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.
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 The Underground Lives of Ants in a North Florida Forest→
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.
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 Tallahassee Butterfly Count 2017: Know Your Local Species→
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.
(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.
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 Into the Forest with Bruce Means and the Eastern Diamondback Rattler→
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→
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 Bringing the Striped Newt Back to the Munson Sandhills→
Welcome to Part 6 (of 10) of Roaming the Red Hills, which originally aired on the April 7 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.
“Oh those sandbars, mere words cannot portray,
Shining in the moonlight, take our breath away…”
These words are from Gary Asbell’s “The River,” a song about the Ochlockonee River that we featured in our last video. After that workout of an EcoAdventure, kayaking the Georgia part of the river, we spent a day splashing around in the Florida Ochlockonee. Unlike in the song lyrics, which are about camping on the river, there is no moonlight for us today; but the line does hit home for me in a way that relates to the activities we’ll cover today. Camping on a sandbar with my son Max may have been the most fun we’ve had together, and I saw firsthand what a magical place a sandbar can be to a child. In this video, a few families will experience this wild wonder as Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy hosted one of its first ever Bio-Blitzes. (Max was unfortunately sick that day) Continue reading Ochlockonee Bio-Blitz | Kids Experience Florida River Wildlife→