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Environment

Sensational Sharks: Important Part of the Marine Environment

Bull sharks. SUBMITTED PHOTO

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com If you haven’t heard, its Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week — a week of pseudo-science and, sometimes hilarious, propaganda. Since 1988 — yes for 26 years and making it one of the longest running cable television series — this annual week of television programs on the Discovery Channel has evolved from educational programs that raised awareness of shark population decline and the importance they have in the oceans’ ecosystems to fictitious stories and ludicrous accounts of mega sharks in the waters throughout the world. Entertainment has trumped science, which does not bode well for ... Read More »

What Birds Eat… The Beak Can Tell the Tale

Wood storks use “tactolocation” to find food
and can close their beak in 1/20th of a second!

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Have you ever seen a reddish egret dance along the shoreline to snag a meal? How about a great blue heron sitting trance-like on a mangrove branch just one foot above the water to catch a fish? Or an osprey swooping into the water feet first to grasp its prey? There is such a variety of bird life in the Marco area, and they capture their next meals in several different manners. One physical feature can tell you something very unique about their diets. Take a look at the shape of the bird’s beak. ... Read More »

The Horses are Off — Seahorses, That Is

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Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist “Mama, come quick!” a young girl cries. “There’s a tiny horse on the beach!” As mama and others run to the scene, sure enough there is a horse in the Marco Island sand. It is only a few inches long and sure looks like our equine friends but without legs. It is a seahorse. Seahorses are very small marine fish. Like other fish they breathe through gills. They float in an upright position and have pectoral fins to maneuver and dorsal fins to maintain balance. Most importantly, they are masters of camouflage. Just like ... Read More »

Florida Bird Migration: It’s All About the Tilt

White Pelicans migrate form north to south when temperatures become cooler. They are in our area during our winter. Below: Swallow Tailed Kites migrate from South America when that continent becomes cooler. They are in our area now until the fall. PHOTOS BY BOB MCCONVILLE

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist Swallow Tailed Kites are here in South Florida right now, but the White Pelicans and other migratory bird species are not. Hmmm….it seems odd that they all do not frequent our area at the same time. Why would that happen? Don’t they all come from the north to winter in our area? Don’t they all come at the same time? The answer is a resounding NO, and it revolves primarily around one factor: the tilt of the earth. Let’s refresh with some basic science classes to figure this out. The earth is in an ... Read More »

Art in Nature

Box turtle. PHOTO BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com A not so well known turtle roams Marco Island. It’s not the glamorous Loggerhead Sea Turtle or the well-known Gopher Tortoise. It is very commonly seen in the beachfront dunes and near wetlands and pond areas of the island such as Barfield Bay, in Hideaway Beach conservation areas and along Spinnaker Drive. The Florida Painted Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri) is a small turtle that is not only a small wonder but a treasure for the island. Its striking array of a yellow pattern on its shell is art in nature; some have said ... Read More »

National Parks Big Biz in SW Florida

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Submitted A new National Park Service report shows that more than 2.5 million visitors to the national parks in South Florida spent $206 million last year in surrounding communities. That spending supported roughly 2,700 jobs in the region. Locally at Big Cypress National Preserve, the impact encompassed just over 1 million visitors, spending an estimated $76 million in Southwest Florida communities and creating approximately 997 jobs. Combined 2013 report figures include those for Biscayne, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, as well as Big Cypress. The total for the four parks is up slightly from the previous year, while visitor ... Read More »

Caves of the Yucatan Peninsula and Florida

Bob and Cathy explore an underground  cavern in Mexico. SUBMITTED PHOTO

STEPPING STONES  Bob McConville  Master Naturalist In early June of this year, my wife, Cathy, and I took the opportunity to visit the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico. The marine life and geology of this region are positively fascinating. In addition to snorkeling with whale sharks — the largest fish on the planet — we ventured inland to Mexico’s jungles to learn more about the ecology. What we found was absolutely surprising. This portion of the peninsula sits right where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea. The closest land mass is Cuba, and just north of that is ... Read More »

