All posts by Rebecca

biophilia

Snakes, Eagles, & Gopher Tortoises at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center

Rebecca Wilkerson WFSU-TV

In the coming days, we refocus our attention to the coasts as we gear up for the world premiere of In the Grass, On the Reef: Oyster Doctors. This is the culmination of almost four years of collaboration with Dr. Randall Hughes and Dr. David Kimbro. Together, we have explored the salt marshes, oyster reefs, and seagrass beds that fuel Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Stay tuned for more information on the premiere event and opportunities to join us on coastal EcoAdventures.
Regena, one of the two American Bald Eagles housed at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

Regena, one of the two American Bald Eagles housed at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

For this video we take a step back from the coast and travel inland to visit one of Florida’s environmental education centers. The E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center is named after Dr. E.O. Wilson for his work in conservation, preservation and restoration. Dr. Wilson contributed to the development of several new academic specialties in biology and paved the way for many global conservation efforts. He also coined the term “biophilia”, meaning  “love of all living things.”  His life’s work and achievements set the standard for the development of the center and its various education programs.

The Biophilia Center is surrounded by Longleaf Pine ecosystem and is ideal for educating students on the importance of biodiversity. The programs offered through the center are available to fourth and seventh grade classes. While the center focuses on serving students, teachers and professional audiences, it is not your average field trip:

  • Students visit the center for either a 2 or 4-day program. Educators from the Biophilia Center have written hundreds of pages of curriculum that meet state standards. The curriculum can be incorporated into their classroom activities before and after their visits.
  • Currently transitioning from a private foundation to a public foundation, the center relies heavily on donations, grants, and volunteers. This allows the center to host schools free of charge. Schools only pay for transportation and substitute instructors for their classrooms.
  • The Biophilia Center is now open to the public on the first Saturday of every month. Each public day includes a focused educational program and activities based around that theme.
  • Twice a year, the center hosts a Special Needs in Nature in nature event, and they accommodate the special needs of visitors during regular programs as well. With the center also being accessible for visitors in wheelchairs, the educators hope to give everyone an opportunity to enjoy the facility and learn more about the world around them.

The E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center provides an opportunity for fun, hands-on learning about the natural world and the animals within. The educators also teach visitors how to interact with the natural world and appreciate all ecosystems, shaping visitors into budding naturalists.

Visiting schoolchildren handle an eastern indigo snake with "Turtle" Bob Walker.

Visiting schoolchildren handle an eastern indigo snake with “Turtle” Bob Walker.

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SciGirls Tallahassee (and Rebecca) Cope with Marsh Mud

Episode 3: Studying Nature Involves Visiting and Standing in Nature

In a couple of weeks we’ll dive right in and look at oyster reefs and their surprising value. In the weeks following, we’ll do the same with salt marshes, seagrass beds, and with the unique diversity of Bay Mouth Bar.  Right now, we hope you enjoy watching the WFSU/ Mag Lab SciGirls get their footing in the intertidal zone.
Rebecca Wilkerson WFSU-TV

SciGirls' mudy feetThe first question I was asked when I became involved in the In the Grass, On the Reef project was if I was afraid to go out in the field and get a little dirty. “Of course not!” was my response. I have always been a fan of the outdoors and love scalloping and kayaking, so of course I would love this. I guess I was expecting to be in the water more than anything. After all, we couldn’t really be going out into anything too messy, right?

The first few shoots I went on were great and went about how I expected they would. But after a few weeks we went to Wakulla Beach, where I discovered exactly why I was asked that particular question when I was hired. Not fully prepared for my experience that day, I had quite a time trying to walk through the mud without getting sucked in knee-deep and losing my shoes, causing others to slow down and get stuck as well while they were trying to help me out. After clawing my way out and finally escaping the mud, I walked on an oyster reef for the first time. While the mud was not nearly as bad at this point, I am a terribly clumsy person. Luckily, I was able to keep my footing and avoid falling on top of oyster shells.

Although it was exhausting, I still enjoyed my Wakulla Beach experience, as I’ve come to call it. It was definitely a learning experience for me and I loved being able to see the sunset over the reefs. I have yet to master the “quick, light steps” needed to defeat the mud, but I definitely have an appreciation for what our scientists, and many others, go through to set up experiments and collect their data. I also love that getting out in the water (and mud) are a part of my job, not to mention that we get to see some really cool things. Every shoot is a new experience and I notice more about the environment and the animals each time I go out.

And Also, the Animal Experience

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Animals with claws suited to tearing through oyster shell can, unsurprisingly, injure you.

One thing we didn’t mention in the video above or in Rebecca’s post are the animals at the sites, which you definitely have to keep an eye out for.  Members of the Hughes and Kimbro labs have been pinched by blue crabs and have encountered the occasional snake in the marsh.  There are small sharks, the possibility of alligators, and the sting rays that we see and shuffle our feet to avoid stepping on and startling.  You keep an eye out for those knowing that they’re a potential danger, though not a pressing threat.  During last week’s shoots in Saint Augustine, however, events in the news had us paying serious attention to the smallest animals that are also the ones that attack us most relentlessly.  Our country is in the midst of perhaps its worst ever outbreak of West Nile virus.  Mosquitos are a fact of the coast.  During the day, there is usually enough of a breeze to keep them off you; but since the work we follow is tidally based, activities can occur before sunrise or after sunset, when mosquitos are at their worst.  Alligators may look scarier, but it pays to know what the most pressing threat is.

