Sunday, December 16, 2012

Invasive Crab Survey Update

Habitat Trays help researchers monitor exotic crab species.

As one of the 28 reserves in the National Estuarine Research Reserve system, the GTM Research Reserve is charged with implementing national-level long-term research programs, investigating relevant regional and local-level research questions, and facilitating related research efforts by visiting scientists and students conducting research in the myriad estuarine and coastal habitats within the reserve.

A GTM Research Reserve
volunteer holds up a blue crab.
For the past ten years, an Invasive Crab Survey has been a part of this research. Because it is impossible to predict where and when a particular species will successfully invade a particular habitat, researchers at the GTM Research Reserve have been focusing on already established invasive crabs to predict the likelihood, direction, and rate of spread of the nuisance species. The researchers are monitoring crab species within the GTM Research Reserve to determine their diversity, detect new invasions, document seasonality of both native and invasive populations, and determine trends in species composition and abundance over time.

Ten different species of crab have been collected over the course of the survey, but one of the most interesting findings is one that will cause excitement amongst seafood enthusiasts who enjoy stone crabs (Menippe mercenaria). Although we have only collected 35 crabs during the survey, our results over the past two years suggest that stone crab populations in NE Florida might be increasing, something we will continue to monitor with interest as the survey continues.

Habitat Trays help researchers monitor populations of exotic crabs. The bars on the graph below illustrates the number of stone crabs per tray out of seven Habitat Trays, while the line illustrates the Florida Fish and Wildlife’s annual commercial landings data for NE Florida in the form of catch per unit effort (lbs of crab/trip). 

To learn more about the research being done at the GTM Research Reserve, visit our research page.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Planning for Sea Level Rise in the Matanzas Basin

Sea levels around the world are rising, and are expected to continue rising for centuries, potentially impacting both human populations and the natural environment. Planning for Sea Level Rise, a project led by the University of Florida and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM NERR), and funded by the NERR System Science Collaborative, is holding two community workshops this week. At each workshop, researchers from the University of Florida will present the science of sea level rise and its potential impacts on the Matanzas area. Based on the information presented, workshop facilitators will ask participants for their preferences of what places to protect and what adaptation strategies to use.

We encourage you to come take part in this extremely important community event by signing up for one of the 4 sessions listed below. Be sure to also visit our YouTube Channel for interviews with program officials. For additional program information visit our site.

December 5th, 2012

Palm Coast and Coastal Community Workshop: Palm Coast and Coastal residents will have the opportunity to provide input on the project and learn about the most current science on sea level rise. Potential scenarios developed by UF leading researchers will be presented to the stakeholders. Residents will have the opportunity to participate from either 9:00a.m. – 12:00p.m. or 5:30p.m – 8:30p.m.  The workshop will be held at the GTM NERR Marineland Office in St. Augustine, FL. Please click on the time above to RSVP for that session.

December 6th, 2012

St. Augustine Community Workshop: St. Augustine residents will have the opportunity to provide input on the project and learn about the most current science on sea level rise. Potential scenarios developed by UF leading researchers will be presented to the stakeholders. Residents will have the opportunity to participate from either 9:00a.m. – 12:00p.m. or 5:30p.m – 8:30p.m.  The morning workshop will be held at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and the evening workshop will be held at the Flagler College Ringhaver Student Center. Please click on the time above to RSVP for that session.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nature Nut’s Tech Corner

Illustration by Jean Bitting, 2012

Do you feel like your inner nature nut and techie geeks are at odds with each other? Are you looking for a fresh new way to explore nature?  Are you a technophobe looking for a way to start plugging in? Perhaps you wish you had a way to inspire today’s technologically bound youth to re-connect with the natural world surrounding them? Whatever your current relationship with the ever-changing world of technology might be, the Nature Nut’s Tech Corner is the perfect resource to help you get your geek on with nature!  Visit us on the last Friday of each month, right here, as we spotlight a new field tested application.


