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After Hurricane Irma made its way through South Florida in September 2017, much of our mangrove filled coastline was ravaged in the process.

Mangroves are salt tolerant trees found on our coast, there are three types of mangroves here in Florida, located closest to the shore are the red mangroves that can be easily identified by their mangled prop roots. This complex root system creates a shelter for juvenile sharks, fish, and many invertebrates and acts as a nursery. Mangroves are also critical in acting as a buffer for our coastlines by helping reduce erosion from storm surges, waves, tides, and currents.

After the hurricane, many propagules (red mangrove seedlings) were washed ashore mixed with seaweed and debris. Upon knowing that these seedlings were going to get tossed in a landfill, FIU freshman Theo Quenee decided to take action.

Quenee designed a simple greenhouse with a big platter and a five-gallon bucket. He began picking up hurricane-ravaged mangroves from streets and parking lots. He separated the plants into recycled yogurt bins, counted them, and began the serious undertaking of growing hundreds of plants. Once the plants were large enough to be out-planted, 7 months later Queenee took them to a sandbar mudflat to get to work.

“Some officials passed me when I was planting them, and they were so happy to see me doing this,” Quenee says. He’s in the process of getting any additional permits necessary from the county, he says.

“My hope in doing so was to create a nursery for all the sharks and fish that live in that location, but also help conserve the area from erosion,” noted Quenee. In the future, he would like to work on more projects, including advocating change in the use of single-use plastics.

Read the full Mother Nature Network article for more on this story.