Listen to last Thursday’s Talk of the Nation on preventing West Nile.

Music in the video by grapes.  In the Grass, On the Reef theme music by Lydell Rawls.

In the Grass, On the Reef is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Coastal Roundup August 17th – August 24th, 2012

Rebecca Wilkerson WFSU-TV

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance Volunteer Opportunities
August 20th-August 23rd
Fort Walton Beach, FL
(850) 833-9927
For more information visit this Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance volunteer call.

Treasure Hunt Scallop Drop
Bay scallop in St. Joe Bay seagrass bedAugust 17th-September 10th
St. Joseph Bay, FL
(850) 229-7800

16th Annual MBARA Kingfish Tournament

August 25th
Mexico Beach, FL
For more information visit the MBARA tournament page.

“Sopchoppy Stop” Eco-Heritage Tour
P1000534August 25th
Sopchoppy, FL
(850) 926-3376
For more information visit the Sopchoppy Stop tour page.

Riverkeeper’s 4th Saturday Paddle
Apalachicola River at Bloody BluffAugust 25th
Apalachicola River, FL
(850) 653-8936
For more information visit the Apalachicola Riverkeeper site.

License-Free Saltwater Fishing Day
September 1st
Gulf of Mexico
For more information visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife page.

 

Lionfish

Lionfish 3For the next year, harvesting lionfish will no longer require a fishing license when using certain gear. The recreational and commercial bag limits have also been removed. These changes are effective through August 2013. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hopeful that the changes will increase harvest opportunities of this nonnative invasive species in the Gulf of Mexico.  For more information on lionfish and the new harvest regulations view this FWC news release.

Lucky for us, these invasive lionfish are delicious. Give these Hot Lionfish Poppers a try after a long day of harvesting.

Crab Trap Closures

Derelict crab trap 3Blue crab trap closures began last week for Florida. These two 10-day trap closures give the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost or abandoned traps that could become a problem for the marine environment. The scheduled closures vary by region. For more information on  the closures or the trap-retrieval program visit this FWC news release.

 Inspiring Adventures

Author Peter Heller sat down with Fresh Air host Terry Gross for an interview about his debut novel, The Dog Stars. An expedition kayaker, Heller explains how he draws inspiration through his often-dangerous adventures and how he relates his experiences to those of his characters. To learn more about Heller’s new novel and his paddling journeys, listen to the full interview on the NPR Books blog.

Safe Sun

Scientists from the University of Strathclyde are looking to put an end to outdoor clock-watching and blistered skin. They’ve created an ultraviolet-ray-detecting wristband that will give a visual warning that you’ve been in the sun long enough, using an acid detecting trigger that will turn the band from yellow to pink. Partners in the project are hopeful that the wristband will be available in spring 2013. Read more about the wristband, and the technology behind it, here.

On WFSU-TV

This Wednesday on WFSU-TV’s dimensions, viewers will be taken to various state parks in our viewing area. This one-tank-adventure will also bring us to Grayton Beach, near where producer Rob Diaz de Villegas shot a previous dimensions segment on the 2008 Back to Nature Festival.

In the Grass, On the Reef is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation

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Coastal Roundup August 10th – August 17th, 2012

Rebecca Wilkerson WFSU-TV

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance Volunteer Day – Oyster Reef Bagging
Oyster reefAugust 17th
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
(850) 200-4173
For more information and a list of volunteer opportunities visit the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance volunteer page.

Treasure Hunt Scallop Drop
Bay scallop in St. Joe Bay seagrass bedAugust 17th- September 10th
St. Joseph Bay, FL
(850) 229-7800

16th Annual MBARA Kingfish Tournament
August 25th
Mexico Beach, FL
For more information visit the MBARA tournament page.

“Sopchoppy Stop” Eco-Heritage Tour
P1000534August 25th
Sopchoppy, FL
(850) 926-3376
For more information visit the Sopchoppy Stop tour page.

In the Kitchen

This week will mark the 100th birthday of Julia Child on August 15th. In celebration of the cooking legend, Marc Matsumoto uses Child’s Bouillabaisse to set the framework for a simple Seafood Stew using local ingredients. Learn more about his technique on the PBS Food Blog.

While we’re on the subject of local ingredients, check out how Gulf shrimp from Franklin County is used in this Buffalo Shrimp recipe.

On the East Coast

Near Dr. Hughes and Dr. Kimbro’s  St. Augustine research sites is the Fort Matanzas National monument. This National Park includes beach habitat that is crucial to several iconic Florida species. The National Park Service 2012 management plan has been drafted and some of the changes pose a risk to the wildlife here. The National Park Service will be hearing public input on the draft until August 24th. Visit this Audubon Florida news release for more information.

