Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Horseshoe Crabs, Marshes Help Keep State Connected; A Department of Natural Resources Campaign Aims to Teach about the Ecosystem

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Horseshoe Crabs, Marshes Help Keep State Connected; A Department of Natural Resources Campaign Aims to Teach about the Ecosystem

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

BRUNSWICK - It's the chain of life.

Horseshoe crabs common along Georgia's coast are real lifesavers in more ways than one. The blue copper-based blood of the ancient marine species is used to test the purity of human medicines. Its shell also contains properties used to speed blood-clotting and to make absorbable sutures.

Eggs laid by horseshoe crabs on Georgia beaches are vital food for migratory shorebirds such as the red knot, which travels from South America to Northern Canada. That draws birdwatchers, who flock to the coast to catch the annual migration stopover and therefore pump tourism dollars into the local economy.

From biomedical research helping to save lives around the world to prompting tourism, it's all connected to the unique ecosystem and natural resources of Coastal Georgia.

That far-reaching relationship is the focus of a new public education and awareness campaign, "Know The Connection" being launched by the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The campaign is intended to educate residents, tourists, local government officials and educators about the coast's natural resources, and the many ways that people interact - both positively and negatively - with the natural world.

"We want everyone in Georgia to gain a better understanding and a greater appreciation of our ecosystem and their connection to it," said Susan Shipman, coastal resources director.

The more people know about the ecosystem and issues affecting it, and how those issues affect them, the more likely they are to care, she said. When people care, they protect what they care about.

"Our goal is to educate the public so we all will become better stewards of our coastal resources," said Paul Medders, marine education and public outreach coordinator for the division.

On Oct. 7, officials will unveil the program's educational Web site: www.knowtheconnection.com.

The site will contain detailed information about the diverse ecosystem and key topics such as blue crabs, red drum, the state's barrier islands, salt marshes, the Altamaha watershed, tides and currents.

The campaign's launch will be showcased that day during the department's 11th annual CoastFest. The free, all-day festival celebrates the coast's unique and diverse ecology. Held at the department's regional headquarters in Brunswick, the event is the largest environmental-education festival in Georgia. …

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