In this edition of Nature Nut’s Tech Corner we introduce you to Leafsnap, the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. The purpose behind Leafsnap is to allow users to become citizen-scientists by providing them with access to visual recognition software to assist them in the identification of tree species. The application, which is currently only available on iPhone and iPad, contains striking photographs of leaves, flowers, seeds, and bark found on the tree species of the Northeastern United States.

iPhone Home & Browsing screens
The free app allows you to browse its database, snap photos to receive suggested matches, and keep track of your own collection of species including their photographs and GPS location. Though still in the beginning stages of development, this application is worth checking out if only to marvel at the beautiful high-resolution photographs. Developers are currently working to expand the collection and have plans to eventually have the database encompass the entire United States and beyond. An Android application is also being developed, however no estimated release date is known at this time since this project is being primarily manned by volunteers. In the meantime, although there is no full version on the web currently, if you are not in the iPhone/iPad platforms, you can still visit the Leafsnap site to view the available species and their high-resolution photographs, learn more about the project, or to volunteer for the project.

We encourage you to be inspired by the beauty found within this application and to be as excited as we are about the eventual expansion of it!  

iPhone match suggestion screens

iPhone Collection screen 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gopher Tortoises Share Digs With Other Endangered Animals

GTM Research Reserve Team Studies Gopher Tortoises and Monitors their Burrows

Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)

Gopher tortoises - listed as threatened in Florida - are candidates for federally endangered status. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is the only land tortoise native to the U.S. east of the Mississippi, and its population is rapidly declining. Critical research shows that the gopher tortoise is falling victim to over harvesting, disease, loss of habitat from human encroachment and humans relocating them away from their preferred home base. Another threat is humans running over the lumbering tortoises as they attempt to cross roadways.

Their decline could present a greater problem because the gopher tortoise is a keystone species in the ecosystem in which they reside, meaning that their endangerment would likely have an adverse effect on other plants and animals within their natural communities. The tortoise grazes on vegetation and thus disperses seeds that help the plant community thrive. They are also prolific diggers, burrowing as deep as 10 feet or more and laterally anywhere from 15 to 48 feet. These extensive burrows allow for a number of other species to drop in on their obliging hosts for a brief respite from predators or foul weather, while a few will stay for life. Research shows that over 350 or more commensal species have been recorded utilizing gopher tortoise burrows at one time or another.

“The burrow is particularly important as shelter for the endangered eastern indigo snake and two species of special concern, the Florida mouse, and the gopher frog,” says Jaime Pawelek, a biologist at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Pawelek conducts research in coastal northeast Florida within the GTM Research Reserve. She is currently publishing a paper on gopher tortoise ecology in coastal habitats with Matthew E. Kimball. Kimball serves as both GTM Research Reserve’s Research Coordinator and University of North Florida Assistant Professor of Biology.

Gopher toroise burrow at the GTM Research Reserve

A GTM Research Reserve comprehensive survey of gopher tortoise burrows began in 2005 on the Guana peninsula, roughly 950 acres of upland mixed habitat. A second survey in 2007 included the Guana peninsula, as well as a 115-acre stretch of undeveloped coastal beach dunes. Researchers conducted a third survey in 2011 on both Guana peninsula and beach dunes. 

Because gopher tortoises spend most of their time inside their burrows, they can be hard for the surveyors to find. Some even camouflage their digs under vegetation. To discover burrows, a team of researchers and volunteers systematically traverses the ground in search of an “apron,” a telltale mound made of excavated soil and sand in front of a burrow entrance. Once located, records are made of the burrow site via GPS. Other data collected includes tortoise class size (e.g. adult, sub-adult, or juvenile) and burrow status (active, inactive, or abandoned).

Results from the three surveys show burrow numbers remaining stable on the Guana peninsula and increasing on the beach dunes. While Pawelek says these numbers could possibly result from differences in survey efforts, she adds that they are hopeful that the increase is due to a growing population.

To monitor activity of burrow commensals, Pawelek recently set up motion activated cameras in front of both active and inactive adult burrows. She positioned each camera facing a burrow so that it records 30-second video clips whenever it detects animal movement. The system has recorded an Eastern coachwhip, Southern toad, and several mice and rats utilizing burrows. Mammals observed near entrances or going in and out of burrows include Virginia opossums, bobcats, armadillos, marsh rabbits and raccoons. To see video clips, visit the GTM Research Reserve’s YouTube channel.

