Morgan Smith, in full scuba gear, descends into Silver Springs' (Florida) head spring, also known as Mammoth Spring.

Underwater Archeology in Florida Part 1 | Silver River Mammoths

Last year, an archeological site on the Aucilla River made international news when an artifact was found in sediment radiocarbon dated to 14,550 years ago.  This makes it one of the oldest sites in North America, further evidence that people were here earlier than once believed.  We catch up with the research team behind that find.  Our area is a hotbed for underwater archeology; in fact, our many waterways might be our greatest archeological asset.

Special thanks to Shawn Joy, Morgan Smith, and Matt Vinzant of Karst Underwater Research for letting us use their underwater footage.  Morgan’s research is sponsored by the Felburn Foundation, Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, and the PaleoWest Foundation. He would like to thank the Silver River State Park, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

“Ocala famous, baby!” Shawn says as he and Morgan look over the cover of the Ocala Star Banner.  In one photo, the two of them are beneath the Silver River in scuba gear, under the headline “Unearthing History”.  Excavating a submerged mammoth kill site might be as glamorous as prehistoric archeology gets, and it looks good on the newsstand. Continue reading

Three monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed plant.

Monarch Caterpillar Predators | Beneficial Insects Aren’t Always Beneficial

If you haven’t seen it, you might be interested in watching our video chronicling the life cycle of the monarch– from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.  We also went down to the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge last fall for a little monarch tagging, and to learn about their Monarch Milkweed Initiative.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

Our second monarch raising season started much earlier this year.  At this point last year, we had just released our first six monarchs; as of Monday, we have released twenty six (we released one on August 21, just after the eclipse).   Continue reading

A red wolf puppy peeks out of its artificial den at the Tallahassee Museum.

Red Wolf Pups at the Tallahassee Museum | July 2017

These puppies are running!  The Tallahassee Museum’s red wolf pups are three months old, and visibly larger than the last time we saw them.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

If you’ve been visiting the Tallahassee Museum looking to catch a glimpse of their red wolf pups, you’ve been out of luck.  So far, anyway.  They’re growing fast, and their behavior is changing as they grow.  There is a pattern to my two shoot days with them.  After the animal exhibit trails close, they start to poke their heads out.  When the animal staff heads out on their cart, the four pups come out and explore. Continue reading

Red Wolf Pups at the Tallahassee Museum | June 2017

We’ll be visiting the Tallahassee Museum every few weeks to see how their four red wolf pups are growing.  If you missed it, we had previously visited the Museum when their mother was pregnant with them.  We also took a look at the Museum’s role within the overall effort to restore this native predator to the American southeast.  We also visited Saint Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, a red wolf island propagation site within the system.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

Yesterday, the Tallahassee Museum reopened its red wolf exhibit.  Their four new pups are two months old, and they’re still kind of shy.  But, if you’re patient, you may get a look at one of them.  Last Friday, I took a camera down to get the shots in the video above.  After two-and-a-half hours, people stopped coming and little heads topped up from the wolf den.  Thirty minutes after that, perhaps they felt better about my presence; they came out and played with their dad for a few minutes (The mom came out for a total of ten seconds during my time there). Continue reading

Adopting an Ephemeral Wetland | Kids’ Adventures in Citizen Science

(Above) Zoe, Dylan, and Max sit in a field of bog buttons after a day of sampling ephemeral wetlands in the Apalachicola National Forest.  Read more about their adventures in citizen science below.  Thanks to Dylan’s dad, Don, for letting us use his photo.  And thanks to my wife, Amy, for taking most of the photos below.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

After a picnic by the water, the kids all pile into a surprisingly sturdy hammock.  Four sets of arms and legs shift and bulge against the hammock’s mosquito netting, laughter mixing with the occasional “Ow!”   They’re wearing fresh, dry clothes after a wet and muddy Sunday morning.  Citizen science can be dirty work, after all. Continue reading

