A 12-member Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) team from the College of Charleston will travel to Ace Basin, S.C. on Saturday, April 14, 2012 to help cultivate and restore critical oyster beds. Once the oysters have repopulated, this reef will add an additional three million gallons of water filtration per day for the waterways in Ace Basin.

The students will work with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employees to regenerate the depleted oyster beds by positioning 300 bags of recycled oyster shells. Replanting shells during the warmer water seasons is part of the cycle for maintaining the resource by providing a substrate for oyster spat to attach.

Project leader Matt Welsh, a junior business administration major says, “As a top tourist destination, environmental sustainability is essential for Charleston and the surrounding area. This initiative allows us to combine our passion for the environment with service to the community. The reef we build will lead to cleaner, safer and purer water for all to enjoy.”

According to the DNR, there is currently a critical shortage of oyster shells that can be used for planting purposes and sustaining oyster habitat. This shortage is a result of the closing of oyster canneries and most shucking, as well as an increase in popularity of backyard oyster roasts and by-the-bushel retail sales. Recycling shells will help restore, preserve, and enhance the state’s inshore marine habitat. Only after these shells have been cleaned and quarantined, a preventative measure for keeping non-native pathogens from entering local waters, are they then able to be replanted within coastal shellfish grounds.

In 2009, SIFE students launched the oyster shell recycling program for Charleston area restaurants. Using their business and marketing skills, the students prepared information and explained the program to restaurant owners on King and Market Streets in downtown Charleston. The ability to help replant the recycled oyster shells brings this project full circle for the students.

Housed in the College of Charleston’s School of Business, SIFE’s mission is “to bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.” SIFE is a partnership between business and higher education that is preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders to create a better world for everyone through six focus areas: market economics, success skills, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and environmental sustainability. This project fulfills the environmental sustainability component.

For more information, contact Matt Welch at 518.366.3366.