Save Room for Tortoises

Adult tortoises. PHOTO BY JEAN HALL

PROTECTING & PRESERVING  Nancy Richie  NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com For a small, developed, semi-tropical island, Marco Island has a diversity of habitats which equates to abundance of wildlife species. Sandy beaches with wide, lush vegetated dunes, sea grass beds in nearshore shallow waters, tidal mudflats, mangrove wetlands, upland scrub oak and palmetto, tropical hardwood hammock, patchy slash pine stands and even open undeveloped, grassy properties — all provide a variety of opportunities for wildlife to survive and sustain a side-by-side existence with the suburban activity. Surmised from many inquiries, interactions with residents, increased numbers of volunteers, large membership in wildlife groups, roadside stops by ... Read More »

Managing Black Bears in Florida

PHOTOS COURTESY OF FWC

By Noelle H. Lowery noelle@coastalbreezenews.com Most Southwest Floridians are well aware of the wide variety of wildlife that lives amongst them. Alligators, panthers and manatees, oh my! Not to mention, the vast array of lizards, birds, squirrels, bob cats and raccoons scurrying on land and the wide assortment of fish swimming under water. The largest of the furry creatures — the Florida Black Bear — has been the focus of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for the last month. The FWC launched its new Florida Black Bear Management Plan, introducing Southwest Floridians to it through three public ... Read More »

‘Experience Nature’ with Tyler MacDonald

Tyler only uses two cameras. This camera for outdoor shots and another for underwater shots.

Submitted The Marco Island Historical Museum is delighted to host “Experience Nature” a photographic exhibit from Tyler MacDonald, which runs July 1-Aug. 30. Marco’s own MacDonald will be exhibiting some of his latest photography at. At just 18 years old, MacDonald has already won numerous awards and national recognition for his work including second-place in the National Wildlife Federation’s annual photo contest. His passion for wildlife photography is evident in each and every photograph. Taking risks and spending hours waiting to capture the perfect image, MacDonald has encountered many venomous snakes, sat in trees and been suspended above water to ... Read More »

Native Beauty on Display

The starting point at the MIHM native plant walk.

By Melinda Gray melinbrya3@yahoo.com During the hustle and bustle of an average day, I wonder how often we notice just how amazing Southwest Florida is. I find when I take time to notice the natural beauty of my surroundings, I truly appreciate living here. The native animal and plant life that surrounds us is a fascinating mixture of beauty and strength. Mother Nature is wild, and taming her takes a special touch. The Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM) has accepted her challenge, and has been busy cultivating an impressive exhibit featuring native plant life available around-the-clock for the enjoyment and ... Read More »

MIA Inaugural Summer Camp with an Environmental Twist

Dr. Richard Murphy (left), director of education for the Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Oceans Futures Society, gives students an outdoor lesson near Tigertail Beach.

By Noelle H. Lowery  noelle@coastalbreezenews.com The first-ever Ambassadors of the Environment Camp in Florida was a rousing success for the joint partnership between Marco Island Academy and Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. It was a journey that began five years ago when MIA Founder and Chair Jane Watt discovered the Ambassadors of the Environment Program through the Ocean Futures Society and its director, Dr. Richard Murphy. Currently, the active, hands-on outdoor education program has locations in California, French Polynesia, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, Hawaii, and Turks and Caicos. Many of the programs are affiliated with the Ritz-Carlton or a cruise ... Read More »

Red Tide ‘Not Present’ — For Now

These ominous blood-red tides are caused by a large accumulation of algae in coastal waters and are especially common along the coast of Florida. While disconcerting, only some are harmful to marine life: these are known as HABs, harmful algal blooms, and can even pose a risk to humans.

By Melinda Gray melinbrya3@yahoo.com This time last year, Marco Island and other Southwest Florida coastal communities were reeling from the negative effects of a prolonged red tide bloom. Reports of the bloom began in December 2012 with Marco Island presenting “very low” to “low” concentrations of red tide, and by mid-February 2013, those concentrations crept up to “medium” status. The 2013-2014 season has been a very different story. Currently, the Collier County Natural Resources Department is reporting that Karenia brevis, or K. brevis — the naturally-occurring dinoflagellate that causes “Florida red tide” — is “not present” in samples of water ... Read More »

