Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Florida "Escapes" a busy 2010 Hurricane Season

Today officially marks the end of what has been deemed a busy hurricane season, and ironically and thankfully, Florida "escaped" the season without so much as a scratch. Just becuase we came out ok this time, however, doesn't mean we'll have the same fate in future seasons. While Floridians can "relax" a bit as the 2010 season concludes, it won't be long before we are reminded again of the potential hazards associated with these powerful storms.
I thought you'd enjoy this press release from the NOAA about the 2010 hurricane season. Enjoy!

2010 Hurricane tracks (Image credit: NOAA)
Extremely Active Atlantic Hurricane Season was a 'Gentle Giant' for U.S.

NOAA’s Prediction for Active Season Realized; Slow Eastern Pacific Season Sets Record
November 29, 2010
According to NOAA the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends tomorrow, was one of the busiest on record. In contrast, the eastern North Pacific season had the fewest storms on record since the satellite era began.

In the Atlantic Basin a total of 19 named storms formed – tied with 1887 and 1995 for third highest on record. Of those, 12 became hurricanes – tied with 1969 for second highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.
These totals are within the ranges predicted in NOAA’s seasonal outlooks issued on May 27 (14-23 named storms; 8-14 hurricanes; 3-7 major hurricanes) and August 5 (14-20 named storms; 8-12 hurricanes; 4-6 major hurricanes). An average Atlantic season produces 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Large-scale climate features strongly influenced this year’s hurricane activity, as they often do. This year, record warm Atlantic waters, combined with the favorable winds coming off Africa and weak wind shear aided by La Niña energized developing storms. The 2010 season continues the string of active hurricane seasons that began in 1995.
But short-term weather patterns dictate where storms actually travel and in many cases this season, that was away from the United States. The jet stream’s position contributed to warm and dry conditions in the eastern U.S. and acted as a barrier that kept many storms over open water. Also, because many storms formed in the extreme eastern Atlantic, they re-curved back out to sea without threatening land.
As NOAA forecasters predicted, the Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, though fortunately most storms avoided the U.S. For that reason, you could say the season was a gentle giant,” said Jack Hayes, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.
Other parts of the Atlantic basin weren’t as fortunate. Hurricane Tomas brought heavy rain to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, and several storms, including Alex, battered eastern Mexico and Central America with heavy rain, mudslides and deadly flooding.
Though La Niña helped to enhance the Atlantic hurricane season, it also suppressed storms from forming and strengthening in the eastern North Pacific. Of that region’s seven named storms this year, three grew into hurricanes and two of those became major hurricanes. This is the fewest named storms (previous record low was eight in 1977) and the fewest hurricanes (previous record low was four in 1969, 1970, 1977 and 2007) on record since the satellite era began in the mid-1960s. An average eastern North Pacific season produces 15 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy. Visit us online at weather.gov and on Facebook.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Florida Master Naturalist Graduates!

Today was our last day of Florida Master Naturalist Program-my students presented their final projects, and I'm excited to say there are 14 new graduates of the FMNP Coastal Module! In addition, we had two students (Derek and Helen Day) finish their final module, making them official "Florida Master Naturalists." Including this class I've had a total of 40 students take a class from me in 2010. Congrats to everyone!!
I know I say this about all my classes, but they really were an outstanding group. I personally learned a lot from them, and courses like these are an ideal way to learn about peoples' different perspectives about various environmental issues. As an extension agent, I find this invaluable. I wish the class the best of luck with their future environmental education endeavors. Enjoy the pictures!!
Justin, AKA" Florida", discusses how "drained" he is since much
of south Floridas' ecosystems have been altered in the 20th century

"Ranger Trudy" demonstrating to her guests how
long a gopher tortoise burrow is using a measuring tape.

A little friendly competition during "Sea Turtle Jeapordy!"
I don't mean to brag, but our group won!!!!!!!!

A dedicated group of mangrove enthusiasts describing the many
ways red manrgroves play an important ecological role in our

"Bobby the Bird" showing the class his moves!!

"Bobby" helps explain to the class how different creatures
move along our coastline

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fishing Trip...Dominica Style!!

