All posts by Rob Diaz de Villegas

About Rob Diaz de Villegas

Rob Diaz de Villegas is a senior producer for WFSU-TV, covering environment and the outdoors. Rob is in the process of completing Roaming the Red Hills, an exploration of north Florida/ south Georgia ecology funded by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. Rob’s previous ecology projects include EcoShakespeare, which was funded by PBS member station WNET and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and In the Grass, On the Reef, a collaboration with the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab funded by the National Science Foundation. Rob’s EcoAdventure segments air on WFSU’s Local Routes and can be found on the WFSU Ecology Blog.

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Lake Report 2016: Leon County’s Cleanest and Dirtiest Lakes

In 2014, we posted a look at the health of Leon County lakes. Noticing that a number of people are still visiting the page, we’ve produced an updated summary with current data for each major lake in the area.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Leon County has a good number of lakes where people can kayak, fish, or hike.  We care about the cleanliness of these waterways because we want to play in and around healthy waters.  Nature is key to Tallahassee’s quality of life, and a draw for tourists.  Well maintained ecosystems and abundant wildlife are a part of that draw. Continue reading

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Garden to Cafeteria | Making STEM Tasty at the Success Academy

In today’s video, we look at a school garden that feeds and educates students. We also look at different community efforts looking to bring nutritious food to Tallahassee residents living in food deserts.  

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Today on the menu at the Success Academy: black eyed peas.  It’s not a main dish, but possibly the most interesting.  It’s the first time the cafeteria is serving food grown in the Success Academy garden. Continue reading

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Upper Chipola River Kayak Adventure | Ghosts & Thunder on the Water

November is Paddle sports Month in Florida, and what better way to celebrate than with a trip down the Upper Chipola River?  We’ve got a ghost story, some log climbing, and a little inclement weather.

Music for the segment was provided by the Adventures of Annabelle Lyn.  Check out their performance on Local Routes from a few weeks back.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

“Well, you do have dry bags, right?”  Tyler Macmillan asks, sitting in his kayak and consulting his phone.  We’re almost half an hour into our Upper Chipola River kayak trip, and we’re starting to hear thunder.  We have a choice to make- do we paddle back upstream or race ahead? Continue reading

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Saint Vincent Island | Appalachian Sands and Rising Seas

We journey to one of the most remote places in the WFSU viewing area: Saint Vincent Island. Our hosts are author Susan Cerulean and Florida State University oceanographer Dr. Jeff Chanton. They shared their respective artistic and scientific perspectives of this stunning barrier island.

In the video, you’ll hear a song titled St. Vincent Island, which was written and performed by Velma Frye and Becky Reardon.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

After we visited Saint Vincent Island, Jeff and Susan drove me out to a strip of sand called Flagg Island.  A popular nesting site for shore birds, the 25 acre sand bar has been proposed as a Critical Wildlife Area.  This designation would prohibit people from getting within a certain distance of the island, letting the birds do their thing. Continue reading

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The Apalachicola Oyster in 2016 | A Long Road to Recovery

A few weeks ago, we explored the Apalachicola oyster’s connection with the Apalachicola River Delta, and the mysterious Tate’s Hell swamp.  Today, we take a closer look at the oyster itself, and its embattled bay.  We return to the bay next week for an adventure on Saint Vincent Island with author Susan Cerulean and FSU Oceanographer Jeff Chanton.

As in the Tate’s Hell video, music was composed for the piece by Chris Matechik.  Chris plays in the acoustic duo, the Flatheads, and is a marine technician at the FSU Coastal & Marine Laboratory.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

An oyster is tonged from Apalachicola Bay.  It is shucked, handed to me, and eaten just minutes after it left the water.  Almost immediately, a wave of energy washes over me.  This must be what Popeye feels when he eats spinach, or Mario when he eats the mushroom and becomes Super Mario.

It is, as Shannon Hartsfield says in the video, a perfect half shell oyster. Continue reading

Monacrh butterfly on swamp milkweed flower.

Butterfly Gardening | Building a Pollinator Habitat in Your Yard

On Season 1 of Local Routes, we plunged into the wild spaces of the Red Hills in search of native butterfly species. Over this last summer, WFSU Producer Rob Diaz de Villegas had an outbreak of monarch caterpillars in his yard. These experiences sparked an interest in what it takes to create a butterfly habitat in the home. Lilly Anderson-Messec manages Native Nurseries in Tallahassee and is an expert in creating pollinator gardens. She shared some of her knowledge with us.

The music in this segment was composed for WFSU by Hot Tamale (Appropriately, they’ll be playing at the Monarch Festival: October 22 on the St. Marks Refuge). We’ll continue to use local music to score EcoAdventures throughout season 2 of Local Routes. Also this season: performances by the Currys, the Adventures of Annabelle Lyn, Langtry, and more!

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

If you invite bees and butterflies into your garden, they will come.

