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

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.

Continue reading

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