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 →
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 VillegasWFSU-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 →
“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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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 VillegasWFSU-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.
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.
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 →
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 VillegasWFSU-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 →
The striped newt is a bridge between the longleaf pine ecosystem and the many local water bodies that connect to our aquifer. If you want to know more about other longleaf species like red cockaded woodpeckers (one of whose cavity is taken over by another species in the video below) or gopher tortoises (in whose burrows striped newts may shelter during fires), you might enjoy our recent Roaming the Red Hills series. The location of our gopher tortoise video is Birdsong Nature Center, where the stars of our striped newt adventure will be leading the first ever Ephemeral Wetlands Extravaganza this Saturday, May 21 (EDIT: This is event is being rescheduled due to storms forecasted for Saturday morning. Keep an eye on the Birdsong calendar or Facebook page for more information) .
Like in Roaming the Red Hills, original music was composed for this video by local musicians. Hot Tamale has contributed music to EcoAdventures in the past. In one of the first ever posts on this blog, Hot Tamale’s Craig Reeder wrote about their song Crystal Gulf Waters, which was inspired by the 2010 BP Oil Spill. The segment below aired on the May 19 episode of Local Routes.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Ryan and Rebecca Means put the future of the striped newt species (in the Apalachicola National Forest, anyway) in the hands of young children. They didn’t intend it to be symbolic; it just seemed like it would make for nice video. And it was. The images do, however, reflect a central mission of the Means’s work with the Coastal Plains Institute: to foster a love of our local ecosystems in the young, with the hope of creating a new generation of stewards. Continue reading →
Welcome to Part 8 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the April 14 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes. Through ten 3-minute videos, we’ll explore the natural soul of the Red Hills of Florida and Georgia, from the pine uplands down to its rivers, lakes, and farms. Thanks to Tracy Horenbein for creating original compositions for this video series. The series is narrated by Jim McMurtry.
A lot of history doesn’t make it into history books. Artist Eluster Richardson refers to those “everyday scenes we took for granted.” Kids playing under a farmhouse. A community gathering around a mill to grind sugar cane. A farmer working the field with a mule. For an artist, it’s a challenge trying to recreate scenes of a bygone past, especially when there aren’t always photos or other imagery. When he was commissioned to paint these scenes for the Jones Tenant House at Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy, Eluster did have one thing going for him. He lived them. Continue reading →
Welcome to Part 7 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the April 14 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes. Through ten 3-minute videos, we’ll explore the natural soul of the Red Hills of Florida and Georgia, from the pine uplands down to its rivers, lakes, and farms. Thanks to Tracy Horenbein for creating original compositions for this video series. The series is narrated by Jim McMurtry.
I’m walking on a cow pasture after the rain, and the mud is sometimes hard to distinguish from the cow-pies. My production assistant, Brian, and I set the tripod. When we look up, a couple of hundred cows are all staring at us. Murmurations of birds make their way through the cows and into an adjacent field. A misty sunrise unfolds behind the feed tower at Buddha Belly Dairy in Quitman Georgia.
Buddha Belly was once Green Hill Dairy, where Al and Desiree Wehner started what would become Sweetgrass Dairy (Buddha Belly is now owned by their son Clay). The milk produced by these grass-fed cows will be made into cheese in Thomasville and sold locally or in any of 38 states where Sweetgrass cheeses are shipped. Continue reading →