Nancy Caruso, the marine biologist who created the amazing program Get Inspired, Inc. involving people of all ages in the restoration projects for sea kelp forests and abalone populations, is unstoppable! Her work helping to restore these endangered populations of sea life is making incredible strides. Get Inspired has done amazing work to bolster the kelp forests and is also poised to launch a project to grow over 100,000 green abalone and plant them on the California coast. Kelp forests (called the "Rainforests of the Sea") are the backbone of the marine food chain, as over 8,000 vital marine species subsist on them. Additionally, the kelp forests aren't only a food source for thousands of marine species, they also offer shelter for many marine animals. The abalone, which are also a food source for many types of ocean animals (from sea otters to crabs to octopi), work as the "gardeners" of the kelp forests, eating the fallen leaves, keeping them neat and tidy, and helping them thrive.
There are several species of abalone (I've mentioned the white abalone before on this blog) and each one is endangered in some way. Each species has a slightly different special quality-- for example, the green abalone has a striking blue-green luster to its interior which is prized by jewelers; the white abalone has been harvested for its sweet meat that was once cheaper than bologna but is now over $80 a pound; pink abalone are known for their beautifully corrugated shells. Over the past several decades, abalone populations have been almost decimated due to intense over-farming by humans, which is just devastating for the marine food chain. That's why Nancy Caruso's work is so crucial to our oceans and natural world as a whole-- if the marine food chain breaks down, the human food chain breaks down. Caruso has made impressive strides in the restoration of these populations and of particular note is how she's involving school children in the journey to restore. Students in grades 6-12 have learned how to grow kelp forests and abalone in portable classroom nurseries in order to raise them in school and prepare them for release into the ocean. Divers are hand-planting the abalone once they get to a certain size and it's a very complex process, ensuring that the abalone are close enough to each other so they can reproduce in the wild. If they move, the restoration process is stunted or completely fails, so each step of the growing and release program is of great importance.
Caruso has recently launched a GoFundMe page in order to raise $350,000 to restore the green abalone population. This is just one piece of her incredibly important work. We can all get involved in Get Inspired (check out www.getinspired.org) and help with Caruso's valient mission to save our marine ecosystem. And of course, small, everyday changes can also make a difference-- ban plastic at all costs! Let's band together to protect our precious oceans and ocean life.