Pawelek reports that data collected from the trail cameras show that all initially selected inactive burrows have either collapsed or become active again. She notes that, “Monitoring inactive burrows through the use of trail cameras has shown how quickly burrow status changes, thus stressing that these are very dynamic systems.”

To help rescue and rehabilitate the declining gopher tortoise population, researchers are not just looking at the burrows and who uses them. They gather facts concerning gopher tortoise habits: what they prefer to eat, where they reproduce and live, how much terrain an individual stakes out as their own territory and how they manage to keep rivals at bay. Published and pooled data will help provide a more thorough picture of the overall needs of the gopher tortoise. Pawelek believes that by monitoring the Reserve’s tortoises over time, management decisions can be influenced to better protect and improve their habitat, which not only benefits the tortoises, but their burrow commensals as well.

The public is generally not aware that as the law stands it is illegal to damage a gopher tortoise burrow. Permits are required to move gopher tortoises from their home territory for clearing land or for development, in which case the law states, “The gopher tortoise must be protected, or relocated to a safer area.” The only exception to needing a permit is for wildlife management to improve habitat.

Anyone seeing an injured gopher tortoise or any other wildlife species in trouble should report it to the Florida FWC Hotline at (888) 404-3922. For more information on the research, restoration, education, and conservation programs at the GTM Research Reserve, to attend public lectures or join guided trail hikes, call (904) 823-4500 or visit the website.

Gopher tortoise at the GTM Research Reserve

GTM Research Reserve Background

Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA) manages the GTM Research Reserve along with 41 aquatic preserves, the Florida National Marine Sanctuary, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program. CAMA’s programs and activities are designed to help Floridians better understand the state’s resources by research and education activities and by conserving, restoring, and protecting Florida’s coastal aquatic resources for the benefit of people and the environment.

The GTM Research Reserve was established as a partnership between the state of Florida and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The reserve is one of 28 research reserves operating across the nation and one of three in Florida. For more information on the GTM Research Reserve, visit the GTM Research Reserve website or For more information on the DEP CAMA office, visit their website.

Author:  Susan van Hoek, GTM Research Reserve Environmental Educator
Sources:  Jaime Pawelek, GTM Research Reserve biologist; Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission;Gopher Tortoise Facts and Information; and Laws on Gopher Tortoises in the State of Florida.

 SIDEBAR: Question: Why does a gopher tortoise cross the road? Answer: To get to the other side, which is precisely why Good Samaritans should never assist a tortoise in the road by putting it back where it came from. According to scientific studies, the animal really wants to go wherever it is heading. If returned to its starting point, it will turn around and head right back into the traffic, still determined to get to the other side.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Invasion is Already Here!

Tension builds as two heroes sneak between the shadows. Violins swell ominously. Only one last open area to breech before they can reach that shining box that contains the magic button that can cause the destruction of the invading aliens and free the rest of mankind.  The heroes breathe deeply, using the robotic watch style of the alien sentinel (look left…pause…look center…pause…look right…pause…) to time their move perfectly. As the sentinel looks right, they sprint across the open field, hoping against all hope to reach and press the game-changing button before the creature’s gaze moves left. Half-way to the button, something goes terribly wrong! Whoosh, ching, ba-dump! The soundtrack gives a final swell and fades away. The heroes seemingly disappear, until the camera pans away and up, revealing that what the heroes once thought was a field had actually been a body of water overtaken by an invasion of water-lettuce. They frantically swim, leaving us on the edge of our seats and then. Our imaginary screen darkens for a moment and when it appears once again, we see a caption: 10 years have passed. A decade later, the alien sentinel is still in place, still watching (look left…pause…look center…pause…look right…pause…), but there is little else recognizable remaining. The invading species has won, forever altering the habitat and structure of the native community that had once prospered there.

