Damon Moore has spent his entire career spearheading environmental initiatives through his work with entities like the Manatee County Government and Environmental Science Associates. This year, Moore established Oyster River Ecology (ORE), a nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and restore the ecological functions of the Suncoast while increasing awareness and understanding of the natural systems that surround us. 

“I founded Oyster River Ecology as a way to get more ecological restoration projects off the ground in the area,” Moore says. “We’re growing fast. A lot of our natural areas are being turned into housing, and our water quality is obviously hurting. To me, as somebody who grew up in this area and grew up on the water, restoration ecology is a calling.”

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

Moore is an experienced grant writer who knows that funding is crucial when it comes to environmental restoration. He’s in the process of securing funds to help with ORE’s current and future projects. The federal government has recently passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which, among other things, allocates funding for programs intended to mitigate the effects of climate change. Some of that money is already coming to the area–Sarasota County is receiving a $14.5 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the Alligator Creek Restoration Project. Moore is also hoping to procure funding from the same sources for ORE. 

But all the money in the world doesn’t matter if there isn’t also buy-in from the community. Education and hands-on experiences are a big part of the ORE mission. In middle school, Moore worked on a project planting mangroves in Leffis Key, a formative experience that he hopes to replicate for a new generation. 

“The other really important part I think we can bring to these projects is engaging young people and getting them involved in a meaningful way,” Moore says. “Not just telling them about the project, but facilitating experiences and volunteer events so they can learn about it firsthand. I grew up this way, and it really sticks with you.”