In early March I will begin working with The Nature Conservancy to document their marine restoration efforts along the South Carolina Coast. One of the primary goals of this project will be to restore oyster reefs and provide habitat for the 130 species which depend on the reefs for survival. This effort, which is being led by The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina's marine restoration specialist Joy Brown, is planned through 2011.
The purpose of my initial trip will be to make aerial images of the regions from Sewee Bay through Bulls Bay and up into the Santee River Delta. These images will be used to tell the story of the project and garner support from potential donors and the conservation community. However, as the project progresses, I will also be photographing volunteer efforts, those who harvest oysters and, of course, the oysters themselves. Additionally, I will work to photograph many of species that depend on these specialized eco-systems.
We only have one species of oyster here on the South Carolina coast, the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica). Its numbers have been severely declining since the early colonial period and according to this source, some areas have retained only around one percent of their original populations today. Part of the decline has been due to detrimental harvesting practices where sediment (or shells) was not deposited back into reef; allowing it to deplete over time. This Nature Conservancy project will hopefully be a very positive step in the right direction towards restoring our oyster reefs here in South Carolina.
I look forward to sharing my images from the project with you all over the next few years. It should yield some very interesting results and I feel very fortunate to contribute this conservation effort in my own small way.