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Florida Oceanographic Society Wins Not One, But Two, Environmental Stewardship Awards

A favorite local nonprofit recently won two awards for its work to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida’s coastal ecosystems.

Florida Oceanographic Society, which is beloved in Stuart for its educational Coastal Center, was recognized for one of its programs at the Environmental Stewardship Awards. One of the nonprofit's dedicated volunteers, Anna Bergalis, also received an award at the event, hosted by Keep Martin Beautiful last week.

The Florida Oceanographic Oyster Restoration (FL.O.O.R) program, which collects used oyster, clam and mussel shells to create an oyster reef habitat in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River, earned the organization this year's Non-Profit Award.

This recycling program collects 25 tons of shells annually from 10 local restaurants—such as Spoto's Oyster Bar, The Twisted Tuna and Shrimper's—that would otherwise throw them out, creating more waste for landfills.

"It is our hope that FL.O.O.R. continues to be a standard program infused into the community’s perception of what it means to be good and active environmental stewards in our community," Director of Scientific Research Vincent Encomio said.

Encomio added that the FL.O.O.R program would not be a success without community support, including its volunteers.

Bergalis, who won the Un-Sung Hero Award, has volunteered with FOS since 1999. She cleans algae from the Coastal Center's Gamefish Lagoon on a weekly basis and has helped turn the area into a seagrass nursery.

"Anna works tirelessly, with absolutely no fanfare, to make our facilities better, which enables FOS to continue programs and activities that fulfill our mission,” said Encomio, who nominated Bergalis for the award.

This is not the first time FOS has been recognized for its environmental stewardship. In 2010, Keep Martin Beautiful awarded the nonprofit for its oyster gardening and restoration efforts in the St. Lucie Estuary, and in 2014, FOS and Martin County together received an award for their partnership with the Martin County Living Shorelines Project.

Florida Oceanographic Society

(Photos courtesy Florida Oceanographic Society)