This morning I had the privilege of going out on charter fishing trip with a visiting research scholar from the island country of Dominica. Riviere Delanco Sebastien works for his country's Ministry of Fisheries where he does fisheries outreach and education. For the past several days Riviere, accompanied by his daughter and Florida Sea Grant's Research Coordinator Charles Sidman, have been visiting Southwest Florida to meet with me and other Sea Grant agents to see how our programs operate at the local level. Riviere is interested in applying what he learns here in Florida to his work back home. Last night the group attended my advisory committee meeting to see how we agents interact and work with our  committee members.
Since fishing is such an important of our economy and culture, I invited the group to go fishing with one of my advisory committee members, Captain Will Geraghy of Grand Slam Charters for a 1/2 day charter trip. I found out that both Riviere and his daughter had never fished from a boat so it made the experience even more memorable. Besides the fishing, it was a chance for Riviere to see Naples from the water and learn about some of the resource issues associated with it. We had a great time and caught some nice fish. The experience also was a great opportunity for us to discuss future collaboration between Florida Sea Grant and his country. Hopefully, I'll have the chance to visit Dominica one of these days!. Enjoy the pictures.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Florida Master Naturalist Field Trip to Tigertail Beach!

Yesterday I took my awesome Florida Master Naturalist Class to Tigertail Lagoon and Beach on Marco Island. I can honestly say it is one of my favorite spots to visit in Collier County. Its a great example of a tidal lagoon ecosystem complete with mangroves, seagrassess, and mudflats. If you are into birding, its a great spot to test your knowledge of shorebirds. I'll have to admit I got stumped on a few yesterday, but some of the birds we saw included: Black bellied plover, dunlin, sanderling, willet, Wilson plover, semi-palmated plover, least or western sandpiper (can't say for sure), laughing gull, osprey, great egret, snowy egret, tri-colored heron, little blue heron, white ibis, great blue heron, and brown pelican.
We did one of my favorite all-time activities....seining! Its such a great way to explore the amazing biodiversity associated with seagrass communities. The water was a little chilly, but we brought in some good hauls. I had the class try to identify some of the fish species using a Seine Net Species ID Sheet I created. I said the group is awesome for a reason- hey knew their fish!!! Some of the critters we caught in the lagoon included:
sheepshead minnow, goldspotted killifish, rainwater killifish, sailfin molly, orange filefish, white grunt, lane snapper, bay anchovy, silverside, mullet, mojarra, pinfish, shrimp, and blue crab.
We then went to the beach side to pull the seine net along the shoreline. Its a great way for students to compare/contrast the diversity from the two communities. Our catch included mojarras, scaled sardine, anchovies, planehead filefish southern puffer, pipefish, and whiting.
Perhaps the catch of the day though came from a student named Kelly who grabbed a gray triggerfish out of the water with her bare hands!!!!!!!!! Very impressive!! Enjoy the pictures (click on them to see them enlarged).

seining in the lagoon

examining part of our catch

Round 2 of seining

Tigertail Lagoon consists mostly of Shoal Grass. Notice the mangroves
lining the edges

Kelly seemed to be quite efficient at finding sea stars
and other marine life!!

seine netting along the shoreline

Kelly's Bare-Handed Grab....Gray Triggerfish!!!

Exploring a tide pool on Tigertail Beach

Tigertail Lagoon at an extremely low tide; notice the shorebirds
feeding along the mudflats

No field trip is complete without a little hike across the lagoon!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Public Deliberation In-Service Training

My colleagues and I participate in a mock
public forum on rising food costs
We are challenged with many tough issues at all levels of our society these days, yet we don't always come together to weigh our options to try and solve them. As an extension agent, I have the opportunity to help guide communities through this process.  I spent the last day and a half in Hillsborough County participating in an in-service training on public deliberation (PD). What is PD, you ask? Public deliberation is the means by which citizens make tough choices about basic purposes and directions for their communities and their country-its a way of reasoning and talking together. PD is not about debating who is right or wrong or simply having a conversation about a particular issue. It is a process to weigh the benefits and costs of various options based on what is truly valuable to the members of a community. It is also about considering the views of others even though they might not be the same as yours.

My colleagues and I were fortunate enough to have faculty from Michigan State University Extension, who are experts in PD, offer the day and half training session for us. Needless to say, I'm not an expert on the topic now, but the opportunity did open my eyes to a new method/process of getting my stakeholders involved in their community.
My colleagues and I  participate in an exercise
that illustrates how different personality types
can affect group dynamics.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Florida Master Naturalist Program- Day 2:Field Trip to Keewaydin Island

Day 2 of my Florida Master Naturalist Class began with presentations on marine and estuarine environments and coastal uplands by my colleagues Renee and Sarah. We also watched a video on Florida estuarine systems. Later in the day we took our awesome Florida Master Naturalist class out to Keewaydin Island, one of the largest unbridged barrier islands in Florida. It was a great opportunity to discuss barrier island ecology and explore some of the habitats found there. We did a walking transect of the island; we first walked through a tidal creek and got up close and personal with our local mangrove species. Next we traversed through a coastal strand habitat being careful not to step on any prickly pear cacti or sand spurs! Finally, we checked out the dunes and associated vegetation and did a little self exploration on one of the most beautiful beaches in SW Florida.  It was a great trip, and am looking forward to the next one. Enjoy the pictures!

