ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS — Spun off from the all-volunteer Bayshore Regional Watershed Council, the nonprofit Save Coastal Wildlife wants to get New Jerseyans talking and learning about monitoring the populations of various species up and down the Jersey Shore.

Offering hands-on chances to clean up Jersey beaches and evaluate not only wildlife, but also, for instance, the microplastics that affect it, was a model that was able to withstand COVID restrictions because of its outdoor, individual nature, according to president and director Joe Reynolds.

He said New England and other Mid-Atlantic states seemed to have more nonprofits in this field than New Jersey did, so Save Coastal Wildlife's 2018 formation did fill a tangible need.

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"We just didn't feel there was enough conversation and enough action taking place to deal properly, or really just educate people, about all the wonderful biodiversity along the Jersey Shore," Reynolds said.

The word "education" can turn some people off, as Reynolds put it, so getting people out, off their couches and onto the beaches is a major component of his group's work.

In that sense, they educate themselves, and become "citizen scientists."

"If we think about a grand mosaic of a picture or something, a beautiful picture along the Jersey Shore, everybody has a little pixel in that picture," Reynolds said. "Everybody has a role to play to make that picture really beautiful."

Reynolds made the point that the Clean Water Act passed in the 1970s was supposed to make New Jersey's waters fishable and swimmable by the 1980s, but it's 2021 and that goal still hasn't been achieved.

Still, he said he has seen more whales and dolphins along the coast in recent years than he ever did as a child, so wildlife conservation efforts are working to some extent.

Horseshoe crabs, seals, and seabirds continue to see their populations dwindle, however, meaning that in many ways, New Jersey is still swimming against the current.

To learn more about Save Coastal Wildlife, or become a citizen scientist yourself, go to savecoastalwildlife.org.

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