The Coastal Dune Lake Watershed | Connected by Fire and Water

Over the last year, we’ve explored many aspects of fire ecology.  Today, we see how fire helps water move through the coastal dune lake watershed, connecting pitcher plants and nesting shore birds.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media 

The snowy plover, sitting on its nest by the coast, is connected to the pitcher plant growing by the upland forest.  We’re at Deer Lake State Park in Walton County, Florida, tracing this bond through a coastal dune lake watershed.  Water, of course, unifies this system.  But for that water to move through the system how it should, it needs fire. Continue reading

Mist covers a Saint Vincent Island Beach.

Saint Vincent Island | Where Red Wolves Learn to Be Wild

The following video on the red wolves of Saint Vincent Island premiered at our screening of Red Wolf Revival at the Tallahassee Museum last Saturday.  Next Thursday, April 27, at 8 pm ET Reel South: Red Wolf Revival will air on WFSU-TV.  This award winning documentary looks at the wild population of red wolves, which lives in North Carolina.

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REEL SOUTH is a co-production of UNC-TV, South Carolina ETV, and the Southern Documentary Fund (SDF) with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

If you missed it, make sure to check out our previous red wolf segment, on the breeding program at the Tallahassee Museum.

As in that previous segment, original music was composed for this video by Tracy Horenbein.  Thanks to Tracy, and to Velma Frye and Becky Reardon for allowing us to use their song, Saint Vincent Island.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

Looking at it on a map, you can see how Saint Vincent Island is different than its neighbors.  Think of Cape San Blas, St. George Island, and Dog Island as its siblings, all four birthed by the Apalachicola River.  The others are skinny, while Saint Vincent, the oldest sibling, is, to put it nicely, thick.  It’s not typical of barrier islands in Florida.  However, this size makes it an ideal host for endangered red wolves. Continue reading

Red Wolf at the Tallahassee Museum.

Red Wolf | A Local Predator Finds Help at the Tallahassee Museum

Join us at the Tallahassee Museum on April 15 for a screening of Reel South: Red Wolf Revival.  Red Wolf Revival is an award winning documentary on the wild population of red wolves, located entirely within North Carolina.  We will also screen two shorts about our local efforts to help this endangered predator.  Click to learn more.

REEL SOUTH is a co-production of UNC-TV, South Carolina ETV, and the Southern Documentary Fund (SDF) with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Thanks to Tracy Horenbein for providing original, local music for this segment.  Tracy composed the score for our Roaming the Red Hills series last year.

Thanks also to Suzie Buzzo, Mike Jones, and the rest of the Tallahassee Museum animal staff for your help.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Media

I didn’t think they’d put us in the enclosure with the red wolves.

We’re at the Tallahassee Museum, and we just finished interviewing Mike Jones, the Museum’s animal curator.  He has just told us that negative portrayals of wolves in children’s stories have painted an unfair picture of them.  I guess I’m about to find out how unfair. Continue reading

Hikers walk on the Florida National Scenic Trail along the Choctawhatchee River.

Choctawhatchee River Hiking on new section of the Florida Trail

We’re back on the Florida National Scenic Trail, this time on a new section along the Choctawhatchee River.  Thanks to the Choctawhatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association for helping us out, and to Bruce Varner and Caroling Geary (of Wholeo.net) for providing photos and video of trail construction.

Tallahassee’s Hot Tamale composed some new music for this video.  Thanks again Craig and Adrian for all you do for us!

Our hike by the Choctawhatchee River brims with newness.  It’s not just that we get to hike a recently completed section of the Florida National Scenic Trail.  That is, of course, pretty cool.  That new trail takes us through recently burned forest, the beginning of a cycle of renewal in the longleaf ecosystem.  Also, we’re passing through the Nokuse Plantation, where a massive restoration project is making the forest new again.  It’s a nice coming together of environmental and recreational upgrades in Walton County.

Continue reading

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.

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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