The above may sound like a movie, but change the role of the hero from human to our native plant species, and you find the invasion has indeed already begun. Our imaginary film serves as a simple way to illustrate the effects of an invasive species, and to open a dialogue about what each of us can do to stop the invasion.

Invasive plants are broken into two categories:

Category I – Alters native plant communities by displacing native species,changing community structures or ecological functions or hybridizing with natives. In our imaginary film, both the alien AND the water lettuce are Category I invasive species.

Category II- Increasing in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species. It is important to note that Category II invasive species can be re-assigned to Category I in the event their impact begins to fall in line with that category.

Not all invasive plants are prohibited for sale in Florida, and an invasive species can of course be native and purchased in other states. This makes knowledge the best tool in fighting invasive species. We challenge you to us the resource links below to become aware of some of the common invasive species found in Florida and where possible remove and replace them with native plants. Native plants have many benefits, including:
  • Add beauty- being native, you can be sure they will thrive in our ecology
  • Conserve water!
  • Food and shelter- native plants provide this for our native butterflies, birds and other wildlife
  • Save time and money- native plants require less maintenance and pest control efforts
 If you locate invasive plants (or animals) as you stroll beautiful Florida you can also report them. Report both online at, or report animals to 1-888-Ive-Got1 (1-888-483-468). There is even an IveGot1 Smartphone app for identifying and reporting. When reporting invasive plants and animals be ready with the following information:
  • Your name & contact info
  • Name, description, and or photo of the species
  • Date
  • Location (GPS, street address, good description of location and habitat)
Once you have reported, local and/or state verifiers validate your entry and the data is used to help guide whether further action is needed to control the species.

 Join Our Task Force!

Our second challenge is a call to arms! Join the fight against the invasion with us! The GTM Research Reserve has a group of volunteers who serve as an invasive species task force, and this team has helped eradicate invasive species within the reserve’s 73,000 acres and beyond. They can’t continue winning this fight alone though! Don’t let them become the last heroes, join them! Learn more about the task force and the work the GTM Research Reserve and its volunteers strive to accomplish at the Volunteer Wikispace Stewardship Page. Also, take our short invasive plant survey and get involved!

Additional Resources:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nature Nut’s Tech Corner

Illustration by Jean Bitting, 2012
Do you feel like your inner nature nut and techie geeks are at odds with each other? Are you looking for a fresh new way to explore nature?  Are you a technophobe looking for a way to start plugging in? Perhaps you wish you had a way to inspire today’s technologically bound youth to re-connect with the natural world surrounding them? Whatever your current relationship with the ever-changing world of technology might be, the Nature Nut’s Tech Corner is the perfect resource to help you get your geek on with nature!  Visit us on the last Friday of each month, right here, as we spotlight a new field tested application.

Marine Debris Tracker

As hard as it is for many of us to believe, we find ourselves at yet another final Friday of the month! In this edition of Nature Nut’s Tech Corner we bring you an application that helps you make a difference by checking in when you find trash on our coastlines and waterways. Marine Debris Tracker is an application resulting from a joint partnership of the NOAA Marine Debris Division and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), located within the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia, and was created with the hope that it would spread awareness of marine debris, as well as serve as an easy to use and simple tool for marine debris data collection. More recently, the app has even been used to help NOAA track marine debris from the Japanese tsunami.

This handy app allows you to record debris location using your phone’s GPS. You can also view the data on your phone and submit to the Marine Debris Tracker Website for viewing and download later. A map in the app allows you to view the recent items you have located in the area. The app does require registration, which you can do directly from the app itself. Your username is shown on the website for only the most recent 5 items you have tracked, but your GPS coordinates are not shown. Your personal location remains anonymous to the public. This tool can be quite useful for tracking items found during beach cleanup events or during simple strolls along the water.

