The art installations double as nurseries where the seedlings germinate just long enough to be replanted by volunteers. Once seedlings have been exhibited for a year, volunteers replant them in the summer rainy season at public lands cleared of invasive plants. This cycle constitutes a participatory “reclamation” of native habitats by volunteers. To date, 13,000 mangrove seedlings representing over eight acres of coastal habitat have been restored.
Since 2006, the program has touched the lives of thousands of Miami-Dade residents and tourists. Miami Science Museum, which hosts a 1,100 seedling exhibit, is the Project’s home. Thirty-five local schools have adopted installations and over 150 retail stores have exhibited mangrove seedlings on their storefronts. These installations engage and educate participants about South Florida’s unique urban ecosystems.
In 2010, the Reclamation Project received support from Audubon and Toyota’s TogetherGreen initiative, enabling the project to engage a greater number of volunteers in the plantings. Audubon and Toyota launched the TogetherGreen initiative to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer and individual action opportunities that significantly benefit the environment. The Reclamation Project was then able to leverage the TogetherGreen funding to secure two federal grants totaling over $75,000 to restore other types of urban habitat in 2012, including a tropical hardwood hammock in northeast Miami-Dade County and the headwaters of the historic Oleta River.
Art is a powerful engagement tool that transcends language, culture or politics in ways that inspire and engage thousands of residents and tourists to create permanent change. Through participatory eco-art activities, these volunteers can stand up for nature and lend their effort to restoring the coastal habitats that serve us every day.
Mr. Bretos, a marine biologist, environmental educator and TogetherGreen Fellow, is the director of The Reclamation Project at Miami Science Museum. A community based participatory eco-art project, the Project empowers South Florida residents to restore urban coastal ecosystems, one seedling at a time.
Photo courtesy of TogetherGreen.
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