Florida’s sea turtles face an uncertain future as they confront pollution, habitat encroachment and illegal harvesting.
Nearly 120 members of the community came together Feb. 8 for the Miami Heat’s 7th annual Heat Beach Sweep to paint and prepare protective sea turtle nesting sites along Crandon Park Beach in Key Biscayne, Fla. The actions of local volunteers from FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS), ONE Sotheby International Realty, MassMutual Financial Group, Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, and the Miami Heat resulted in the creation of nearly 40 new nesting sites in time for sea turtle nesting season starting in March.
The Heat Beach Sweep is part of NBA Green efforts to generate awareness and funds for protecting the environment. It is the fifth consecutive year SEAS has been involved in the outreach and engagement initiative. In previous years, the two have teamed up for projects throughout the county, including building butterfly gardens at Biscayne Bay Campus and creating outdoor classrooms and planting native Hardwood Hammock Shade trees at Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary.
“The Miami Heat looks to us for research sites and projects and to help create the narrative for the ecological importance of the projects,” said Nick Ogle, environmental coordinator for SEAS. “As we continue to work with the Miami Heat year after year, it’s my hope it provides a model for other organizations to partner with research institutions in their communities to help educate and motivate the public to make a difference.”
The volunteers also set aside a protected area of beach for shore birds and sea birds, cleaned up trash and marine debris along the shoreline, and created a butterfly garden for local and migrating species. They also helped restore, preserve and stabilize sand dunes by trimming branches, removing root systems, removing invasive species, and planting native coastal plant species such as railroad vine and sea oats. Sand dunes are a coastal community’s first line of defense, serving as a natural barrier to beach erosion and storms.
Earth and Environment alumna Daniela Bueso has participated in the beach sweep series since 2012. The aspiring environmentalist now serves as an assistant for the school, helping coordinate the beach sweep and other outreach and engagement projects.
“I love to participate because it is always has new activities, locations and the projects have a positive outcome for the local environment and the people,” Bueso said. “I try to encourage my friends to attend and to do what they can to make small changes for their communities.”