The app is very user friendly, and contains a pre-loaded list of commonly found marine debris items. Categories of cloth, fishing gear, glass, metal, plastic, processed lumber, and rubber are then broken down further into lists of common items within them. For example, under the cloth category, you will find clothing and shoes, fabric pieces, gloves (non-runner), rope (non-plastic), and towels/rags. The pre-loaded list of commonly found marine debris items can also be accessed as an alphabetical list for ease of use. Items not located on the pre-loaded list can be entered as “other” along with a description from the user. Photos can also be taken from the submission screen to accompany the entry (this is a recent addition which is not seen in the screenshot below).

The Marine Debris Tracker app is available on Android and iPhone. We encourage you to check this app out the next time you enjoy our beautiful coastlines and waterways and use the wonderful technology available to us to become involved!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

GTM Research Reserve Celebrates National Archaeology Day Saturday!


In the words of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), National ArchaeologyDay is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA and archaeological organizations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. The declaration of National Archaeology Day, which began its first year in 2011, was made in order to help raise awareness around the importance of archaeology, which is very misunderstood by the general public. It also is meant to be a day of fun and excitement which, according to AIA “provides the chance to indulge your inner Indiana Jones”.

Image by Heritage/Markus Miligan
courtesy ArchaeoSoup Productions
The GTM Research Reserve is thrilled to be celebrating National Archaeology Day in conjunction with the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) this Saturday, October 20. 2012. We invite you to a day of fun and exploration at the Environmental Education Center from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Activities will include a guided trail hike highlighting cultural history, a lecture learn where visitors can learn about archaeology in Northeast Florida, and Archaeolympics  where participants can test their own archaeology skills.

Sarah E. Miller, MA RPA
Photo courtesy of Historic City News
The lecture, led by Sarah Miller, Director of the Northeast Region of the Florida Public Archaeology Network, will introduce the basics of archaeology. The presentation, which is entitled “Fantastic Archaeology: Florida Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries.”, will also focus on the misuse and abuse of Florida’s past as well as discuss a few unsolved mysteries.

As another very exciting part of this event, the GTM Research Reserve will unveil a new display of Native American ceramics in the exhibit hall which were found on the Guana Peninsula by William Evenden and Fred Williams during the 1950’s. In 2005, the collection was donated to the State of Florida.

Event Schedule and Additional Details

9 a.m. – Guided Hike
10 a.m. through 11 a.m. – Archaeolympics
11 a.m. – Lecture, “Fantastic Archaeology: Florida Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries”
Noon through 2 p.m.- Archaeolympics

This event is free and open to the public. Visitors are invited to tour the Environmental Education Center after participating in the event. Admission is $2 per adult, $1 for children 10-17 and free for children 9 and younger. Please RSVP for the guided hike online or by calling 904-823-4500.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We Have Plans for You This Saturday!

OceanWise: An Evening for the Estuaries

Are you facing another mundane weekend at home? We have a wonderful solution for you! The Friends of the GTM Research Reserve invite you to join us for a signature evening event in one of the most beautiful settings northeast Florida has to offer. The evening begins at 6 pm Saturday, October 13, with a beer and wine cocktail reception featuring live music by the Dunehoppers, a St. Augustine based Folk, Bluegrass, Swing, Blues, and Old Time String Band.

The evening will continue with a delectable variety of ocean-friendly sustainable seafood prepared by select chefs from some of our favorite local restaurants. It doesn't stop there! Participate in our exciting silent auction to benefit education, research and stewardship at the GTM Research Reserve, and celebrate with featured honoree Jim Kern, Wildlife Photographer, Author, Conservationist, and Founder of the Florida Trail Association and the American Hiking Society.

Come join us in this opportunity to support the GTM Research Reserve while enjoying an evening of live music, good food, drink and fun!

Details and Registration:

Saturday October 13, 2012
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM EDT

GTM Research Reserve
Environmental Education Center
505 Guana River Rd.
Ponta Vedra Beach, FL 32082

Donation Amount-
$50 per person

Dress code-
Cocktail Attire

For Information Call-

Or email-

Please note: Registration is processed through PayPal. If you do not have a PayPal account use the guest option on the PayPal page.

