Posts Tagged 'sand dunes'

A Blue View – Importance of Sand Dunes

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

November 6: The Importance of Sand Dunes

Listen to John discuss the importance of preserving and restoring our sand dunes! 

If you regularly visit the beach in the summer, you have surely noticed the sand dunes that line the Maryland and Delaware shore.

We all know what a dune is, but how are they formed, and why are they so important (not only to the health of our coastal habitats, but for the safety and protection of our beachfront communities)? Dunes provide a natural barrier for the ocean and can slow or prevent coastal flooding, provide protection from high winds and damaging storms, and prevent saltwater from reaching inland, threatening farming and ground water supplies.

For these reasons, many coastal communities in the United States have made dune preservation and restoration a priority. The paths and fencing to keep tourists off the dunes are part of these initiatives.

Other, more aggressive restoration projects are underway at shores around the country. The National Aquarium has been particularly involved in dune restoration in Virginia Beach for several years. To learn more about our sand dune restoration efforts and how YOU can get involved, click here.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Virginia Beach Sand Dune Restoration

Earlier this month, our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) headed south to Virginia Beach for our annual sand dune restoration project. Our team, along with an amazing group of volunteers, focused their efforts on the eastern coast near the Naval Air Station Dam Neck Annex.

Virginia Beach

Beautiful day at the beach for a restoration!

Coastal sand dunes are formed by the action of sea and wind. Dunes protect the land by acting as natural barriers to salt water intrusion and sea wind erosion. The sand dune system absorbs energy of the waves and without this protection, the soft coastline would disappear rapidly. Even small disruptions in the dune system can cause salt-water infiltration into the ground water, threatening local farmlands.

Virginia Beach restoration

Although sand dunes may appear to be lifeless, in reality they are home to a multitude of species! Their importance has been acknowledged over the last years and they now are priority habitats for conservation.

Over two days, Aquarium staff partnering with Naval Air Station Dam Neck Annex planted 25,000 native grasses including American Beach Grass and Switch Grass. The Aquarium has partnered with the US Navy for the last 10 years. Big storms like Hurricane Isabel have ravaged the area in recent years, making restoration of this habitat even more of a vital need!

We can’t wait to return to Virginia Beach and continue our dune restoration at NAS Dam Neck Annex. Join us in 2013!

Can’t wait that long? Click here to find out about our upcoming conservation events!

Volunteer Spotlight: Q&A With Cris and Bill Fuller

Learn a little about a couple from Virginia Beach who volunteers with us restoring sand dunes at NAS Dam Neck Annex time and time again!

How long have you been volunteering with the National Aquarium?

Three years ago we saw an article in our local newspaper about your need for volunteers. Our thoughts were “Gee, a day on the beach…doing something worthwhile…what could be better?!”

Why do you continue to help?

It’s obvious our shorelines need help. We like that it’s a short-term commitment. We know we’ll be there volunteering for the two days of the event (yes, we do BOTH days), and then we’re free to go do something else.

At the end of the day, although we’re tired, we have such a good feeling, a sense of accomplishment, a connection to the Earth and its beauty.

Bill at the May 2012 planting

What is your most memorable experience from an event?

We have so many great memories…

Lots of men working to get the truck un-stuck in the soft sand, pelicans flying in formation just 20 feet over our heads, gentle rain cooling us off, sighting dolphins, kids making sand angels in between planting flats of dune grass.

We have fun getting to know the people working next to us. There are Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, people with multiple college degrees, people who couldn’t wait to get out of high school, home-schooled families, people with handicaps, people with huge muscles, locals, out-of-towners—all there to help. Since Bill spent 30 years in the Navy, we enjoy being around the active-duty sailors and marines who also come to help.

The people from the National Aquarium and our local Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center are such fun. We especially like their willingness to answer all of our questions about marine science. We get mini science lessons for free! How cool is that?

Cris at the May 2012 planting

Some of the many things learned while working:

The wind can start piling up sand behind each slat of the dune fencing almost immediately. Pretty ghost crabs get really big and, although they generally come out of their burrows at night, you can see them when you arrive in the morning. Dime-sized mushrooms can grow on the beach.

If learning about Cris and Bill’s volunteer experience has inspired you to join us in the field, you can sign up for one of our upcoming restoration events.


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