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Twenty-five students from the ecology enrichment program at Kennard and Sudlersville Elementary Schools spent the entire school year exploring the ecosystem of a newly created oyster reef just offshore CBEC in the serene waters of Prospect Bay, near the base of the Bay Bridge. The new habitat area is built from specially constructed “reef balls”—large halves of hollow spheres, crafted from concrete and micro fibers that help organisms attach to the surface. The reef balls range from 250 to 400 pounds and are up to 3 feet high. Neat circular holes puncture the surface of the balls, providing passageways for fish and creating a look that CBEC visitors sometimes describe as a Swiss cheese ball or a concrete beehive. In March, CBEC worked with a number of partners, including the Maryland Environmental Service, Oyster Recovery Partnership, Langenfelder Marine Inc., Maryland DNR and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to deposit the reef balls into the water. “We used 132 balls, arranged in clusters to mimic natural underwater topography,” Paulas said. GRASONVILLE - Volunteers from the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center and Maryland Environmental Service staff members spent two and a half days last week pouring special marine-friendly concrete into molds, removing the molds like an eggshell and revealing reef balls. What is a reef ball? A reef ball is an artificial reef designed to create habitats for fish and other marine and freshwater species. The balls vary in size, have a dome shape and are hollow with several holes for aquatic creatures to use as a habitat. The reef ball project at the center has been funded by a $25,000 grant from the FishAmerica Foundation, the American Sportsfishing Association and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The intent is to promote and support natural species diversification, as well as oyster and fish rehabilitation in the Cabin Creek area of the Chesapeake Bay.
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