class that gets participants up close and personal with Tampa Bay wildlife.

The Discovery Center also provides excellent opportunities for those of any age to get out on the water and see all that’s alive in Tampa Bay. Leaving from the pier, their USCG-certified eco-vessel provides family-friendly boat tours, dolphin tours, private charters, and school field trips. Guests will enjoy wildlife watching, learning about the area’s history, experiencing marine species up close, and plenty more, featuring frequent sightings of dolphins, manatees, birds, and stingrays.

Learn more about Tampa Bay Watch, the work they do, and how to get involved at


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