A Reason for Optimism

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Rose in Washington Oaks Gardens, Florida.

I recently started volunteering at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve or GTM Reserve for short.  There are 29 similar reserves in the U.S. with 3 in Florida.  Many agencies are involved in managing the reserve but the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead.  The reserve is set aside for research, education, and stewardship.  I have been helping with education.  Regis and I participated in a beach cleanup recently and next week I start to support some research.  It has been rewarding to be involved in this organization.

A few days ago, I participated in a seining educational opportunity with some high school students from a Jacksonville, Florida high school.  The students participate in real research.  They must follow standard research protocols.  For this effort, they pull a large net through the water and identify, count, and sometimes measure the wildlife that they find.  We did the work in the brackish Guana River.  That means the water is a mixture of fresh and salt water.  The students were smart, enthusiastic, and a joy to be with.  They did a great job with all students participating and respecting each other and the environment.  They caught so many shrimp it was impossible to count.  Since some shrimp fell out of the net onto the shore, students rushed to rescue the little shrimp.  It was very dirty and wet work.  It did not dampen their enthusiasm.  One of the young ladies, after leaving the water after being chest deep holding a seining net, asked what type of  hard science area she should major in to be able to continue doing work like this.  The future is in good hands with young people like this out there.

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Brown Pelican at the beach.
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Sanderling at the beach.
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Bird looking for something to eat at the beach.

I also recently attended a lecture at Marineland about Right Whales.  North Atlantic Right Whales hang out off the coast of New England and Nova Scotia in the summer.  At this time of year, mother’s head down the coast to calve off the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia.  There are less than 500 Right Whales left and they are struggling to make a comeback.  They are slow whales and tend to hang around the surface.  This makes it easy for them to get his by ships and boats.  Fortunately, based on a lot of research and regulations put in place, Right Whales are not getting hit as often.  Right Whales hang around near shore, so they are easy to spot from the shore.  Volunteers spend 10 weeks during prime calving season in Florida looking for the whales.  This helps researchers conduct research and also allows for the information on their location to be sent to ships in the area.  It’s a great way to save a whale!! The biggest problem the whales now have are getting caught in fishing gear.  Fishing gear is now made so well, it doesn’t break.  Once the whales get entangled, they cannot break themselves free.  Work is being done with the rope industry to try to make fishing rope that is strong enough to support the fishery needs while weak enough to allow a whale to eventually break free.  Let’s hope they are successful.  (The first Right Whale of the season has been spotted off the coast of South Carolina.)

I visited some of the Marineland residents:

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Tiger Sand Shark at Marineland, Florida.
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Dolphin at Marineland, Florida.
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Sleeping sea turtle at Marineland, Florida.

The weather is unbelievable right now.  I can’t get used to wearing shorts on Thanksgiving Day.  After taking Dart for a walk awhile ago, I can see that frying Turkeys is the thing to do here.  There are quite a few turkey fryers located on the sidewalk up and down the street.  I feel like I’m at a street fair.

I hope everyone has a great day with friends and family.  I am grateful for my wonderful friends and family and this beautiful planet we live on.

 

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