Sinkhole at Lake Miccosukee, with two waterfalls.

Lake Miccosukee Sinkhole Hike: Floridan Aquifer Exposed!

Low rain has exposed a sinkhole or two on Lake Miccosukee, offering a glimpse into the forces that created our largest area lakes, and their connections to the Floridan Aquifer.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

We’re walking on exposed lake bed.  The ground is spongey and springy, not a place used to feet pressing down on it.  The west edge of Lake Miccosukee is usually kind of a cypress swamp, and in the winter coots issue out of it to forage among the grasses in the open water alongside.  Right now, though, the open water looks grassier, and I’m walking in that swamp.  Miccosukee’s water is going down a hole. Continue reading

Exploring Muscogee Culture Through Shell Carving

The art and iconography of Muscogee shell carving is a window into Native cultures, their beliefs, and connection to nature.  Thanks to Lynn Ivory for her photos of events at Fred George Basin Greenway and Park.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

Chris Thompson is practicing an ancient art form, but with a power tool.  “Used to, you would carve with a stone, or another shell that was harder,” Chris says.  “Those take a lot longer to carve with.  That’s mainly why we use the Dremel.”  Artistically, the speed of the Dremel’s engraving tip lets Chris carve deeper into the shell surface, so that modern shell carvings have greater relief than those made by Muscogee carvers of old. Continue reading

Kayaking Bald Point | Adventure on a Living Coastline

At Bald Point State Park, we kayak past a little bit of everything that defines Florida’s Forgotten Coast.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

When we get to the mouth of Chaires Creek, the tide has gone out enough to see the tops of some oysters.  It’s a little after 1 pm-  high tide was 10:16 am, and low tide is 4:02 pm.  If we stay too much longer, the mouth of the creek will be choked by oyster bars, and sand bars will make the kayak back to Tucker Lake slow going.

Continue reading

Red Wolf Pups at the Tallahassee Museum- December 2017 Update

Not only are the Tallahassee Museum’s red wolf pups getting big- they’re going to be here longer than originally expected.  Learn more below:

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

When I get to the enclosure, three red wolves of similar size are out.  At first it looks like three adults, one more than I know should be here.  The father wolf has always been easy to pick out; he’s a good bit bigger than the mother.  I take a close look at the other two wolves, and it’s the skinny legs that give away the pup.  In the almost three months since I last visited the Tallahassee Museum, these puppies have done a bit of growing. Continue reading

Gulf frittilary in flight over a large gathering of butterflies, including little yellow, orange sleepy, and cloudless sulphur species.

Tallahassee Butterfly Count 2017: Know Your Local Species

Butterflies are all around us, and they deserve a closer look.  When you pay attention to butterflies, you notice the plants they use, and other interesting insects.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

Some of my favorite butterfly shots in this video came from an unrelated shoot.  We were at Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy on the day of the eclipse.  Did red cockaded woodpeckers get fooled into acting like it was sunset?  No, it never got that dark in Tallahassee.  But, on the way out, we found our way blocked by the hundred-plus butterflies you see in the opening shots. Continue reading

Steephead Salamander Search, and the Apalachicola’s Ice Age Refugees

In a steephead ravine, we enter a landscape as Appalachian as it is Floridian- perhaps a glimpse at the Apalachicola River of the ice ages.  In part 3 of our salamander adventure, Bruce Means climbs down in search of the Apalachicola dusky, an animal he discovered here over 50 years ago.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

“We’re standing at one of the places I most love in this world,” Bruce Means tells the camera.  “There’s a big surprise right behind me.”

Dr. Means stands in an open field, a row of oak trees a short distance away.  When we get to the tree line, we look down.  Up here, all we see are the tops of trees and a slope that descends into shadows.  At the bottoms of those trees, however, lies the promise of rare plants and animals, a few of which aren’t found anywhere but the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines region.  This is a steephead ravine. Continue reading

Bruce Means inspects his dip net, which is full of dead leaves. He is searching for southern dusky salamanders in the Bradwell Bay Wilderness, Apalachicola National Forest.

Bradwell Bay | A Last Refuge of the Southern Dusky Salamander

The Bradwell Bay Wilderness is dark and mysterious- and full of life.  In part 2 of our salamander adventure, Bruce Means searches the swamp for the southern dusky, a critter that has disappeared from almost everywhere else.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

Is there something you love doing enough to do it for over fifty years?  Some do, and that’s why I’m here today.  I’m following Bruce Means into a titi swamp in the Bradwell Bay Wilderness.  He’d scour this place as a Florida State University graduate student in the 1960s, and today we’re on the same mission.

We’re on the hunt for southern dusky salamanders. Continue reading

A Hillis's dwarf salamander perches on the finger of Dr. Bruce Means.

Dwarf Salamander Search in the Chipola River Floodplain

We take an eye level look at the habitat of the Hillis’s dwarf salamander, a species new to science.  Our guide is Dr. Bruce Means, who, along with other researchers, discovered the salamander along regional waterways.  A few months ago, we spent a day in the forest with Dr. Means and an eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

After about an hour of searching for salamanders, Bruce Means stops to grab a drink.  It’s a hot summer day, and about time for some cool refreshment.  He gets down on his hands and knees and presses his lips against the muck on the slope.  There, cool, clean water is seeping from an underground lake, creating the ecosystem favored by the subject of our search. Continue reading

Underwater archeologists excavate the Ryan-harley site on the lower Wacissa River.

Seeing the Ice Age Wacissa Through Artifacts and Fossils

Last week, we met Morgan Smith’s team and got to know their archeological sites on the Silver River.  Today, we’ll revisit their Wacissa River site, see some of the artifacts and fossils they’ve found, and learn what they can tell us about ice age Florida.   We’ll also look ahead to potential off shore digs.

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

In the video above, we visit three archeological sites on two rivers.  When you watch footage from each sites, one sticks out as the most visually striking.  It’s an underwater cavern at the head spring of the Silver River, and it’s full of mammoth bones.  It looks like a cool place to explore.  But it’s also the site with the least scientific value. Continue reading

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