Celebrate Our Nation’s Birthday by Respecting Our Beach

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PROTECTING & PRESERVING Nancy Richie NRichie@cityofmarcoisland.com One of the best holidays in our country is the 4th of July! Our nation — turning 238 years old — knows how to put on a party, right? It is a day to reflect why our nation is so great, how we are the luckiest citizens on earth, and be thankful for all those that have and do ensure that the United States remains the “land of the free.” It has always been such a big, happy, fun-filled holiday for my family growing up in California in a small town and then raising ... Read More »

Swimming with the Largest Fish on Earth

The mouth of this whale shark is nearly 4 feet wide. It filters plankton and small fish from the sea water to obtain protein. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist This column is dedicated to Marine Biologist James Livacarri, whose passion, knowledge and smile deeply in spire tens of thousands of visitors to Marco Island. May your seas always be calm, and may the road rise up to meet you. May all of your journeys be pleasant, and may you and your family remain continually blessed. Thank you, my friend! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Our boat was right along side the largest fish in the world. The captain cautiously edged the vessel forward until we were about 30 feet in front of the ... Read More »

Local Student Contributes to Island Preserve

Otter Mound Preserve

By Nancy J. Richie A small oasis — 2.45 acres in total — holds archaeological, historical, cultural and biological importance for the history of Marco Island. It is the Otter Mound Preserve. Located in the southern area of the island at 1831 Addison Court, the “mound” that this preserve references is a relatively small part of a 70-80 acre Indian mound built by the Calusa Indians, estimated between 750 and 1,200 A.D. In more recent history — the early 1900s — it was the site of Caxambas Village, the Marco Island settlement for the clamming industry. It was a bustling ... Read More »

Keeping Our Beach Beautiful

This is just one example of the trash removed from the beautiful sandy beach.

By Nancy Richie A beautiful morning unfolded for the last the beach clean-up, Sunday, May 18. Low humidity, mild temperatures, light breezes and blue skies prevailed. Paradise perfection — what we expect on Marco Island! More than 50 people of all ages met at the South Beach boardwalk access to help clean up the beach. The large group included beach committee members, Marco Island Civic Association (MICA) members, Chamber of Commerce representatives, Publix employees, regular beach goers, residents who couldn’t resist the beach on this beautiful morning and visiting families. It was apparent the wonderful weather and the beauty of ... Read More »

EcoTour Provider Training Series Back at Rookery Bay

Rookery Bay Reserve naturalist Randy McCormick explains the role of mangroves in southwest Florida’s environment during while touring the Reserve. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROOKERY BAY RESERVE

Submitted With approximately 97 percent of Southwest Florida’s ocean-based economy coming from tourism and recreation, ecotour professionals serve as ambassadors of local natural areas. These ecotour professionals often rely on their knowledge of natural history to provide clients a memorable experience. In order to meet the growing educational needs of ecotour professionals, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, in partnership with Florida Sea Grant, is offering a series of field and classroom-based programs this summer. Back by popular demand, the Ecotour Provider Series promotes sustainable tourism practices by providing guides, naturalists and tour operators with information, tips and tools to ... Read More »

Kids Free Fridays at Rookery Bay

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Submitted The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is hosting its annual summer program, “Kids FREE Fridays,” at its Environmental Learning Center through Aug. 1. This summer education program provides free admission for children ages 12 and younger who are accompanied by an adult (up to 5 children per adult). Educators will present a different topic each week following a central theme around the rookery. Lunch will be available for purchase from 11 AM-1 PM. June 6 and July 11: Water Let’s begin building a Rookery! We will have to start with water, the most important part of this habitat. ... Read More »

Snakes of Big Cypress Swamp

Young Cottonmouth, Big Cypress Swamp

Stepping Stones Bob McConville Master Naturalist When I am not at work on Marco Island, I absolutely love giving tours of the Big Cypress Swamp. I mean I really LOVE it!!!! There are several diverse habitats in that area, and they support a wide variety of wildlife. People are positively fascinated to hear the facts about ‘gators, ‘crocs, hawks, eagles, owls…..and snakes. I try to emphasize in my columns that there is an order to things on this planet, all the way down to the smallest ecosystems. Every plant, tree and animal serves a purpose, even the creepy, crawly things. ... Read More »