Thursday , September 29 2016
Home » Environment

Environment

Florida Reefs: Old and New

A sea turtle makes its way across a reef this past summer. Photo by Bob McConville

Stepping Stones Bob McConville A short while ago I wrote an article about the decline of the coral reef system in the Florida Keys. Included were some pictures that actually showed a section of a reef and how dramatic the change occurred over a 20-year period. It was not good. The brightly colored corals of yesterday are now gray and brown. Unfortunately, this is not just a local problem. The vitality of coral reefs and their sensitive ecosystems worldwide are in trouble. Stable levels of sunlight, the proper amount of salt content (salinity), warmth and cleanliness all combined and allowed ... Read More »

Is “Natural Selection” in Jeopardy?

The green iguana is a reptile, but closely related to amphibians. As a species, amphibians are
disappearing from the face of the Earth at an alarming rate. Could this one be next? Photo by Bob McConville

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist     Since the earliest times of life on Earth, animals, plants and minerals have been changing. Even today, as our planet makes “adjustments,” everything here must do the same. Days are longer in the summer and shorter in the winter, the rotation of the Earth is slowing, factors such as El Nino and La Nina will affect weather patterns, and waters levels are rising, again. Some creatures will easily survive and adapt to these changes, while others will not. The ones that do continue to flourish depend on their abilities to migrate, mutate ... Read More »

Connecting with the Past: Cultural Resources in Rookery Bay Reserve Provide Insights to Early Coastal Life

Each artifact is recorded and photographed. Photos by Renee Wilson

Coastal Connections By Renee Wilson renee.wilson@dep.state.fl.us Thousands of years ago, indigenous people called the Calusa inhabited much of coastal Southwest Florida. The Calusa culture was a complex society that thrived on the bounty of the estuary as opposed to agriculture, which was the primary means of subsistence for many other early American people. Numerous Calusa settlements were developed along the Collier County coastline and were occupied from 400 to 2,500 years ago. Changing their landscape on many fronts, the Calusa people left behind traces of their way of life on the shell mound complexes they built. The size and locations ... Read More »

Fewer Sea Turtle Nests This Year

submitted photos

By Don Manley This is a busy time of year for Marco’s longtime “Turtle Lady,” Mary Kelly Nelson, as she monitors and protects this year’s loggerhead sea turtle nesting season on the island’s beaches. Nelson, an environmental specialist for Collier County Sea Turtle Protection, said 2016 represents a departure from what has been an upward trend in the number of nests found annually on Marco. “For Collier County and throughout Florida, the numbers are up, but Marco’s beaches are down from what we had last year,” she said. “We did get 77 nests this year, which is good, but not ... Read More »

Butterflies Thrive at Calusa Park

Photo by Susan LaGrotta
Monarch butterfly feasting on milkweed

Submitted “If you plant nectar plants, butterflies will come,” remarked Calusa Garden Club member Susan LaGrotta. Calusa Park’s Butterfly Garden on Winterberry Drive is thriving, attracting a kaleidoscope of butterflies sipping the sweets from their favorite nectar plants and laying their eggs on the plentiful hosts plants. This small gem of a garden is maintained year- round by members of the Calusa Garden Club. On the last Saturday of each month, volunteers gather to weed, trim and take a quick inventory of the plants and butterflies. The zebra longwing (Florida’s state butterfly), a black butterfly with light yel- low, zebra-like ... Read More »

Crocodiles in South Florida

Photos by Bob McConville

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Quite often when I’m talking about dolphins on my tours someone will ask the question regarding alligator sightings. I am always happy to respond that gators primarily stay in fresh water or brackish water habitats, and then I mention that brackish and saltwater areas of South Florida are home to many crocodiles and that this area is one of the few where gators and crocs share the same habitat. Lots of visitors are unaware that we do have crocs here, but it is true. Found in Central and South America and specific areas of Mexico, ... Read More »

Shorebird Stewards Make a Difference

Shorebird Stewards Dave and Kim Francisco, Terry Wilson, Dominique Rossetti (FWC) and Karol Tenace. Photos by Jean Hall

Submitted Lucky Birds: Volunteers from the Collier Shorebird Stewardship Program, wearing bright green shirts with bold letters, “Ask Me About The Birds,” were the “boots on the sand” ensuring a successful nesting season at Big Marco Pass (BMP), also known as Sand Dollar Island. They worked around challenges posed by the Hideaway and Central Beach dredging projects, the effects of Tropical Storm Colin, and heavy traffic from party boats and dogs at the tip of the Pass, just to name a few. Their presence made a big difference, especially during long holiday weekends, acting as extra eyes and ears for ... Read More »

Are the Keys’ Reefs Dying?

