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Young environmentalist brings awareness to Mashomack

Sabrina McManus with one of the discs she’s leaving near trails in Mashomack to bring awareness on the issue of  endangered species.

What were you doing in 5th grade to better the world? Sabrina McManus probably has you beat.

The Sag Harbor girl is increasing awareness of endangered species while inspiring people to go hiking.

On Monday, Earth Day, Sabrina and her support crew of mom and younger sister Violet visited Mashomack Preserve. The team wore matching “Look To Save Animals” shirts, with a tiger salamander logo. Sabrina brought along her hand-made discs featuring one of five different endangered species: humpback whale; leatherback turtle; tiger salamander; shortnose sturgeon; and vaquita, a critically endangered porpoise with perhaps less than 30 left in the wild.

Sabrina is hiding up to 50 discs along hiking trails on the East End. The 3.5-inch diameter discs have the silhouette of one of the species and are made of plaster and coated with surfboard resin to make them resistant to weather.

So far, five have been placed in Mashomack, with others along the Long Pond Greenbelt in Sag Harbor and the trails maintained by the Southampton Trails Society.

“When a person finds the disc they get to keep it,” she said. “All we ask is that you visit looktosaveanimals.com to register your disc and take a moment to read about the animal that appears on your disc.”

The individually numbered discs are hidden within 3 feet of the trails to minimize the trampling of plants and animals, as well as to protect people from ticks. Sabrina credits her teacher for piquing her interest in the environment, but this is a totally self-driven project, with no school credit attached. Among the skills she’s learned so far are contacting organizations to get permission to hide the discs, making several prototypes of the discs before settling on the current model, and learning how to set up a website.

This poised young environmentalist has also given a talk to Sag Harbor’s 5th grade classes and will be staffing a table at the South Fork Natural History Museum’s Earth Day festival on Saturday, April 27.

Because her project has been received so enthusiastically, she may expand both the numbers of species represented and the number of discs hidden in the near future.