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Date: Nov 20, 2018
From Fort Myers News-Press
By Craig Handel
OYSTERS FINDING HOME ON BROKEN HOCKEY STICKS INSTEAD OF IN COCKTAIL SAUCE IS DRAWING NATIONAL ATTENTION
Two of Bob Wasno’s greatest passions are hockey and marine life.
The FGCU marine biologist and Eagles' assistant club hockey coach came up with an idea combining both and it’s drawn interest from the NHL as well as nationally.
Wasno has turned broken hockey sticks into a Lincoln-Logs design that becomes an oyster hotel when placed under docks around Southwest Florida.
Because oysters are such great water purifiers, the hotels – or reef habitats - are helping the mollusks multiply as well as clean up Southwest Florida’s waterways.
So far, Wasno and others have placed about 30 reef habitats using hockey sticks in Estero Bay, backside of Fort Myers Beach, Little Hickory Bay and the habitats of Florida Keys with more to be placed in Matanzas Harbor. Wasno also is hoping local residents are willing to make a donation to have a reef habitat put under their docks.
It’s an environmental win-win. Because the hockey sticks have a carbon-composite material, they don’t decompose when put into landfills.
But when cut, configured and lowered into the water, as many as 400 oysters can live on the reef habitats.
“It’s all Bob’s idea, really,” said Michael Parsons, the facilities manager at FGCU’s Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station in Bonita Springs. “Bob was sitting with hockey players and they were lamenting broken sticks not being able to be used for anything.
“Bob recalled using large concrete pilings for artificial reefs. He said, ‘If we can build these large ones, maybe we can build small ones with hockey sticks.’”
Wasno added, “Before, the sticks would go from the rink to the Dumpster and from the Dumpster to the landfills. Now, our FGCU hockey players, who didn’t know a lick about oysters other than they’re delicious with cocktail sauce, have also have learned they’re filter feeders.”
The amazing oyster
Oysters are best known for the beautiful pearls they produce.
But their greatest gift is what they can do for the waters they live in.
One oyster is capable of filtering 50 gallons of water in a day. Oysters consume nitrogen-containing compounds (nitrates and ammonia), phosphates, plankton, detritus, bacteria and dissolved organic matter and remove them from the water. What is not used for animal growth is then expelled as solid waste pellets, which eventually decompose into the atmosphere as nitrogen.
“It’s like a compost pile,” Parsons said. “They create fish food.
“Oysters have gills. They’re invertebrates without heads. They filter the particles out. If it’s edible, they eat it. If not, they bunch them together and that makes a bigger mass that is sedimented out.”
Oysters help improve the clarity of water. When light penetrates, it helps the sea grasses while removing plankton and algae, Parsons said.
This fascinates Wasno, who has a master’s in environmental sciences and degrees in aquaculture and fisheries science as well as a secondary education teacher’s certificate.
Wasno wrote a paper titled "Investigation of Trophic Transfer from Oyster Reef to Predator Fish in Estero Bay" that showed more than 52 percent of predator stomach contents came from signature species that hang around oyster reefs.
For their senior project, marine science majors monitor growth of oysters.
“In these dead-end residential canals, the water gets stagnant,” Wasno said. “If one of these oyster reefs holds 400 and they can filter 50 gallons of water per day, that’s 20,000 gallons.
“That’s why they can be valuable on clam farms. There’s loads of nutrients and algae, which suffocate the clams.”
Hurricane Irma and all its fresh water killed many of the oysters, but they’re coming back.
“We’re back into the salty water and this is the season where the oysters are spawning,” Wasno said.
Jersey boys visit
While Wasno spoke, a chop saw roared in the background as it cut hockey sticks to specs by members of the Central Regional High School hockey team from Bayville, New Jersey. They came down for a week of hockey training and team bonding and also went to work on the hockey sticks project.
Central Regional coach Joe Pelliccio, a regular visitor to Fort Myers Beach, called Wasno one day about bringing his team down.
“For about 15 minutes, we talked hockey,” Pelliccio said. “Then Bob said, ‘Hey, Jersey, do you have a coastal area? Hurricane Sandy, that’s where we’re from. And that’s how this started." Sandy slammed into the Jersey and New York coasts in 2012.“Our kids are water kids, lifeguards. They also do a lot of charity work, food drives. They embrace community services.”The boys created a construction line to make the reef habitats. Some measured and cut the sticks 20 inches by 40 inches because Wasno noticed most sticks broke at 41 or 42 inches.
At various stations, workers drill into each end of the sticks, make one-inch plastic spacers and thread the sticks through 900-pound monofilament line. At another, they use plastic mesh that’s wired and ties to the sticks to offer stability and protect smaller fish.
It takes about 12 sticks to make an oyster reef habitat, which stands about 18 inches high.
Junior-to-be Danny Klutkoski said he and his teammates didn’t think they’d be this close to the water or work on this kind of project.
“This is for real, this is a cause,” he said. “This is real community service, giving back.
“I think we’ve learned a lot about sea life. I think we’re all enjoying it.”
Anthony Mastriano, a junior-to-be, added, “I think it’s really cool, we’re helping out the environment.”
This also may turn into a way Wasno can recruit. “It’s so nice, I’d love to come down and play hockey,” Mastriano said.
Wasno has had other visitors as well as donations and other inquiries.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association wrote about Wasno’s idea. Soon, he received inquiries from as far as Seattle. “They have mussels that can grow on the sticks,” he said.
FGCU, NHL Announce Joint Restoration Program
The Florida Everblades - who Wasno worked for as an off-ice official for 15 years - have been a big supplier of broken sticks while the Detroit Red Wings sent him a box.
FGCU club hockey players called the NHL, which endorsed it as part of the league’s green initiative. NHL public affairs manager Paul LaCaruba challenged players to put a program together that could be promoted throughout the league and used by coastal communities. The program would include introductory fliers, a unit construction manual and community meeting announcements for local rinks.
When Wasno took his team to the ACHA Tournament in Columbus, Ohio this spring, the Eagles won their third national title. But coaches who approached him where more interested in the reef habitats.
“I had my FGCU badge on, but they didn’t want to talk hockey,” he said. “Instead, they asked, ‘Would these things work in the Great Lakes for fish?"
Two eighth-graders from Houston visited so they could learn from Wasno how to make the oyster reef habitats.
Locally, Fort Myers Beach officials are intrigued, Parsons said.
FGCU club hockey players use their community service hours to make the reef habitats, It's part of a pilot program to introduce the student-athletes to the local environment and educational resources available at Vester Lab. In addition to rink2reef day, the student-athletes also learned about sea turtles, Calusa tribe, mangroves, fisheries, and many of the research projects here at the lab.
Bonita Springs Eagle scouts and Naples Brownie scouts also turned the broken hockey sticks into projects.
“When we presented it to non-scientists, they loved the idea,” Parsons said.
The website for the project is Rink2Reef.com.
Wasno is amazed at how an idea for sustainability has received such attention.
“It’s snowballed,” he said. “It’s a natural repurposing. We’ve taken something that had become useless and was filling up landfills and turned it into something that helped students learn about the oysters’ role in the environment.
“We’re offering Mother Nature assistance.”
(Originally published at https://www.news-press.com/story/life/2018/07/02/hockey-sticks-helping-environment-drawing-interest-nhl-and-others/715313002/)