Monster hurricane Irma devastated portions of the Florida Keys. NASA Image Library

Monster hurricane Irma devastated portions of the Florida Keys.
Image Credit: NASA Image Library

CLEMSON – Clemson University marine scientists and students are leading efforts to solicit help for the hurricane-impacted Florida Keys and Caribbean.

A team of Clemson researchers – led by associate professor Michael Childress and Ph.D. candidate Kylie Smith of the College of Science – paid particular attention to Hurricane Irma’s devastation in the Florida Keys. The Childress lab has been conducting research in the Keys for the past 25 years. Not only did the storm imperil portions of the lab’s most-recent research projects, it also left parts of the Keys destroyed and many residents in dire straits.

Smith has begun to solicit donations to help Keys residents clean and rebuild their homes and businesses. Suggested items include:

  • Cleaning supplies, such as mops, brooms, large garbage bags, rubber cleaning gloves, unscented bleach, ammonia, peroxide, sanding masks and protective eyewear
  • Rags, old towels, old T-shirts
  • Non-perishable food items and snacks
  • Pet food
  • Toiletries, sunscreen and hand sanitizers
  • Diapers, baby wipes and baby food
  • Fans, pillows, blankets and mattresses
  • Essential clothing, such as socks, underwear and T-shirts.

Anyone interested in donating can deliver supplies to Room 132 in Long Hall on the campus of Clemson University. Donations will be accepted from now until 4 p.m. Oct. 10. The supplies will be delivered when Childress, Smith and their team return to the Keys on Oct. 12.

According to Childress, coral reefs have traditionally been resilient to the disturbance of hurricanes. However, with the loss of so many corals, it is unclear how much resilience remains.

This past summer, Smith and several student scientists transplanted more than 196 coral fragments onto eight different near-shore and offshore reefs in the middle Keys. How many of these valuable fragments might have been harmed by Irma’s wave-whipping winds and brutal storm surge has not yet been determined.

“Our upcoming trip to the Keys in October will have a two-fold purpose. Kylie will lead a team of four divers that will re-census our reef sites and bring back the pictures and videos for future analysis in the lab,” said Childress, an evolutionary behavioral ecologist in the department of biological sciences. “Meanwhile, I will lead a team of student volunteers to stay on land and help with restoration efforts at the Keys Marine Lab. This is why we are collecting donations of supplies to bring to folks that are still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Irma. We can re-evaluate our own research while helping others at the same time.”

Clemson University Student Government also is working with the Clemson Caribbean Initiative to collect donations to the Clemson Disaster Relief Fund for Caribbean islands hit by Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Here is a list of items needed:

  • Water
  • Non-perishable food (preferably canned or boxed)
  • Baby wipes
  • Diapers
  • Hygiene items
  • Sleeping mats
  • Batteries
  • Flashlights
  • First-aid kits
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Power generators

The Clemson Disaster Relief Fund will be accepting donations in the Student Government office in the Union until Oct. 17.  Student Government is accepting monetary donations through Venmo, username: @ClemsonRelief. Volunteers also are collecting donations on the Cooper Library bridge today and Friday.