If you have any sort of plants in your backyard, you’ve already invited insects.  Living in Florida, we have little choice in the matter.  However, each insect has specific plants with which it has ecological relationships.  Plant the right flowers or native shrubs, and you’ll see more and more of the colorful pollinators that work our veggie plants and brighten our gardens.

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Kayakers head into fate's Hell on Graham Creek.

Tate’s Hell & the Apalachicola River Delta | Feeding an Estuary

Leading up to the latest Florida/ Georgia Water Wars trial, we begin a two part look at the Apalachicola River and Bay.   In today’s video, we explore a critical component of the  watershed: Tate’s Hell and the Apalachicola River delta.  The wetlands and waterways of the delta are key to the success of the Apalachicola oyster, and they’re fun to explore.  As for those oysters, watch Local Routes at 8 pm ET on October 27 for a look at the recovery of fishery, which has been reeling since droughts in 2012.

The banjo tunes you hear in the video were composed by Chris Matechik.  We last heard Chris jamming at Owl Creek on RiverTrek 2015 (with 4-year old Max dancing along).  Chris is a marine technician at the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Today on our Tate’s Hell kayaking trip, we’re heading off the trail map.  Specifically, I’m looking at Florida Fish and Wildlife’s map of paddling trails in the Apalachicola River Delta.  The suggested trips all head away from Tate’s Hell State Forest, while many waterways heading into the forest end in questions marks.  It looks like we’re paddling into the unknown.  And yet, that’s where we want to go to get a firm grasp of the river delta’s inner workings. Continue reading

Monarch: From Caterpillars to Butterflies (and right in our kitchen)

In this two minute video, we can see monarch caterpillars eat, grow, form a chrysalis, and emerge as butterflies.  All while two young children look on.  Look for a video on butterfly gardening on October 20 on Local Routes (8 pm ET on WFSU-TV), featuring Lilly Anderson-Messec of Native Nurseries.

Once again, Tallahassee’s own Hot Tamale composed some original music for us to use in this segment.  Thanks again Craig and Adrian!

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Over the summer, my family and I have been witnessing a one-of-a-kind migration pass through a critical habitat: our backyard.  Last month, I spotted several monarch caterpillars munching on our garden milkweed, so we brought them into our home.  It was a great opportunity for my sons to witness the life cycle of the most intriguing butterfly species to (temporarily) call our area home. Continue reading

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Bringing the Striped Newt Back to the Munson Sandhills

UPDATE: Scroll down to see the recent good news in the striped newt repatriation project covered in this video (May 24, 2016)

The striped newt is a bridge between the longleaf pine ecosystem and the many local water bodies that connect to our aquifer.  If you want to know more about other longleaf species like red cockaded woodpeckers (one of whose cavity is taken over by another species in the video below) or gopher tortoises (in whose burrows striped newts may shelter during fires), you might enjoy our recent Roaming the Red Hills series.  The location of our gopher tortoise video is Birdsong Nature Center, where the stars of our striped newt adventure will be leading the first ever Ephemeral Wetlands Extravaganza this Saturday, May 21 (EDIT: This is event is being rescheduled due to storms forecasted for Saturday morning.  Keep an eye on the Birdsong calendar or Facebook page for more information) .  

Like in Roaming the Red Hills, original music was composed for this video by local musicians.  Hot Tamale has contributed music to EcoAdventures in the past.  In one of the first ever posts on this blog, Hot Tamale’s Craig Reeder wrote about their song Crystal Gulf Waters, which was inspired by the 2010 BP Oil Spill.  The segment below aired on the May 19 episode of Local Routes.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Ryan and Rebecca Means put the future of the striped newt species (in the Apalachicola National Forest, anyway) in the hands of young children.  They didn’t intend it to be symbolic; it just seemed like it would make for nice video.  And it was.  The images do, however, reflect a central mission of the Means’s work with the Coastal Plains Institute: to foster a love of our local ecosystems in the young, with the hope of creating a new generation of stewards. Continue reading

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Eluster Richardson | Painting Life on a Red Hills Tenant Farm

Welcome to Part 8 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the April 14 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes.  Through ten 3-minute videos, we’ll explore the natural soul of the Red Hills of Florida and Georgia, from the pine uplands down to its rivers, lakes, and farms.  Thanks to Tracy Horenbein for creating original compositions for this video series.  The series is narrated by Jim McMurtry. 

Funding for Roaming the Red Hills was provided by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

A lot of history doesn’t make it into history books.  Artist Eluster Richardson refers to those “everyday scenes we took for granted.”  Kids playing under a farmhouse.  A community gathering around a mill to grind sugar cane.  A farmer working the field with a mule.  For an artist, it’s a challenge trying to recreate scenes of a bygone past, especially when there aren’t always photos or other imagery.  When he was commissioned to paint these scenes for the Jones Tenant House at Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, Eluster did have one thing going for him.  He lived them. Continue reading