It’s safe to say that 18-year-old Theo Quenee isn’t an ordinary college freshman.

Meghan Overdeep
April 13, 2018
Youtube/Mother Nature Network

Anybody can notice a problem, but it takes an extraordinary person to actually do something about it.

It’s safe to say that 18-year-old Theo Quenee isn’t an ordinary freshman at Florida International University—or even an ordinary teenager, for that matter. After witnessing the destruction Hurricane Irma wrought on his native Miami, Quenee was particularly concerned about the impact the storm had on the area’s mangrove trees.

Mangrove trees are unique in that they live and thrive in saltwater. These recognizable trees and their dense tangle of roots can be found along tropical coastlines. In addition to protecting the coast from erosion due to storm surges, mangroves provide safe habitats for fish and other small sea creatures. 

"After the hurricane there was a massive amount of [mangrove] seedlings mixed within the seaweed/debris mixture," Quenee recalled to Mother Nature Network. "Everything was then going to be gathered and thrown in a truck to dump at a landfill. I realized that all of South Florida would ultimately kill thousands of mangroves in the cleanup process."

Quenee had had success with growing two mangroves before, but now he began to grow them with a purpose, MNN reports. He began picking up hundreds of displaced mangrove seedlings and set out to save them all.

"I live in an area with a lot of trees, so the roof of my house was the only place that got the sunlight. I started with all 524 of them all at once," he noted.

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He learned in high school that mangroves grow best with humidity, so he designed a simple green house with a big platter and a five-gallon bucket. Seven months later, the mangrove plants were big enough to transplant. Quenee and some friends hauled hundreds of mangroves to a nearby sandbar and got to work.

"Some officials passed me when I was planting them, and they were so happy to see me doing this," Quenee told MNN. He added that he’s currently in the process of getting additional permits from the county.

"My hope in doing so was to create a nursery for all the sharks and fish that live in that location, but also help conserve the area from erosion."

Conservation is nothing new for the enterprising teen.

"As a child, my Mom and Dad always pushed my sisters and I to love and conserve the environment," he told MNN. "We would travel to Costa Rica for the summer to explore the jungles and beaches and learn about the environment. We volunteered with a turtle nursery and would help clean the trash on the beach and release the hatchlings into the ocean. I also love water sports, so I hate to see the place where I love to be the most littered in trash and pollution."

Watch a video from MNN of Quenee and his friends planting mangroves above.