North Florida is home to a variety of wetland environments. Swamps, seepage slopes, bogs, ephemeral wetlands, and steephead ravines, to name a few, are not always places we visit recreationally. But they are of critical importance to area ecology.
Many wetlands connect to larger river systems, and are a habitat and source of nutrients for for a wide range of marine species. Our local wetlands often contain plants and animals species not found anywhere else. They can be mucky and uncomfortable (not always, though), but they are key to the rich biodiversity for which north Florida is known.
I have to state, for the record, that it was Georgia’s idea to do a segment where she learns to drive the Riverkeeper boat. Georgia Ackerman is one of the most experienced people I know out on the water. In a kayak. But as the new Apalachicola Riverkeeper, she needs to drive the boat. I wanted to cover the transition between herself and Dan Tonsmeire, and I had two requests. First, take me (and the WFSU viewers) somewhere we’d never seen before. Second, I wanted some last nuggets of wisdom from Dan, as he handed the reigns to his successor. Continue reading How do Tupelo Trees and Crawfish Help Apalachicola Bay?→
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.
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.
“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 Steephead Salamander Search, and the Apalachicola’s Ice Age Refugees→
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.
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.
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 Dwarf Salamander Search in the Chipola River Floodplain→
(Above) Zoe, Dylan, and Max sit in a field of bog buttons after a day of sampling ephemeral wetlands in the Apalachicola National Forest. Read more about their adventures in citizen science below. Thanks to Dylan’s dad, Don, for letting us use his photo. And thanks to my wife, Amy, for taking most of the photos below.
The snowy plover, sitting on its nest by the coast, is connected to the pitcher plant growing by the upland forest. We’re at Deer Lake State Park in Walton County, Florida, tracing this bond through a coastal dune lake watershed. Water, of course, unifies this system. But for that water to move through the system how it should, it needs fire. Continue reading The Coastal Dune Lake Watershed | Connected by Fire and Water→
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 Striped Newts and Ornate Chorus Frogs in the Munson Sandhills→
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 Tate’s Hell & the Apalachicola River Delta | Feeding an Estuary→