Cleaning around the Bay for Earth Day

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ashley Perdue
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

In honor of the 51st Annual Earth Day, Team MacDill, along with a volunteer dive team from the Florida Aquarium, helped with a bay and base clean-up, April 23, 2021, at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“Clean-ups are a simple, but very highly effective means to reduce the prevalence of garbage in the environment,” said Andrew Lykens, National Environmental Policy Act, Natural & Cultural Resources Manager with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron. “Animals can become entangled in different types of garbage, or they may ingest it in an instance of mistaken identity.”

According to Lykens, in nature, plastic does not decompose, but instead continually breaks down into even smaller fragments, which are called microplastics.

These microplastics attract viruses and bacteria, and will float in the water alongside plankton. 

“Plankton is a major food source for many different species,” Lykens added. “When microplastics are ingested, they can clog the digestive tract of an organism. By doing clean-up events, we are actively reducing the amount of harmful substances that can endanger fish and wildlife, which makes our natural areas better all around.”

The water surrounding MacDill AFB isn’t the only thing that needs to be protected on base.

“People are generally surprised that MacDill has over 1,200 acres of natural areas on base, not including the shallow waters offshore,” said Lykens. “Tampa Bay is one of the most densely populated areas in Florida with not a great deal of contiguous natural habitat left, particularly along the shorelines. That makes MacDill very important as it’s really the only suitable habitat in Tampa for many animal species.”

The 6th CES works very closely with other organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Aquarium to ensure MacDill is well taken care of for the people and the planet.

“We typically come to base once a year and do most of our clean-up dives around the piers,” said Mark Risk, Florida Aquarium volunteer diver. “To give props to the military, this is usually our easiest spot to clean around the Bay.”

Throughout the year, many events are held around base that benefit the environment, but members don’t have to wait for these to start making a difference today.

“Simple decisions made on a daily basis can have a much bigger impact than you think,” said Lykens. “Making simple decisions like having a reusable water bottle, or reusable dishware can really make a gigantic positive impact. I challenge everyone to take one positive action every day that will benefit the environment as you might be surprised how easy it is and you won’t be sorry that you did!”