I give a brief intro to mangrove ecology and identification

Checking out a black mangrove's pneumatophores in the tidal creek
we traversed

One of my favorite parts; the mangrove tunnel

Walking through a "field" of pneumatophores

Ecotone between mangroves and coastal stand habitat

The group learns about removal of exotic Australian Pines
to preserve biodiversity on Keewaydin Island (standing in coastal strand habitat)

Making our way through the islands dune system with the
Gulf in sight

Ecotone between dune and beach environments

Beachcombing for coastal "treasures"

The class shares with one another some of the items they found during
their beachcombing experience

Renee discusses Rookery Bay's efforts to balance coastal access and management
on Keeywadin Island

A quick lesson about how Calusa 'Indians used the chemical properties
of the Jamaican Dogwood to stun and capture fish

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NOAA and FDA announce chemical test for dispersant in Gulf seafood

I've spent a lot of time the past several months educating stakeholders about the safety of the Gulf seafood in light of the Gulf oil spill. I thought you'd be interested in this press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that further supports what previous scientific testing has indicated.

NOAA and FDA announce chemical test for dispersant in Gulf seafood
All Samples Test Within Safety Threshold
Building upon the extensive testing and protocols already in use by federal, state and local officials for the fishing waters of the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have developed and are using a chemical test to detect dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in fish, oysters, crab and shrimp. Trace amounts of the chemicals used in dispersants are common, and levels for safety have been previously set.

Experts trained in a rigorous sensory analysis process have been testing Gulf seafood for the presence of contaminants, and every seafood sample from reopened waters has passed sensory testing for contamination with oil and dispersant. Nonetheless, to ensure consumers have total confidence in the safety of seafood being harvested from the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have added this second test for dispersant when considering reopening Gulf waters to fishing.

Using this new, second test, in the Gulf scientists have tested 1,735 tissue samples including more than half of those collected to reopen Gulf of Mexico federal waters. Only a few showed trace amounts of dispersants residue (13 of the 1,735) and they were well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million for finfish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs and oysters. As such, they do not pose a threat to human health.

The new test detects dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, known as DOSS, a major component of the dispersants used in the Gulf. DOSS is also approved by FDA for use in various household products and over-the-counter medication at very low levels. The best scientific data to date indicates that DOSS does not build up in fish tissues.

“The rigorous testing we have done from the very beginning gives us confidence in the safety of seafood being brought to market from the Gulf,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary for Commerce and NOAA Administrator. “This test adds another layer of information, reinforcing our findings to date that seafood from the Gulf remains safe.”

“This new test should help strengthen consumer confidence in Gulf seafood,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. “The overwhelming majority of the seafood tested shows no detectable residue, and not one of the samples shows a residue level that would be harmful for humans. There is no question Gulf seafood coming to market is safe from oil or dispersant residue.”

The 1,735 samples tested so far were collected from June to September and cover a wide area of the Gulf. The samples come from open areas in state and federal waters, and from fishermen who brought fish to the docks at the request of federal seafood analysts. The samples come from a range of species, including grouper, tuna, wahoo, swordfish, gray snapper, butterfish, red drum, croaker, and shrimp, crabs and oysters.

Previous research provided information about how finfish metabolize DOSS, and at FDA’s Dauphin Island, Alabama lab, scientists undertook further exposure experiments on fish, oysters and crab; similar experiments on shrimp were held at NOAA’s Galveston, Texas lab. These exposure studies further support that fish, crustaceans and shellfish quickly clear dispersant from their tissues, and provided samples with known concentrations for use as standards for validating the methodology. Samples undergoing chemical analysis are always accompanied by standards with known concentrations of DOSS, to verify the equipment continues to measure the compound accurately.

Nearly 9,444 square miles, or about 4 percent of the federal waters in the Gulf are still closed to commercial and recreational fishing.


Florida Master Naturalist Program Underway!

Yesterday, I began teaching the coastal module of the Florida Master Naturalist Program. I am team teaching the course with my colleagues from Rookery Bay, and we have a very enthusiastic group this time around. I look forward to getting to know the participants. As much as I hope I teach them, I always learn something from them as well.
 After introductions, paperwork, and a course overview we covered basic interpretation techniques and general coastal ecology. The class is meeting Mondays and Wednesdays until Nov 22. Keep a look out for future pictures from the class!
FMNP students listen to Rookery Bay Environmental
Specialist Sarah Falkowski about interpretation techniques