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The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Launches New PIER Season for Local Students

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SARASOTA, FL - The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) and Around the Bend Nature Tours recently launched another season of the PIER Program. PIER stands for Protection, Involvement, Education, and Restoration. Its purpose is to educate students about local coastal ecology while promoting the benefits of environmental stewardship. Nearly 37,000 students have participated in PIER since the program started in 2003.

PIER field trips provide hands-on activities tied to age-specific learning standards such as water sampling and water quality testing, conservation games, and plant and animal identification skills. Field trip destinations include Joan M. Durante Park, Ken Thompson Park, Oscar Scherer State Park, and Emerson Point Preserve. The field trips give area students an opportunity to experience the beauty of Sarasota Bay while learning more about local habitat, aquatic life, birds, and other wildlife. Around the Bend Nature Tours provides professional naturalists to support the field trips and related activities.

A more recent component of the PIER Program is a Low Impact Development (LID) Field Trip targeted to high school students. The inaugural LID Field Trip took place in May with students at Sarasota Military Academy. Karen Fraley with Around the Bend Nature Tours provided a classroom presentation focused on low impact development strategies such as the use of rain gardens, bio-swales, cisterns, tree box planters, and green roofs. The 46 students then visited Oscar Scherer State Park to apply their knowledge. This involved doing comprehensive water quality samples at several sites at the park and creating a model stormwater system using the LID principles.