Jersey Give Back Guide: Project PORTS

December 23, 2014


Throughout December, we are highlighting each of the organizations featured in our Jersey Give-Back Guide, an online portal for year-end giving that makes it easy to donate to some of New Jersey’s most effective nonprofits. Today we feature Project PORTS.

Environment2Organization name:  Project PORTS: Promoting Oyster Restoration through Schools

Connect: Website

Communities served: We partner with K-12 students and educators throughout southern New Jersey, as well as a growing network of youth and adult community volunteers.

Founded: 1997

Get Generous: Make a Year-End Gift

Image 13WHAT WE DO
Project PORTS: Promoting Oyster Restoration Through Schools is a unique community-based oyster restoration and education program that has been building oyster reef habitat and an environmental ethic in youth since 2007.  Focusing on New Jersey’s Delaware Bay shore, Project PORTS provides locally relevant opportunities for environmental stewardship and learning by engaging K-12 school children in the science and methods of an authentic oyster restoration project.

Oysters are critical to the ecology of estuaries. The species is recognized for its role in improving water quality, creating structural habitat, and enhancing biodiversity and fisheries production. The oyster has also served as a principal fishery, shaping the economy and culture of communities along the Delaware Bay shore and other coastal areas. During the last century, dramatic declines in oyster habitat have occurred. Oysters reefs are one of the most imperiled habitats on earth, making their restoration an important conservation goal worldwide.

Project PORTS views the important cultural history and science associated with the oyster and the Bay environment as a powerful narrative for teaching and learning.  We use the oyster as a vehicle to acquaint school children with the Estuary, important scientific concepts, and stewardship. Project PORTS’ lessons are presented by Rutgers University scientists who are actively engaged in the oyster restoration science. Side-by-side students and scientists work together to create shell bags that will serve as the core of an oyster reef. These authentic connections with the local environment create an opportunity for students to take ownership of their studies, while investing in the stewardship of the Delaware Bay.

Project PORTS was developed as an outreach initiative of Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Rutgers University, which has provided research and education opportunities to support economic and environmental sustainability of resources and communities of the Delaware Bay since 1880.

WHY WE’RE GREAT: Since Project PORTS’ initiation in 2007, 10,000 students from 25 schools have participated in the program. Student-stewardship efforts have resulted in the construction of an equal number of shell bags. The shell bags served as founding habitat for more than 20 million young oysters, which have enhanced an historic oyster reef at the Gandy’s Beach Oyster Restoration Enhancement Area in the Delaware Bay.

The improved habitat serves as a sanctuary for spawning oysters and provides complex habitat structure benefiting a host of other species. Our research has demonstrated that the restoration efforts have yielded a viable oyster reef, with multiple generations of oysters supporting a rich and diverse suite of species  inhabiting the enhanced area.

Equally important to the restoration effort, Project PORTS has fostered long-term stewardship and generated a community conservation ethic through citizen involvement. In addition our outreach to schools, field restoration activities have engaged more than 400 volunteers.

At a time when the need to increase public interest in global climate change and environmental stewardship is high, Project PORTS has an opportunity to help build capacity and engage our citizens, including future decision makers.

HOW YOUR DONATION WILL HELP: Project PORTS operates through collaborative partnerships with southern New Jersey K-12 schools. Our target audience includes schools in some of the State’s most economically deprived counties. Science educational opportunities are limited and achievement of educational excellence is a significant challenge in these areas.

Project PORTS has been a successful model for engaging students in locally relevant science and growing demand has developed for the program. To date, we have been able to offer the program free of charge to schools through the generous support of foundations such as the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; however, we are always operating on a very tight budget.

These extra funds will enable us to enhance our “toolbox” for our in-class programs. For instance we will purchase new calipers for measuring oysters, a critical task of our in-school scientific assessment program, a refractometer for measuring the salinity of water samples, and portable microscopes for viewing oyster larvae.

ADDITIONAL NEEDS: We welcome volunteers.  Project PORTS fieldwork begins in the summer months.  Literally tons of shell bags need to be loaded on and off trucks and barges as they are deployed the Delaware Bay. We are always seeking to build our network of volunteers. The work can be tiring and muddy, but it is always a lot of fun.

— Lisa Calvo, Project PORTS Program Coordinator


The Dodge Foundation is offering $1,000 challenge grants to each of the organizations featured in the Jersey Give-Back Guide. To be eligible, each organization must receive at least 50 donations through the Guide by December 31st. Help them reach their goal and get that extra $1,000!