An atlas is a very handy book. At the very least it will show you how to get “there” from “here”. The new Atlas of Florida’s Natural Heritage does much more than that. It’s like a guide to the geography and biology of Florida in the present and through time. Besides feeding a curiosity about particular animal or plant species, it also explains how communities of Florida’s animals and plants are interconnected in and with specific locations. The word “Heritage” in the title is very deliberate. The idea is that these wild natural resources we have in Florida have real value and should be shared for the benefit of all Floridians and passed along to future generations. And in many cases the health of these natural communities has a direct impact on our own health and well-being. Written with economy and loaded with graphic illustration and photography to explain the subject matter, this book is just plain fun to look through. It’s the kind of book you can pick up off the coffee table and spend 10 minutes with and you will have learned something new about the wonderful state of Florida. If you want to know more about the Atlas of Florida’s Natural Heritage, you can take a few pages for a test drive at:
I have known John Spohrer since the late 1980’s, when he was introduced to me as one of the locals who lived year-round on St. George Island. I often rented houses with friends for weekends on the island back in those wacky 80’s and 90’s and he was always a welcome addition to whatever revelry would breakout in our kitchen, on our deck or on the beach.
Michael Harrell is a local artist, brought to WFSU-TV’s attention by one of our viewers. Michael paints in both oils and watercolors and among his nautical themes are depictions of the oystermen of Florida and South Carolina. This video looks at that series of paintings. The thing that I found so beautiful about his work is his ability to capture a sense of time with his portrayal of light. You can find additional information about the artist at MichaelHarrellArt.com.
Our local oystermen, as you see in this video, typically harvest subtidal oyster reefs like those in the Apalachicola Bay. Michael Harrell also shows South Carolina oystermen harvesting intertidal reefs like those covered in this blog (i.e. Alligator Harbor). The South Carolina sites of the biogeographic oyster study are sampled by Jeb Byers’ group.
While the focus of this site is of course the science and ecology of our coastal habitats, we do like to occasionally look at the people, the culture, and the history of the area. This of course leads us back to those habitats, from which people on the Forgotten Coast have fed themselves and made a living for thousands of years.
Revelers at the Mighty Mullet Maritime Festival. The event was sponsored by Big Bend Maritime Center.
The Big Bend Maritime Center is an ongoing project of Florida Foresight, which is a non-profit organization that incorporated in 2002. Their vision is for balanced economic, environmental and social development of Florida’s coastal communities. Maritime museums have proven popular in other parts of the coastal United States, so it makes sense that with the rich maritime heritage of Florida’s Big Bend and no current interpretations in the area, one might thrive here, as well. In speaking with Bill Lowrie and Pam Portman, it became clear to me that this is a project they truly believe in and they have a real grasp of the obstacles they face as this project moves forward. They are very serious about this being more than a museum. Besides being an eco-tourism draw…it should be a center of local civic activity, an educational resource for area schools and a haven to preserve local maritime traditions before they fade into history. It will still be a couple of years before this effort starts to bear visible returns, but I think it may be a real gem when it’s done and I look forward to seeing it become a reality.
This mullet was an entry in a Maritime Festival cookoff. Mullet has been a major part of people's lives here for thousands of years.
Thanks to Del Suggs for letting us use some of his music on the piece. The song he’s playing at the end of the piece is Magic Chair. Here he is playing the song at the WFSU studios in 1989:
A few weeks ago we posted a video of a blue crab molting, and about the blue crab reproductive cycle. The man narrating the video was Leo Lovel. That video was an offshoot of a segment for WFSU-TV’s dimensions program, which we present here. As a commercial fisherman and restauranteur, many of the species he makes his living off of are residents of Salt Marsh and Oyster Reef habitats.
Clay (L) and Leo (R) Lovel outside of their business, the Spring Creek Restaurant.
I heard about Leo Lovel from Rick Ott, a friend of mine who owns a recording studio in Sopchoppy, FL. Rick was working on a project to record Leo’s books, The Spring Creek Chronicles 1 & 2, to audio files for books on tape or CD. Rick thought I might be interested in Leo’s short stories about his fishing and hunting experiences around the big bend, dating back to his childhood, so he gave me a copy of the first book. I read some of the stories and then arranged to meet Leo to talk about the books. At that meeting is where he told me about his idea to publish the All Florida Reader. Now, Leo’s day job is owner of a restaurant called Spring Creek Restaurant. It’s a family run business and the Lovel’s have cultivated a very loyal following throughout the southeast over the past 30+ years. They either catch the seafood themselves or they buy it fresh, only from local fishermen. It’s a pretty time consuming way to stock a seafood restaurant menu, but it’s the only way Leo Lovel will serve you a meal.
Back in the 90’s, Leo was also a commercial fisherman who was on the front line of the Florida net ban battle. Although it doesn’t seem like such a long time ago, that era is quietly passing into Florida’s history as those old-timers pass on. And that’s the unusual value I found in the stories that Leo took the time to put down on paper… these are first hand personal accounts of a specific area and people over a long period of time. But Leo took his book project a step further. He turned it into a tool in his personal attempt to help motivate local school kids to “want” to learn to read and write. That’s the All Florida Reader and I think that speaks volumes about Leo Lovel.
Leo's marina at Spring Creek Restaurant. Into here will drift boats carrying what will become dishes in the restaurant.