Bald Head Island Conservancy

Donation Brings Barrier Island Botanists Back to BHI

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Throughout the fall, the Bald Head Island Conservancy is holding its annual Barrier Island Botanists (BIB) program, with field trips in coordination with Brunswick County Public Schools. Just under 1000 sixth graders from 6 schools throughout the county will visit Bald Head Island throughout the month of October, with one school scheduled to attend in the spring. The Bald Head Island Conservancy ran the program in 2018 and 2019 from a Duke Energy grant, paused in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, and brought it back in 2022. BIB was brought back thanks to a donation by Jim, Devon and Sinclair Brown. With the current donation, BHIC will be able to run the program for two more years with funding covering ferry tickets, supplies for the day, and updating educational supplies.

“We are thrilled to see the Barrier Island Botanist program return this year.  The opportunity to visit Bald Head Island and experience our unique environment in-person will be such an impactful — and fun — way to complement classroom curriculum about ecology, climate change, conservation, and more. We hope that the memories made on BHI will resonate with these students and inspire a new generation to advance the Conservancy’s mission, both here and beyond,” says Devon Brown.

A typical day of Barrier Island Botanists consists of 60 students traveling to Bald Head Island and joining BHIC education staff in activities around the island. It is focused on botany in order to align with North Carolina’s educational standards for 6th grade. There is plenty to learn about plants on the island, including their role in maintaining dune structures, how marsh grasses survive in brackish water, and the impact of live oak trees in stabilizing the interior of the island.

The program takes place near the marina with three different stations: Access 5, where the students see a complete dune structure, the overlook to Middle Island and the marsh, and Fort Holmes near the Bald Head Association.

This field trip is a unique and special opportunity for these students for many reasons. Prior to the program, Senior Educator, Dr. Jennifer Wiggen, shared some insight on the importance of Barrier Island Botanists: “This will be a really unique field trip for a lot of these kids, for some it will be the first time they will be on a boat. They’ll get to experience all three ecosystems of BHI within a 1 mile radius. To go from a healthy dune system, to the salt marsh and then to the maritime forest all within walking distance is just so awesome to be able to share with them.”

When asked what she was looking forward to about the program, Jennifer responded: “I’m looking forward to their excitement. I find it inspiring to work with kids because their curiosity is infectious and I’m looking forward to discovering the island with them.”

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