All posts by Rob Diaz de Villegas

About Rob Diaz de Villegas

Rob Diaz de Villegas is a senior producer for WFSU-TV, covering outdoors and ecology. Early in his television career, Rob focused on music production. After a couple of years of producing and editing Spanish and bilingual music video shows in San Antonio, Rob returned to Tallahassee in 2002 to resume production of his local music performance show, OutLoud. From that, he transitioned to local music documentaries, until one day he found himself standing in a muddy salt marsh with a camera, and his life was changed forever. Rob created this blog for a National Science Foundation funded marine biology project called In the Grass, On the Reef. No one asked Rob to expand on this work and cover all ecology in our area, but it seemed like a good thing to do. Subsequent projects under the Ecology Blog umbrella include EcoShakespeare (funded by WNET and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and Roaming the Red Hills (funded by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy). His most recent documentary follows the lives of four red wolf pups born at the Tallahassee Museum, apex predators that once hunted in our local wild spaces. Rob is married with two young sons, and they try to have outdoor family adventures as often as possible (you might see them on the blog from time to time).

Refuge Archeology 2 | Discovering the Spring Creek Village

Earlier this month, we delved into archeological mysteries on the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  Today, we return to the Spring Creek section of the Refuge with the same archeologists as they predict the location of a village over a thousand years gone.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

There are no ancient stone temples in the St. Marks Refuge.  It would be easier for archeologists if there were.  But the people who lived here for thousands of years lived in wooden homes that long ago turned to dirt. Continue reading

The Underground Lives of Ants in a North Florida Forest

Dr. Walter Tschinkel has developed a novel way to explore ant nests.  We travel with him to the Apalachicola National Forest for a brand of research that creates works of art, in collaboration with the ants themselves.  You can see an exhibit of this art at the Tallahassee Museum through June 10, 2018.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

I think all of us at some time have stepped on a mound of dirt, uncovering scores of scurrying ants.  Immediately, we brush them off our feet before they can bite us.  When we see lines of ants crossing grass, we chose a different spot in the park to have our snack.  And we’re definitely unhappy to see them in our house.  When we see ants in our world, they’re pests. Continue reading

Rebecca Means holds a gopher frog in her hand. It has contracted into a defensive posture, front feet in front of its face.

Its Wetlands are Dry, But There’s Plenty to See in the Munson Sandhills

Ephemeral wetlands in the Munson Sandhills are currently dry.  But this region of the Apalachicola National Forest has plenty to see, including rare and threatened animal species.

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The frosted elfin is a rare butterfly whose strongest concentration in the Southeast is within the Apalachicola National Forest. Photo courtesy Dean and Sally Jue.

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

Today, we’re taking the kids out to ephemeral wetlands in the Apalachicola National Forest.  Our purpose?  To show them that right now, the wetlands aren’t so wet.

It sounds like a crazy reason to drag kids out to the forest on a Sunday morning.  Last year, we adopted two wetlands with two other families, my son Max’s first grade classmates.   So they’ve already started learning about this environment and formed positive memories after spending time here with their friends.

We’re here today because there’s a tremendous value in visiting the same spot in nature over time, through different seasons and climate cycles.  Nature isn’t static.  Individual plants and animals change through the seasons.  The wetland itself changes over the course of wet and dry years.  Being here is the best way for kids (and adults) to get in tune with the workings of any wild space.

And even in its current dry state, we still have the opportunity to see some things.  In particular, Max, his friend Dylan, and little brother Xavi might get to see the gopher frog, a species of concern.

Continue reading

Weeden Island burial ceramic- recreation.

Byrd Hammock | Archeological Mysteries on the St. Marks Refuge

Byrd Hammock is an archeological site on the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla Beach Unit.  Here, archeologists with the Southeast Archeological Center (part of the National Park Service) are trying to solve a mystery…

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Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU Public Media

How do you begin to know a person who died over a thousand years ago, and left behind no writing?  People lived in north Florida for at least 14,000 years before Hernando de Soto occupied Anhaica in 1539-40.  Through the Spanish, we know that the people who lived here then called themselves the Apalachee.  We know about their daily lives and religious beliefs, albeit through the biased lens of European witnesses.  But at least those clergymen and soldiers lived among and talked to the Apalachee.

There’s no such chronicle for the previous 14,000+ years of life in the panhandle.

Continue reading

Two month old red wolf puppies gather around their father at the Tallahassee Museum.

Red Wolf Family Celebrates First Year at the Tallahassee Museum

The Tallahassee Museum’s red wolf pups are shy, and especially early on, few people were able to see them.  Luckily, they became accustomed to our cameras, and so we’ve been able to watch them grow.  Below is a documentary on their first year.

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Some days, the red wolves are more obviously “wild” than others.  One day, for instance, I got footage of two pups fighting over a bone.  Just as soon as the short tailed alpha puppy asserted that it was his rib, he became alert.  I could hear a police siren faintly in the distance.  Soon, all eight of the Tallahassee Museum wolves were howling.  It sounded more monkey than wolf-like to me, a combination of longer howls and strange whoops.  It was everything I could ask for out of a shoot day. Continue reading

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