Thank You to Our 2012 OceanWise Sponsors:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nature Nut’s Tech Corner

Illustration by Jean Bitting, 2012
 Do you feel like your inner nature nut and techie geeks are at odds with each other? Are you looking for a fresh new way to explore nature?  Are you a technophobe looking for a way to start plugging in? Perhaps you wish you had a way to inspire today’s technologically bound youth to re-connect with the natural world surrounding them? Whatever your current relationship with the ever-changing world of technology might be, our new Nature Nut’s Tech Corner is the perfect resource to help you get your geek on with nature!  Visit us on the last Friday of each month, right here, as we spotlight a new field tested application.

Nature Viewing Along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail

This month we are encouraging you to check out the Nature Viewing Along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail application (Also known as the Nature Viewing in Florida application for Android). This application, which is put out by Natural Guides, LLC and can be downloaded for free on both iPhone and Android platforms, helps you to identify the birds, butterflies and flowering plants seen along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Viewing Trail and throughout Florida. The tool was originally developed through a joint effort by the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida IFAS Department of Entomology and Nematology and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with support from grants from the Florida Wildflower Foundation and Florida Museum Associates.

The developers had youth, novice, and visiting explorers in mind when creating this application. With its child-friendly icons, users can search 200 birds, 106 butterflies, 247 flowering plants, and 491 sites along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.  Numerous filters such as color and size make for more easily identifying of species which can then be bookmarked as favorites. The beautiful full color photos are sure to delight novice users and advanced birders alike.

There are a few considerations for this application we would be amiss if we did not mention. At a hefty 330MB, the size of the application could be a deterrent for some. We suggest downloading this one using a wi-fi connection in order to conserve your data plan. Downloading without wi-fi can also take several minutes even with a 4G connection. The applications child-friendly icons can also sometimes stump its new adult users with their simplicity. Don’t expect to see a great deal of instruction or labels, just follow the pictures to access your desired information. To make it even easier for you, here are descriptions of the home screen icons:

Android home screen (Letters added for purpose of article only).
A.     The Florida Icon opens a site search. Using your GPS location, the alphabetized list will show you the site name and distance from you. You can also switch the view to order by distance, search for sites, or access a list of cities. Selecting a site will show you it’s city and county as well as will bring up a map and option for navigation.
B.     The butterfly icon will bring you to the butterfly filter screen. Filter by color using the color wheel, simply touch it then touch the color(s) of the butterfly you are looking for. Click the ruler to select size, the season icon for season filter, and the landscape icon for habitat. Filter availability can change based on previous filters selected. Once you have selected your filters, select the ‘Matches” button at the top of your screen to review the matches. Select the butterfly that best matches what you are looking for to learn more about it. You can select the caterpillar icon at the bottom to learn more about related species and flowers or the my stuff icon to bookmark.
C.     Use the landscape icon to learn more about the different types of areas of Florida as well as to see additional landscape photos.
D.     Use the flower icon to explore flowering plants. The same filtering process will be used as described in B above. Once you have selected a species, you can also bookmark by selecting the my stuff icon at the bottom.
E.     Use the bird icon to explore birds. The same filtering process will be used as described in B above. Once you have selected a species, you can also bookmark by selecting the my stuff icon at the bottom.
F.     Use the My Stuff icon to access any bookmarks you have set. Book marks are sorted by favorite sites, birds, butterflies, and flowers.
Once familiar with the icons this application can be great fun and quite useful. Download the application for your Android or iPhone today, use the Florida icon to search for a site near you, get out there and start exploring natural Florida! 

Android filter screen.
Android results screen.
iPhone site detail screen.

iPhone species results screen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

International Coastal Cleanup - come on out!

Tomorrow we will be making conservation history by participating in the largest and most unique beach cleanup campaign in the world, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup!

To better understand how impressive this international collaborative effort is…let me share some data tabulated from last year (2011)
More than 600,000 people participated from 114 countries and 45 states here in the U.S.

Over 8 million pounds of trash from our waterways and coasts was collected.

This will be the GTM NERR’s 11th year participating in this event and we hope you will join us!