In less than 20 years, major changes have taken place in the Florida Keys reef structure.
1992 - Head coral barely alive, and Elkhorn coral almost completely decimated.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville “Live corals on the east side of the Florida Keys are mysteriously dying and algae are taking over that eco-niche. Studies and mapping suggest that a number of natural factors, combined with the effects of human activity, may contribute to the corals’ demise.” – Gene Shinn, U.S. Geological Survey It is well documented that there is a widespread loss of corals on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Keys, both close to shore as well as offshore. They are being replaced with an algae which is known flourish in high concentrations of certain nitrates and phosphates. ... Read More »

Connecting Students with Science and Technology

B14-CBN-08-05-16-4

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson Spending time in a classroom is one way to learn, but smelling, hearing and touching the subject usually results in reinforcing an educational experience that won’t soon be forgotten.  Each year, roughly 3,000 local students have the opportunity to get “a taste” of our local estuary as part of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve’s field trip programs. Now the reserve is extending that reach exponentially through the “Teachers on the Estuary” (TOTE) program, a highly visible education program that provides hands-on, field-based professional teacher development opportunities across the nation. The TOTE program was developed by NOAA’s ... Read More »

Love Your Beach Clean-Up

Submitted Photo
From left: Samantha Malloy, Bernardo Bezos and Gene Burson.

Submitted On Sunday, August 14, 2016 at 9 AM, come to South Beach for a community beach clean-up and show your love for Marco Island’s beautiful beaches! Please bring your children and invite your friends and neighbors – we all can make a difference. • Clean beaches are important for their recreational value, and also as a clean nesting place for sea turtles and migratory shorebirds. • Trash on our beaches is not good for our beach economy. • Let’s make sure our gulf waters are healthy for future generations. Monthly Beach Clean-Ups are sponsored by the Beach Advisory Committee. ... Read More »

Plans for Nature Preserve Take Flight

A16-CBN-08-05-16-1

By Don Manley  A fundraising campaign is underway for a project that will transform the former Marco Eagle Sanctuary into a full-blown nature preserve. Now known as the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary, the 11.6 acre, undeveloped parcel is expected to become a magnet for nature lovers and an interactive educational facility for local school children when work is completed. “It will provide the public with an ecotourism location where people can come and walk the property, go through the learning center, get educated on the various aspects of the nature preserve and why it’s there,” said Carl ... Read More »

A High Tech Answer to Turtle Egg Poaching

Submitted Photo

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist          Just a few weeks ago a Florida man was caught stealing more than 100 eggs from an adult female loggerhead sea turtle while she was in the process of laying them. This guy could face a maximum term of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for hisactions. A California couple was sentenced to six months in prison when they were caught smuggling more than 900 olive ridley turtle eggs into our country from Mexico in May. A Georgia man went to jail for 21 months when he was ... Read More »

This Place Is For The Birds!

Photos by Bob McConville
A Least Tern rests on Tigertail Beach, pretty well camouflaged among the sand and shells.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist   Join Bob on July 20th at 7 PM for more details about some of our area birds. This talk will take place at the Marco Island Historical Society’s Auditorium. On May 12th Bob gave a presentation about our birdlife and it was so well received that Part 2 was requested. Admission is free for all MIHS members and MIA students and teachers. A $5 donation is requested of all others. Look!!! Up in the sky…again!!! I contributed an article in early May and discussed some of the birds we see here, namely the ... Read More »

