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).
View all posts by Rob Diaz de Villegas →
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 ETReel 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.
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.
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 →
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 also to Suzie Buzzo, Mike Jones, and the rest of the Tallahassee Museum animal staff for your help.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU 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 →
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.
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.
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 →
Kick back and relax on a short trip down the Wacissa River. Recent rains had darkened the water on our shoot day, but wildlife was out in full force. This segment aired on the February 16 episode of Local Routes.
Music in the video was provided by Brian Bowen. Thanks to Brian, and to Dave Murphy of Winterstone Sound for providing instrumental versions of Brian’s songs.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU Media
“If I had to come back to the same place over and over again, I would pick the Wacissa,” Harry Smith told us as we paddled back to the boat ramp. Harry is an outfitter based out of Tallahassee’s Railroad Square. We spent the day kayaking with him, his wife, and a few friends. Retired FWC biologist Michael Hill came along to get in some fishing and share his knowledge of aquatic flora and fauna.
MegaThis week’s musical guest on Local Routes is Taller Trees, who perform their song Old As Earth. That’s kind of the theme of this video as well. In it, we look at rocks and fossils with geologist Harley Means. He shows us what the old earth around the Apalachicola River tells us about its ancient past.
Music in this video was provided by Chris Matechik. You can catch his band, The Flatheads, playing in and around Apalachicola. The RiverTrek kayak trip featured in this story is a fundraiser for Apalachicola Riverkeeper.
Alum Bluff was once Apalachicola Bay. Currently, it towers above the Apalachicola River, 84 miles from the coast. Florida’s largest geologic outcropping is a peek under the skin of the earth, eroded into view by the river. Here, we can see millions of years of shifting shorelines and animals long gone. And by we, I mean geologist Harley Means. He sees these things, and he was nice enough to interpret them for us on RiverTrek 2016.
A family of three is on a mission to see how far away they can get from people. They are Remote Footprints. Today, the Means family leads us into the Bradwell Bay Wilderness, our remotest local area.
Music in the video was composed by Hot Tamale, who just happen to be this weeks musical guest on Local Routes.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU Media
The most surprising moment of our remote adventure didn’t happen in the swamp, or in the forest, but in front of a computer. Rebecca Means clicked a check box, and all of our area roads loaded onto her map. Our rural, forested Big Bend of Florida wasn’t as open as I had thought. Continue reading →
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 VillegasWFSU 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 →
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 VillegasWFSU-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 →
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.
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 →