One quite unique and important aspect of the International Coastal Cleanup is data collection. By cataloging the type, amount and location of the debris (during our cleanup) we will be providing information vital to identifying sources of trash that becomes marine debris.  The Marine Debris Index (MDI) in the only index of its kind where every piece of trash collected is identified by: item, county, state, and country where it is found. This integral data that YOU could collect this Saturday will be used to create long term solutions and to improve citizen education programs about the problems caused by marine debris. 

Bring yourself, your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues and make a difference through a wonderful experience of international camaraderie on behalf of our coasts and oceans!!

Saturday September 15, 2012  8:00am-11:00am 2 locations

GTM NERR Education Center:  505 Guana River Rd., Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082   
GTM NERR Marineland Office:  9741 Ocean Shore Blvd.  St. Augustine, FL
More info: 904-823-4500

Post courtesy of Lauren Flynn

All rights reserved

Friday, September 7, 2012

The 'Shell'ebration Continues!

A little more than a month ago we walked you through a day in the life of the glamorous (albeit smelly) party that picking up oysters for an oyster recycling program is. While all aspects of our recycling program here at the GTM Research Reserve continue, we wanted to take a brief pause from “boogying down” with our oyster shells to bring you some very exciting updates.

The Numbers

Two of the seven successfully installed sections of oyster reef.
First we would like to puff up our own feathers and brag a bit about what we have helped to accomplish so far along with the GTM Research Reserve staff (whom we could not be accomplishing any of this without by the way- call them our “party hosts”!). 46 volunteers have contributed more than 470 hours of volunteer work to the recycling program since March. So far we have successfully installed seven sections of oyster reef. These seven sections required 1,260 bags of shell equaling more than 37,800 pounds in total! Although we still have quite a ways to go, it is exciting to reflect upon all we have accomplished so far.

The Babies

Yep! You read it correctly! This party is family friendly, and the “babies” have arrived at our oyster reef! The life cycle of the oyster begins with a free-swimming larval stage that eventually attaches to a hard substrate forming an oyster spat. The spat then begins a growth period that is classified into sub-adult and adult phases. It is with as much pride as any parent that we announce the arrival of our very own oyster spats amongst our completed reef sections. We expect, by the end of the project, to identify many other species benefitting from the restoration of this oyster reef nursery habitat and look forward to sharing those with you in the upcoming project phases!

Oyster spat on a shell at our restoration site.



The “Shocking” Announcement

SHELLSHOCKED follows efforts to prevent the
extinction of wild oyster reefs, which
keep our oceans healthy by filtering water
and engineering ecosystems. Wild oyster reefs
have been declared 'the most severely
impacted marine habitat on Earth’.
Now scientists, government officials, artists and
environmentalists are fighting to bring oysters
back to the former oyster
capital of the world - New York Harbor.

We recently learned that the director and producers of a new (not yet released) and powerful documentary titled SHELLSHOCKED: Saving Oysters to SaveOurselves read about and were so impressed with our community-based efforts that they offered us a pre-screening of the film! The pre-screening event will consist of the 40 minute film, a question-and-answer follow up with film director Emily Driscoll that speaks specifically to what this means to us in NE Florida and a tie-in to our project at the NERR, and finally an oyster tasting/shucking demonstration by the Matanzas Inlet Restaurant. The screening will coincide with the 2012 National Estuaries Day being held September 21st & 22nd. Click here to learn more about the events and to reserve your place!

The“Actual” Party!!

The sweetest "oyster" you will ever eat sits
against the backdrop of the GTM Research Reserve.
Top a cupcake with icing, graham
cracker crumbs, a “shell” cookie, and
a white chocolate covered espressobean
or yogurt covered raisin and you can
enjoy one too!
We wanted to end our updates today with a huge THANK YOU to Lauren Flynn and all of the GTM Research Reserve staff members that made us feel extra special at a recent thank you luncheon put on for us oyster volunteers. We were treated to some amazing food, oyster themed decorations & trivia, and the cutest “oyster” cupcakes you’ve ever seen!