Dual Threats to Shorebirds on Sand Dollar Island

Submitted Photos

Submitted On the plus side, the count on the shorebird nursery on Sand Dollar Island is higher than last year’s. Chicks are skittering everywhere taking cover from the hot sun. According to the Collier Shorebird Stewards, by around this time last year, the crows had wiped out the nesting colony and the birds departed without producing a single chick. It is looking more hopeful this year even after Tropical Storm Colin. Adam DiNuovo, Audubon shorebird biologist, is excited but concerned. He shared that dogs and the trash boaters leave behind are threats to shorebirds. How do dogs disturb birds? An ... Read More »

Gopher Tortoises in Distress

A gopher tortoise is no match to this heavy pile driver. Photos by Maria Lamb

By Maria Lamb   The construction of an 8-foot wide sidewalk along the 1.1 miles on South Barfield Drive from San Marco Road south to Inlet Drive is in progress. The portion from South Barfield turning east to Inlet is a section of the Estates area with a very high population of gopher tortoises. These are the lucky ones! Credit the efforts of a local resident who called a local FWC agent regarding protecting the gopher tortoises along Inlet Drive before the sidewalk construction. As a result, Chadd Chustz, Environmentalist for the City of Marco Island has been working with ... Read More »

A Dolphin Update

Mom Sintas keeps guard over her new calf, J. Fireball, last November.

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist      Everybody loves dolphins. Most people taking nature trips in South Florida want to see one of two things…dolphins or alligators. We’ll forget about the ‘gators today and talk about the other favorite in our area for a mid-year update. On board the Dolphin Explorer you not only get to see dolphins, but you have a chance to watch a team of citizen scientists document the activity of these mammals for research purposes. Each one has a name and their daily behavior is recorded in a database. With more than 10 years of ... Read More »

A Note From Mary Kelly Nelson,

Photo Courtesy of NOAA

Environmental Specialist, Collier County Sea Turtle Protection: We have received reports this week that there have been people on the beach at night with red headband lights looking for and disturbing nesting sea turtles.  Please remind your residents, renters and guests that flashlights, including red filter, flash photos and getting within 100’ of a sea turtle is not allowed. It is considered harassment and fines could be incurred. If anyone sees this kind of activity please call the Marco Island Police Department non-emergency phone number: 239-389-5050, or Mary Kelly Nelson: 239-298-9736. Read More »

Technology and Nature Keep Rookery Bay’s Marine Life Healthy & Happy

Photo by Dave Graff
Flounder often cover themselves with sand, leaving only their eyes exposed.

COASTAL CONNECTIONS Renee Wilson June is National Aquarium Month and some exciting things are happening in the watery world at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. Located between Naples and Marco Island, the 16,500 square-foot center features a two-story exhibit hall and was developed to serve as an interactive gateway into the 110,000-acre Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The center’s exhibits, nature store, art gallery and more provide a comfortable environment for kids of all ages to learn about the estuary. The center is also responsible for keeping many species of fish and other marine life comfortable in its seven aquarium ... Read More »

A Great Migration in the Water

Submitted Photo
Leatherback sea turtles can reach 6 feet in length, weigh up to 2,000 pounds and dive more than 4,000 feet below the surface.

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Last month I wrote about one of the great land migrations that takes place on our planet. It wasn’t so much about the long distance of the pattern, but more about the sheer number of animals that participate in this annual trek across Africa’s Serengeti Plain. There are constant comings and goings throughout the year on land and in the air, but what about the sea? Yes, there are tremendous numbers of marine creatures that follow patterns as well. Since we are in turtle nesting season here in our area I thought it might be ... Read More »

Great Migration of the World

A least tern flies over its nest on Tigertail Beach. Its cousin, the Arctic tern, will migrate up to 44,000 miles each year! Photo by Bob McConville

STEPPING STONES Bob McConville Master Naturalist Planet Earth is on the move! Every day, somewhere around the globe, some type of animal is on a migration route. Whether the need be food, water, warmth or finding a mate, there is a constant pattern of motion on our planet. Let’s talk about the migration of the largest number of land animals. This event takes place on the continent of Africa. In the springtime nearly two million wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and impala follow an annual pattern in their search for fresh grazing lands. The trail taken by these animals is now very predictable, ... Read More »