An effort to save Georgia’s Tybee Island from sea-level rise is also teaching young people how to take action on climate change.

Rising tides are expected to flood up to half the island’s residential areas within the next 100 years. Already, when high tide coincides with heavy rain, water from a tidal creek laps at the door of the Tybee Island 4H center.

Oyster shells for living shoreline
Volunteers fill Naltex bags with oyster shells at the Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island (photo credit: University of Georgia).

Smith: “We do have times when the water comes into the center itself, and that can be a problem, particularly when we have young people on site.”

That’s Arch Smith, Georgia’s 4H state director. He says the 4H center decided to build a wooden wall to keep the tidal creek from invading. But scientists suggested a barrier made of oyster shells – a fix that doubles as a teaching tool.

So volunteers packed six truckloads of oyster shells in special bags. Those bags now form a wall that attracts wild oysters, and it will grow and strengthen over time.

Smith: “Since it’s part of the natural environment, it just doesn’t have to be replaced and the oysters and other organisms will grow there and keep raising the bank in order to help with any sea level rise that might occur.”

”Oyster Click To Tweet

Today, youth visiting the Burton 4H Center see and learn how a “living shoreline” can help guard against the rising tide.

Reporting credit: Evan Lowenstein/ChavoBart Digital Media.

More Resources
Georgia Conservancy: Sea Level Rise
Tybee Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...