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: