For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- To the soundtrack of birdsongs and camera clicks, a lovely feathered creature leaning against the Australian pine roots protruding from the shores of this unspoiled island wilderness in the Indian River lagoon filled out the photographer's lens.
Though not a bird -- though some might say she moves with the grace of a swan -- professional model and Stuart resident Morgan Toledo, 19, posed for an Earth Day photo shoot on Simpson Island clad in a bathing suit and a feathered hairpiece.
Two environmental nonprofits, Treasured Lands Foundation and The Pegasus Foundation, cosponsored the "Beauty of Volunteerism" swimwear shoot on April 22 to highlight volunteer work on the 3.5-acre island between Sewall's Point and Sailfish Point in Stuart.
It was a vivid way to kick off National Volunteer Week.
Treasured Lands, a land trust and conservation and environmental education nonprofit in Martin County, acquired Simpson Island in 2009. Over the past few years, Treasured Lands volunteers have devoted countless hours to clearing exotic vegetation from the spoil island to make way for native flora that supports birdlife.
"We would really like people to come out and volunteer their time, to learn to fully experience and appreciate the beauty of Martin County and particularly the Indian River Lagoon," said Chuck Barrowclough, executive director of Treasured Lands. "This needs as many advocates as we can muster."
With an office in Hobe Sound, The Pegasus Foundation is known worldwide for its work with elephants and rhinoceros in Africa, stranded marine mammals in New England, stray dogs on Navaho lands, and cats and horses on the Treasure Coast and Caribbean islands.
Ms. Toledo and her counterpart, professional model Lindsey Wood, 29, fittingly volunteered their time to support the efforts of Treasured Lands and Pegasus Foundation. So did Stuart-based photographer and cinematographer Steven Martine. Go Fish and Surf Central in Stuart lent clothes and accessories for the shoot, and TC Paddle brought stand-up paddleboards, on which Lindsey and Morgan posed.
Morgan sported looks ranging from love-child-in-the-wild-flowers to surfer-girl-in-the-water. Lindsey wore an ornate, colorful statement necklace with a solid blue swimsuit for one shot. For another, she posed on the side of a boat in a tank top that read "Florida" and a palm tree-printed jean skirt.
Mr. Barrowclough says Treasured Lands will spend more time on Simpson Island restoration in the coming months in hopes of relocating injured birds, such as brown pelicans and herons, there for rehabilitation.