Clean Water Act

October will mark the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. It is important to understand the importance of this piece of legislation, and to remember that there is still work that needs to be done. Visit this National Geographic News Watch article to read more about the Clean Water Act and its past, present, and future.

Apalachicola River

Apalachicola River at Bloody BluffOctober is also when the 2012 RiverTrek paddle is happening. This five-day  journey along the Apalachicola River helps raise awareness of the plight of the river system. RiverTrek also raises money for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. For more information about RiverTrek , check out Doug Alderson’s Visit Tallahassee blog.

Summer Reading

If your summer reading was taken up by technical manuals, historical tales, or academic studies, you’re not alone. Although these aren’t the typical “beach books” we associate with summer lounging, many people use vacation time to catch up on the reading they’ve pushed aside throughout the year. Read more about which books are being packed for vacations on the NPR Books Blog.

In the Grass, On the Reef is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation

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Coastal Roundup August 3rd – August 11th, 2012

We are just a couple of weeks away from our first new In the Grass, On the Reef videos.  This summer, mud crabs and stone crabs seem unusually abundant and are out on the reefs eating and giving us shots like we hadn’t had before.  Dolphins are liking to pass by when we shoot in Alligator Harbor, and Bay Mouth Bar is crawling with large horse conchs and other snails eating each other.  And just this week, we made it to Wakulla Beach for the first time, where the marshes are overstuffed with fiddler crabs and periwinkle snails.  And while it’s been a great summer for wildlife footage, we’ve also been hitting up seafood markets and restaurants and are starting to get up with more people who have a stake in our coastal ecosystems, where the land meets the sea.

Rebecca Wilkerson WFSU-TV

Oyster Appreciation

Alligator Harbor oyster reefAugust 5th is a day that is near and dear to our hearts, National Oyster Day. To add a feast to your celebration, put a twist on a traditional oyster dish by trying this Rockin’ Oyster Rockefeller recipe.

For those interested in getting more involved with oysters, the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance will be holding an oyster reef bagging volunteer day on August 17th. Groups should register prior to that day if they plan on attending. Visit the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance site for more information on volunteer opportunities.

Recreational Fishing

A few of the saltwater species that are currently in season include Bay Scallops, Greater Amberjack,  and Grouper. To view a complete list of species that are in season or for more information on regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife page on recreational saltwater fishing.

Helping out coastal critters

In addition to the Crawfordville location, Tallahassee’s LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts is now a drop-off center for donations to the Florida Wild Mammal Association. For more information, including a list of non-perishable items that are needed, visit the Florida Wild Mammal Association website. (Photo copyright Florida Wild Mammal Association)

The Franklin County humane Society will be hosting the 15th Annual St. George Island Sizzler on August 11th. There will be a one mile fun run, a 5k race, plenty of food and a post-race party in the center of the island. Visit the St. George Island Sizzler site for more information. (Photo copyright St. George Island Sizzler)

Seagrass Wrack

seagrass wrack in cordgrassWrack, a phenomenon we’ve covered on this site before, is the dark green or brown grasses on the beach and is often mistaken for dried, dying seaweed. It is very much alive and is very important to the ecosystem. A few of the services wrack provides include bringing various organisms to the beach, feeding the birds, and aiding in the formation of sand dunes. Visit this Florida Fish and Wildlife article to find out more about the importance of wrack.

Silver Spring

Already compromised, Silver Springs is now the subject in a proposal that could bring greater harm to the once-magical Florida icon.  Visit this Audubon Florida opinion piece for more information about the current controversy surrounding the spring. To read about the changes that have already taken place in the Silver Springs water visit this Ocala opinion article.  (Photo copyright Audubon Florida)

Designer Shells for Hermit Crabs

Hermit crab in crown conch shell, next to crown conchsIn this area we’re used to seeing hermit crabs in lightning whelk and crown conch shells, like in the photo to the left. But now Robert DuGrenier, who has been blowing glass for over 30 years, is creating and selling custom glass shells for hermit crabs of all ages and sizes. Each shell is uniquely sculpted and can be colored or fused with precious metals for further customization. Learn more and check out some of the designs here.

Invasive Species

Nonnative LionfishAlthough lionfish are not native to the Gulf of Mexico, arriving around two years ago, the species has reached threateningly high numbers. With no natural predators, lionfish are taking over Florida’s reefs and eating juvenile fish. The invasive species could lead to a larger problem for the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem. Diving groups and hunting programs are being established in order to control the species. Listen to this WFSU-FM story for more information. (Photo copyright Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation)

Creating new habitats

The Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association’s Memorial Reef Program lets loved one’s leave an underwater legacy that will last for hundreds of years. The reefs allow families to construct, personalize, and name a reef for their loved one, adding additions later if they wish. The reefs are an ecological way to do a cremation burial and create a permanent and sustainable ecosystem for marine life. For more information, visit the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association’s page on the Memorial Reef Program. Visit this article from The Star to read about personal experiences with the program.

In the Grass, On the Reef is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation