Welcome to Part 3 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the March 31 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes. Over 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, and to Belle and the Band for letting us use their song, “All Come In”, from their “Fallen Angel” album. The series is narrated by Jim McMurtry.
So far, we’ve been looking at the birds of the longleaf ecosystem. Fire moves slowly through the undergrowth of this habitat, giving birds that live there, like bobwhite quail and Bachman’s sparrows, enough time to fly to safety. Smaller critters may run away. But some animals aren’t really geared towards running. Sometimes, the safest escape lies below. Continue reading →
Welcome to Part 2 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the March 31 episode of WFSU’s Local Routes. Over 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.
In hands that look like they’d climbed more than thirty feet up a pine tree, Jim Cox holds a seven day old red cockaded woodpecker. There’s a stark contrast between the roughness of Jim’s hands and the delicacy of this new life, gently removed from its cavity high above in a mature longleaf pine. It’s not unlike the delicate state of its species, making a comeback, but only with a lot of human help, and making its home in the roughness of an ecosystem built for regular burning. Beneath RCW cavities are a slick coating of sap, defense against climbing snakes. Neither snakes nor fire are the worst of the birds’ problems, however. What they really need is older trees. Continue reading →
As we await might be the last whooping crane class to winter in the St. Marks Refuge, we look back at a visit we took to the whooping crane site with Brooke Pennypacker, a dedicated crane handler with Operation Migration. We also look at the future of ultralight guided whooping crane migration, which Operation Migration is defending as they meet with partner organizations.
UPDATE – 1/25/16
This year’s ultralight guided whooping migration will be the last. Operation Migration will remain involved in the efforts to create a self-sustaining whooping crane population. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has explained the rationale behind the decision (you can read more on that below), while Operation Migration’s Brooke Pennypacker has written this touching post-decision entry to the OM field blog. From our interview with Brooke and in following Operation Migration over the last few years, I can see how invested he and the other OM staff are when it comes to whooping cranes. They have sacrificed a lot to raise, train and guide flock after flock of cranes, and I can’t imagine that they won’t continue to do so.
This year’s St. Marks flyover, likely to be this week, will be the last. A number of cranes have continued to migrate back to the Refuge after their initial migration, and under the new management regime, the hope is that they will be the ones to guide captive-raised chicks south for the first time. It will be years before the new practices can be judged to be successful, and even then, as in the case of ultralight guided migration, the results may not conclusively predict the long term success of the population. All I can with certainty at this point is that I know there will be dedicated people working their hardest to make it work.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
When I met Brooke Pennypacker, he brought with him an example of the many challenges faced by a whooping crane handler. The staff at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge visitor center told us that Brooke was busy handling an issue in the crane pen, and that he’d be late. About 30 minutes later, he pulled up in an Operation Migration pickup truck. In the bed was a bundle of plastic fencing and white cloth from which an alligator tail protruded. Brooke had recently noticed the cranes move from their usual roosting spot, next to an oyster bar, to a spot on the other end of the pen. They were acting spooked. After spotting the young gator, he borrowed a seine net from Jack Rudloe at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, caught it, and wrapped it in his whooping crane feeding costume. All in a day’s job. Continue reading →
Monarchs are cool, but they’re the only butterflies we see in this area that aren’t 100% local. We trek through a couple of different habitat types and get a hint of the diversity of butterflies we have here in the Red Hills of Florida and Georgia. Scroll down for a complete list of species we saw in the video. Music for the piece comes from Haiqiong Deng‘s performance on Local Routes. She performed two songs; the other song aired in the same episode as this segment. If you missed it, you can watch it on the Local Routes page.
Examining some torn up leaves in my garden one night, I started down a path that led me to become somewhat of a butterfly enthusiast. My wife and I had recommitted ourselves to making full use of the space we had to grow veggies, and part of that was some good old-fashioned pest squashing. Of course, some bugs are beneficial, so I did my due diligence before pulling the trigger. In other words, I went on Google. Continue reading →
We’re pleased to introduce our newest blogger, Jessie Mutz. A graduate student in the Florida State University Department of Biological Science, Jessie will be taking a closer look at some of the many fascinating plants and animals in our area. In the process, she’ll introduce us to FSU students and faculty conducting research across various ecosystems. She starts in a place familiar to this blog when it comes to FSU research- our very own Forgotten Coast.
Jessie MutzGraduate Student, FSU Department of Biological Science
With summertime officially and emphatically here in North Florida, many of us are coastward bound. Like long walks on the beach? As it turns out, you’re not the only one.
Low tide at the FSU Coastal & Marine Lab, St. Teresa, FL. Photo by Scott Burgess.
Meet Dr. Scott Burgess, a marine evolutionary ecologist and one of the newest faculty in FSU’s Department of Biological Science. Although it’s only the start of his first full summer in Tallahassee, Scott has already been hitting the beach – a prime location for researching the reproductive strategies of intertidal invertebrates like the crown conch, Melongena corona. “This area has a lot of species with an unusual life history type, one that is typically less common in other areas,” he says. “So that’s a big interesting thing: Why are there lots of these weird ones here? Why have all of the species chosen this particular life history in this area of the world?” Continue reading →
Video: bird watching, nature writing, and possibly the best sunrise spot on the Forgotten Coast. Author Susan Cerulean joins us at Bald Point State Park.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Susan Cerulean and I are watching a bufflehead duck dive for food by an oyster reef. We’re at Bald Point State Park, and Susan is putting me in tune with nature’s cycles. “You can’t know when that last one’s left,” she says of the duck, which should soon be departing for the north. This is the seasonal cycle, warming and cooling that spurs many of the birds we’re seeing to start continental and intercontinental flights. Continue reading →
Video: Interns at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, FL, get hands on experience working with marine life and equipment.
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
We’re on a boat, speeding through Apalachee Bay on our way back to land. We’ve accompanied Cypress Rudloe and two Gulf Specimen Marine Lab interns on a trip to collect samples. Buckets full of octopus and sea urchins slosh as I take a good look to my left and right and get a firm perspective of where I am. We’re several miles from the St. Marks Lighthouse; it stands out unmistakably as it was designed to do. Smoke unfurls over it and into the Gulf, from a controlled burn on the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. I look left and see the mouth of the Ochlockonee River, and follow the contour of the land as it curls out of sight to Alligator Point. These interns are preparing for a life that keeps them in places like this. Bravo. Continue reading →
Tallahassee SciGirls camp is a collaboration between WFSU and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. For two weeks ever summer, middle school aged girls take over a dozen field trips exposing them to science in multiple real world settings, from the physics lab at Florida State University to the Seacrest Wolf Preserve. We joined them for two of their ecology related adventures. The video below is of their visit to Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy. On Wednesday, September 17 at 7:30 pm ET, their visit to Wakulla Springs airs on WFSU’s Dimensions (look for it here shortly after).
Rob Diaz de VillegasWFSU-TV
Kellie Phillips, a graduate student at the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry, shows the SciGirls how she tracks northern bobwhite quails using radio telemetry. Bobwhites are a popular game species found in fire dependent longleaf habitat.
There is something about a well burned forest that looks clean. The longleaf/ wiregrass ecosystem is uncluttered, with trees spaced widely enough “to drive a wagon through.” Many of our EcoAdventures take place in or around this habitat, which covers much of our area. A lot of our guides on these trips, whether they be land managers, ecotourism professionals, or researchers, love to talk about the habitat and how it thrives with fire. Dr. Tom Miller looked at a plot of Apalachicola National Forest and told me that it had been burned within 18 months. Dr. Jean Huffman looked up at longleaf pines in the Saint Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve and told me how old they were. For any SciGirls interested in ecology, their visit to Tall Timbers was an opportunity to get to know a diverse and productive ecosystem that is easily accessible to those of us living in or around Tallahassee. One day they might be the ones looking forward to the next burn and guiding their local PBS producer through the woods. Continue reading →
Four years ago, we traveled out into the oyster reefs of Alligator Harbor with Dr. David Kimbro. It was both the start of an ambitious new study and of our In the Grass, On the Reef project. Last June, we went back to those reefs with Dr. Randall Hughes as she, David, and their colleagues revisited study sites from North Carolina to the Florida Gulf. In 2010, they sampled the reefs with nets and crab traps, and harvested small sections of reef. This more recent sampling, which unfolds in the opening scenes of our recent documentary, Oyster Doctors, was conducted with underwater microphones. Randall explains how sound became a tool in further understanding fear on oyster reefs.
In the coming days, we refocus our attention to the coasts as we gear up for the world premiere of In the Grass, On the Reef: Oyster Doctors. This is the culmination of almost four years of collaboration with Dr. Randall Hughes and Dr. David Kimbro. Together, we have explored the salt marshes, oyster reefs, and seagrass beds that fuel Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Stay tuned for more information on the premiere event and opportunities to join us on coastal EcoAdventures.
Regena, one of the two American Bald Eagles housed at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.
For this video we take a step back from the coast and travel inland to visit one of Florida’s environmental education centers. The E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center is named after Dr. E.O. Wilson for his work in conservation, preservation and restoration. Dr. Wilson contributed to the development of several new academic specialties in biology and paved the way for many global conservation efforts. He also coined the term “biophilia”, meaning “love of all living things.” His life’s work and achievements set the standard for the development of the center and its various education programs. Continue reading →