Attended & Written by Piper Brighton Leddy
The 2023 Conservation Study Conference was held on beautiful Jekyll Island, Georgia from November 7-10. GCA Club members gathered to learn about the hemispheric importance of Georgia’s 100-mile shoreline, which contains one third of all the remaining salt marshes on the East Coast.
Attendees learned about the environmental history and cultural conservation success story of Georgia’s barrier islands –11 of the 14 barrier islands have some layer of conservation, with Jekyll Island being only 35% developed. The protection of Georgia’s salt marshes is paramount – they are the most productive habitat in the world. As one of the conference speakers, naturalist Stacia Hendricks says, “the marshes are the grocery store” – 70% of the seafood we eat is produced in the marshes. Georgia’s coast is also a critical habitat for shore birds, as it is a connection point before heading north to the arctic.
The diverse ecosystem, the history, and the cultural importance of the landscape were expounded on through presentations from scientist Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown, naturalist Stacia Hendricks, author Dr. Paul Bolster, historian Paul Pressly, coastal preservation advocate Megan Desrosiers, and Jason Lee, Program Manager of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
To physically experience the magic of the landscape and local wildlife, GCA Members participated in excursions throughout the island – either boating, kayaking, or walking. The beauty and uniqueness of the barrier islands has historically been the appeal to conserving the landscape – the highest conservation value of the area is being able to get people there.
The Conservation Study Conference provided attendees with the unique opportunity to learn and explore the environmental wonders and challenges of Georgia’s Golden Coast.