Following in her father’s footsteps, Hanna Toft, second generation Cape May Tech natural sciences teacher and FFA advisor, rallied her FFA members to protect a local treasure – the osprey.
This majestic creature is an iconic fixture over New Jersey skies and a main attraction for the $522 million ecotourism industry in Cape May County.
The osprey first became threatened in the 1960s when the chemical DDT was used to kill mosquitos on the area’s saltmarshes. The chemical made its way through the food chain and caused the ospreys to lay eggs with dangerously thin shells. When a parent attempted to incubate an egg, the shell would crack. This phenomenon led to a major decline in the osprey population and landed the hawk on the endangered species list.
Toft’s father and predecessor, Hans Toft, turned the chapter’s attention toward the species in 1985, making the Cape May Tech FFA chapter the osprey’s unofficial protectors.
Today, the osprey continues to face natural and manmade threats.
After Hurricane Sandy, the FFA members noticed many osprey nests had been abandoned because of missing parts, or completely destroyed.
The chapter applied for and was awarded a National FFA Living To Serve Environmental Grant, which they titled “Soaring Above Sandy.” This grant, made possible through funding from CSX, allowed them to build six new osprey nesting platforms and monitor them with cameras. The chapter applied for the Living to Serve grant a second time, using the money to build even more platforms and perform nest cleanups to remove trash from the platforms and the surrounding areas. The chapter has removed an astounding variety of detritus including hula hoops, extension cords, shoes, Christmas lights, rope, fishing poles, clothing, jumper cables, balloons and more.
Through these and many other efforts, Cape May Tech FFA hopes to preserve the osprey population for generations to come.
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