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.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, coiled.

Into the Forest with Bruce Means and the Eastern Diamondback Rattler

We’re in the Apalachicola National Forest with Dr. Bruce Means and the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Bruce is considered a leading expert on this misunderstood species, and has written the definitive book on the rattler, called Diamonds in the Rough. Through its life Bruce has a lot to show us about the longleaf ecosystem.

Music in the segment was provided by Don Juan and the Sonic Rangers.  You can see “Don Juan” Fortner with the Smooth Sailing Jazz duo, and with the Mary and Aaron Band.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

At one point in the video above, Bruce Means, his arm in a stump hole, begins to scream.  Then, he turns to the camera and laughs.  “I love to do that with groups,” he chuckles.  He’s showing us a favorite hiding place of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.  Using a little bit of theater- and citing decades of research- he’s turning an unremarkable burnt out stump into a dynamic refuge within the longleaf pine forest. Continue reading

A kayaker makes her way down the Wacissa River.

Wacissa Springs Adventure | Kayaking a Wild Florida River

Kick back and relax on a short trip down the Wacissa River.  Recent rains had darkened the water on our shoot day, but wildlife was out in full force.  This segment aired on the February 16 episode of Local Routes.

Music in the video was provided by Brian Bowen.  Thanks to Brian, and to Dave Murphy of Winterstone Sound for providing instrumental versions of Brian’s songs.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

“If I had to come back to the same place over and over again, I would pick the Wacissa,” Harry Smith told us as we paddled back to the boat ramp.  Harry is an outfitter based out of Tallahassee’s Railroad Square.  We spent the day kayaking with him, his wife, and a few friends.  Retired FWC biologist Michael Hill came along to get in some fishing and share his knowledge of aquatic flora and fauna.

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A Geologist’s View of the Apalachicola River | Shark Fossils and Rocks

This week’s musical guest on Local Routes is Taller Trees, who perform their song Old As Earth.  That’s kind of the theme of this video as well.  In it, we look at rocks and fossils with geologist Harley Means.  He shows us what the old earth around the Apalachicola River tells us about its ancient past.

Music in this video was provided by Chris Matechik.  You can catch his band, The Flatheads, playing in and around Apalachicola.  The RiverTrek kayak trip featured in this story is a fundraiser for Apalachicola Riverkeeper.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

Alum Bluff was once Apalachicola Bay.  Currently, it towers above the Apalachicola River, 84 miles from the coast.  Florida’s largest geologic outcropping is a peek under the skin of the earth, eroded into view by the river.  Here, we can see millions of years of shifting shorelines and animals long gone.  And by we, I mean geologist Harley Means.  He sees these things, and he was nice enough to interpret them for us on RiverTrek 2016.

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Remote Footprints goes deep into the Bradwell Bay Wilderness

A family of three is on a mission to see how far away they can get from people.  They are Remote Footprints.  Today, the Means family leads us into the Bradwell Bay Wilderness, our remotest local area.

Music in the video was composed by Hot Tamale, who just happen to be this weeks musical guest on Local Routes.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

The most surprising moment of our remote adventure didn’t happen in the swamp, or in the forest, but in front of a computer.  Rebecca Means clicked a check box, and all of our area roads loaded onto her map.  Our rural, forested Big Bend of Florida wasn’t as open as I had thought. Continue reading

MOnarch butterfly rests on an FSU cap.

Monarch Tagging at the St. Marks Refuge | Citizen Science at Sunrise

In the video below, first time WFSU producer Zach Hunter takes us to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge for an early morning of trapping and tagging monarch butterflies.  Earlier in Local Routes season 2, we watched as ecology producer Rob Diaz de Villegas and his family raised monarch caterpillars.  Here, we see another phase of this butterfly’s remarkable journey.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

To tag monarch butterflies, you have to get to where they are before they wake up.  Lucky for us, they go to a pretty good place to watch a sunrise.  When the sun finally rose over Lighthouse Pond in the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge, volunteers had been at work for over an hour.  It was mid November, just past the peek migration season.  There weren’t many butterflies to see. Continue reading

Ornate chorus frog on the fingertips of a researcher.

Striped Newts and Ornate Chorus Frogs in the Munson Sandhills

When Local Routes returns next Thursday (February 2 at 8 pm ET), we hike to the most remote spot in the viewing area- the Bradwell Bay Wilderness.  We’re doing this with Remote Footprints, a passion project of Rebecca and Ryan Means, and their daughter Skyla.  In their day jobs, Rebecca and Ryan are biologists for the Coastal Plains Institute.  Today, we visited with the CPI and its partners as they released striped newts into the Munson Sandhills.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

For the first time in twenty years, researchers observed striped newt larvae in the Apalachicola National Forest.  It hadn’t been seen in the forest, which was once a stronghold for the species, since the late 1990s.  The Coastal Plains Institute had spent six years releasing newts into the forest, hoping to see reproduction in the wild.  A few months after their sixth release in January 2016, which we filmed, they dip netted a larval newt that seems to have been bred in the wild.  More followed. Continue reading

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

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

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

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