C Y T-hese teens left the Virginia Zoo

Every spring the Virginia Zoo searches through hundreds of applications from high schoolers who are looking to spend their summer at the Virginia Zoo. Instead of looking for a paycheck, these teens aim to volunteer their services to the Zoo, while developing important job and life skills, building self-confidence and earning community service hours. These teens, who make up the Virginia Zoo’s Conservation Youth Team (CYT), also have the opportunity to step off Zoo grounds to help local conservation organizations.

This year’s group of 41 CYTs ventured out on their first conservation trip to visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). The CYTs helped wash oyster shells that were collected through the CBF’s oyster shell recycling program. Through this program, the CBF collects empty oyster shells from restaurants throughout Hampton Roads so that the shells can be used for potential oyster habitats rather than just going in the trash!

Next, the CYTs took the washed shells and created “oyster bags” that will be used to fill tanks where oyster larvae will be introduced. These bags provide a substrate for the oyster larvae to adhere to so that they can grow into adult oysters and then be introduced to the Chesapeake Bay. Finally, the CYTs filled two tanks with oyster bags and also created oyster cages that will be used for the CBF’s oyster gardening program.

Overall, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Zoo’s Conservation Youth Team created 148 oyster bags, which can provide habitats for 200,000 oysters! The CYTs not only put in a few hours of manual labor, but they were also educated on why oyster conservation is so important, especially in Hampton Roads waterways. The CYTs learned that one adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day, and their day’s work will help keep 10,000,000 gallons of water per day in the Chesapeake Bay filtered and clean!

Each CYT’s positive attitude and hard work was very impressive! Even though the CYTs are teenagers and have inherited the issue of native oyster populations in need of restoration, it is encouraging to see that they are willing to put in the hard work necessary to ensure our ecosystems are healthy for both animals and people!

If you would like any more information about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, please visit their website here: http://www.cbf.org/.