To learn more about the oyster project and volunteer opportunities with the GTM NERR, visit our Volunteer Wiki site at:

Friday, August 31, 2012

Introducing the Nature Nut’s Tech Corner

Illustration by Jean Bitting, 2012

Do you feel like your inner nature nut and techie geeks are at odds with each other? Are you looking for a fresh new way to explore nature?  Are you a technophobe looking for a way to start plugging in? Perhaps you wish you had a way to inspire today’s technologically bound youth to re-connect with the natural world surrounding them? Whatever your current relationship with the ever-changing world of technology might be, our new Nature Nut’s Tech Corner is the perfect resource to help you get your geek on with nature!  Visit us on the last Friday of each month, right here, as we spotlight a new field tested application.

Project Noah

We are kicking off our Nature Nut’s Tech Corner with Project Noah, which defines itself as a tool to explore and document wildlife. Project Noah acts as a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere.  Named after an award-winning software program, Project Noah allows you to sign up using one of many popular internet homepages and social networking platforms like Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Twitter and more. Though originally designed to build a “digital butterfly net”, Project Noah now uses the popularity of mobile technologies to collect ecological data on all types of organisms, helping to preserve global biodiversity.

Project Noah has quickly become one of the most popular communities for nature exploration and documentation. Users can access the Project Noah website and mobile app to post photos of their finds, to ask community help in identifying specimens, and can even use the Map feature to check out what other users have spotted near them.

The Mission Page on
Project Noah for Android
Another exciting feature of Project Noah is the “Missions” feature. Users can contribute to and create missions- some of which involve serious scientific studies. The mission search allows you to search both globally and locally to get involved. A local search of St. Augustine reveals a mission centered around our own GTM Research Reserve. The GTM NERR Plant Hunt mission challenges local users to document as many plants as they can find within the reserve’s boundaries. Project Noah missions in Florida range from contributing to Invasive Plant studies to photographing Florida Orchids and other plant and wildlife species.

To unleash your Citizen Scientist download the Project Noah App for your iPhone or Android, get outside, and start exploring today!

Project Noah's Main
Page on Android
Project Noah's Map
Page on Android
Completing certain tasks in
Project Noah will award patches

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 Adventures in the Estuary Summer Camp Success!

Were you looking for a way to reduce your child’s ‘sit-around-the-house time’ this summer? Did you hope to extend their learning throughout those months and get them up and active and exploring the world around them? Did you think to look to your local Research Reserve to help out?!

The GTM Research Reserve Education Center
 in Ponte Vedra Beach
The GTM Research Reserve not only provides stewardship of our natural & cultural resources and implements national-level long-term research, but also is committed to engaging and exciting people about estuaries and the animals and plants that inhabit them. One of the many exciting education programs at the GTM Research Reserve is the Adventures in the Estuary Summer Camp.

2012 brought the first long-term camp offered here at the GTM Research Reserve, which was held this summer. The camp allowed for students from grades 1 through 8 to participate in a hands-on adventure in the estuary. Students were able to build confidence and knowledge while conducting real estuarine science. The weeklong camp began with the students selecting a topic from a list of topics currently researched and monitored, and ended with a creative presentation of that topic to family, GTM Research Reserve staff, and fellow campers during a closing ceremony.
1st through 3rd grade campers conduct
research during the 2012 camp

The camp was met with great success as happy campers, parents, and staffers alike sang its praise:
  • “Thank you! Our girls loved it!”
  • “(Student) was excited about camp and had a great time! He asked if he could come back! Thank you!
  • “We had to drive an hour every morning but it was worth it!”
  • “I loved this camp!”
6th through 8th grade campers prepare to get
up close and personal with the beauty of the estuary
 in a kayak tour provided by Ripple Effects Ecotours
When surveyed, most campers even responded they would very much like to attend another camp! Based on this feedback you can anticipate seeing the Adventures in the Estuary Summer Camp as an annual opportunity each July, so be sure to add us to your summer activity planning!

Education at the GTM Research Reserve isn’t just for the school aged! For additional information on the various offerings of the Education Program (including teacher resources), visit us at:
3rd through 5th grade campers participating in a scavenger 
hunt at the GTM Research Reserve Education Center