About this project
Citizen Science Wetlands Restoration Project
I am a Professional Geologist with degrees from the Universities of Georgia and Alaska who also attended the Universities of Arizona and Arkansas and worked for corporate and governmental organizations. Even so, I have come to the realization that the untapped “wisdom of crowds” can play an important part in helping to partly restore the world's endangered wetlands and protect coastal cities.
My previous involvement with wetlands restoration included presenting at the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 2011, and at the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council hearings in Spanish Fort, Alabama, in 2013. During these events I advocated a long-term approach to wetlands restoration. At Spanish Fort I added the concept of using some of the BP Deep Horizon oil spill money to establish a prize for the best restoration plans developed by university students in Gulf Coast states. This crowd source concept is now being expanded to include all of the world's citizen scientists and restricted in scope to a single aspect of wetlands protection.
I recorded an episode of Hovey's Outdoor Adventures in Biloxi which may be heard over WebTalkRadio.net in a show called "200-year plan for restoring Louisiana's Mississippi Delta." This was broadcast on Sept. 19, 2011, and a description with a link to the broadcast are found on my radio show blog at www.hoveysoutdooradventures.wordpress.com.
This year I will be presenting a new approach for mitigating damage and partly restoring wetlands at an international conference. Using locally sourced inert waste materials, flexible offshore barriers can be created to help dissipate the energy from storm surges, foster the reestablishment of shellfish and vegetative growth and serve as sediment traps to help rebuild damaged wetlands.
I am seeking funding to present a pilot project using sand-filled glass bottles at the CEER (Coastal Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration) Conference to be held in New Orleans on July 28, 2014.
This presentation will illustrate what might be done by groups of citizen scientists who would investigate the innumerable variables of placing flexible storm-barrier structures made of different materials in varying habitats all over the world. This is an ideal project for schools as it incorporates geology, chemistry, materials science, biology, ecology, engineering, observation, problem solving, measurement and the use of the scientific method.
A favorable feature of crowd research, particularly that done by school children with a lot of imagination and few inhibitions, is that some completely unexpected results are likely to emerge.
A unique aspect of this project is that these results will be reported to a central database where it will be available to researchers which will enhance participation because the citizen scientists' work will have real significance in advancing wetland conservation and restoration. It is likely that this work will ultimately be incorporated in many thesis and dissertations.
These projects will be publicized in a dedicated blog, quarterly newsletter and presented annually at one or more scientific conferences.
While I believe that this is the first time that my solution using sand-filled glass bottles contained in interlinked polymer bags will have been tried, others, thinking independently and sourcing local materials, will likely arrive at approaches that are better suited for their wetland environment and resource base.
The underlying questions are what commonly available inert waste materials could be used to construct flexible synthetic erosion barriers and how would these barriers be deployed?
Previous efforts in emplacing erosion barriers have primarily relied on rigid structures. Just as buildings made of solid stone are less resistant to earthquakes compared to buildings that allow some flex, non-rigid barriers that can adsorb some of the energy of wave and current impact are likely to be more durable than hard-build structures.
The use of small linked components in an interlaced synthetic obstacle that is continuously strengthened by sedimentation and organic growth offers the possibility of having cost-efficient structures requiring little subsequent maintenance. The effects of natural abrasion on polymer components are likely to be somewhat offset by overgrowths of shellfish and aquatic plants.
Licensing fees, advertising, corporate and public support would be used to hire manpower to handle the accumulated information and disseminate the results.
I have had two previous Kickstarter projects. These were to fund a short film of an original Christmas story, "A Visit from Auntie Thresa Claus" and to purchase needed equipment for my now-discontinued radio show in "Professionalize Hovey's Outdoor Adventures Podcast." Both of these appeals attracted backers, but fell short of achieving full funding. I have every expectation that this promotion of a world citizen-science project will be successful.
Risks and challenges
Exposures of novel ideas at scientific conference can fall flat with a resounding thud. The risk of not being noticed will be overcome by my being an outrageous presenter, using a dash of novelty and exposing this project at the slightest excuse.
I have the advantage of not being associated with a university or organization. This allows me to use elements of performance art, comedy and my 50 years of experience as a writer to draw attention to this project. Besides having solid academic credentials, I also have nearly two years of comedic radio experience during the past production of the "Hovey's Outdoor Adventures" podcast radio show on WebTalkRadio.net and in my YouTube videos.
Science does not have to be deadly dull. It should be fun, challenging, exciting and show real results. My presentation of this project will highlight these attention-grabbing features.
The concept of using high-end liquor bottles as components to construct large offshore barrier projects is an outlandish example of using inert municipal/industrial waste materials interlaced in flexible barriers to absorb some of the energy from storm-surge events. This approach has the additional advantage that this barrier is continually strengthened by organic growth and natural sedimentation.
Glass as an attachment surface for oysters and other shellfish may be too smooth for effective colonization, but a few minutes of prep in a sand-filled tumbler might solve this problem. Another avenue of study is what would be the most effective and least ecologically harmful material to use to make the bags that would hold the bottles. Might it be possible to revive the use of hemp or animal hair to make natural fabric bags?
World crowd-sourced citizen science investigation of these issues would provide test results of independently derived approaches to flexible barrier construction that could result in significant scientific advances in wetland protection technology at considerably lesser costs than hard-built engineering projects.
There would be the added educational benefits derived from participating in a real-world science project that could have significant results. Here is a project that any interested individual, or group, could do investigations that might have significant impact in helping to save their nation's wetlands.
"What happens to these sand-filled glass bottles?"
Generally, large delta area created by the Mississippi and others of the world's great rivers are subsiding. Barriers made of heavy, inert materials would ultimately be overgrown with shellfish, covered with sediment and incorporated into the sedimentary column.
"Can broken glass from these bottles get onto beaches?"
Wetland areas are not generally close to beaches. Most commonly these are behind barrier islands or natural levies. Even if broken glass were to get on a beach, it would not take long for the much harder quartz sand to abrade the glass particles sufficiently to round their sharp edges, just as you see on any beach today.
Part of the funding for this project will be to obtain trademark protection, secure a domain name, start a new blog and design the newsletter in addition to covering the expenses of the CEER conference.
These conferences are expensive. Conference fees are nearly $600, the room for six days is $700 and there are additional costs for meals, gas for the trip out, professional printing of the poster, new design of business cards, trademark preparation and preparing handouts. These costs, some of which I have already paid, added to the trademark design and filing brings the cost of this project to $3400. I feel so strongly about this project that I have limited the Kickstarter appeal to $2800 which is a bare-bones estimate.
Once attention has been drawn to the project, some NGO that is already active in wetlands restoration may want to incorporate this project as part of their efforts. This is a possibility, but the not-invented-here problem is difficult to overcome.
More likely, it will be necessary to form a non-profit 501C corporation that will administer this program. This will only be done if the response is sufficiently large and funding sources are adequate to finance it. This is not a feature of the present project, but would be a logical outcome.
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