Otter Spotting, Mini-Drones, & Yoga!

Otter Spotting, Mini-Drones, & Yoga!

October at MDC brings two unique events hosted by some of our favorite community partners! Both of these events are FREE and open to the public; no RSVP is required.

You “Otter” Be a Citizen Scientist

Calling all nature lovers and photographers: On Thursday, October 12 you can come hear things from the “otter” side! Join research scientist Megan Stolen from Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute in a workshop designed teach you how to help river otter populations in the Indian River Lagoon. Attendees will learn all about river otters in the IRL and about the Institute’s Otter Spotters, which is a citizen science program designed to gather information on river otter populations.  This workshop will be held at 6:00 p.m. at Marine Discovery Center.

Mini-Drone & Oyster-Storytelling Yoga

On Sunday, October 15 faculty and students from University of Central Florida’s Coastal & Estuarine Ecology Lab and Citizen Science GIS will lead two hands-on events for all ages to emphasize the importance of Florida’s coast, especially the Indian River Lagoon. This program will be held from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. at Marine Discovery Center.

1. MINI DRONE OBSTACLE COURSE over a simulated coastal community. Participants will have the opportunity to fly the mini-drones.
2. OYSTER STORYTELLING YOGA* which combines information on estuarine biological diversity with yoga poses designed to help you with both flexibility and remembering the importance of our keystone species.

*if participating in yoga, bring yoga mat and water bottle

For more information, please contact Tim Hawthorne at timothy.hawthorne@ucf.edu or Linda Walters at linda.walters@ucf.edu

Save Your Applause For The Scientists

Save Your Applause For The Scientists

Wendy Noke of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute assists a dolphin calf

By Lisa D. Mickey

I admit it. I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to admiring top sports teams and appreciating the skills of world-ranked athletes.

I love seeing them work together as a team to win championships or close games. And I enjoy watching individual professional athletes perform extraordinary feats.

Certainly, as a sportswriter for more than 20 years, I have seen my fair share of record-breaking performances, met some exceptional athletes and seen history made in athletics that will forever be on instant replay in my mind.

But in recent years, I’ve met some new superstars who work in virtual anonymity and deserve far more attention than any of them would ever want. Their names are not well known and they don’t reap lucrative benefits for the long hours of plying their craft even though they are among the world’s best. There’s no confetti, headlines or applause from thousands of adoring fans for these people.

In fact, most of the time when they perform their best work, they are alone, dirty, bloody and in environments where even their best friends might decline to go. Their incentive is not fame and fortune, but rather, an intrinsic curiosity to answer questions, solve problems, and detail those findings in documents that can be used by others.

Who are these people? They are scientists.

And these scientists are everyday people who are committed to research often involving specific species and specific habitats. They regularly deal with evolving changes that affect the living organisms they study and they are unabashedly passionate about the focus of their studies. Their fist pumps are cerebral, at most.

For example, I recently reached out to the scientists at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Fla., to inquire about a blue land crab (cardisoma guanhumi) that was showing up in my neighborhood in Central Florida. Scientist Sherry Reed kindly responded and informed me that Hurricane Irma had spawned a migration of these crabs as they move from salt marshes to the ocean at this time of year.

Reed provided the information I wanted, and in a follow-up email, she called these crabs “beautiful creatures” (they are!) and admitted they were “especially near and dear to [her] heart.”

That kind of passion for a species and commitment to understand their existence is exactly why I believe we should thoughtfully consider who our real heroes are and why.

Scientists most often specialize in a focus area and spend countless hours and years documenting their species. Both when things go right and when things go wrong, they still seek answers to questions.

How many times have I listened to Lori Morris of St. Johns River Water Management District passionately discuss the importance of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon? And when an algal bloom in 2011 killed 47,000 acres of precious seagrass in the estuary, why was I not surprised that Morris was out in the water with other scientists, hand-planting grasses and later snorkeling to monitor its progress?

How can I not get excited about oysters and shoreline restoration when Dr. Linda Walters of the University of Central Florida starts talking about the work she has done with oyster-shell recycling for nearly two decades? If you ever work with her on one of these shoreline projects, it’s like spending a day with the Johnny Appleseed of oysters.

I’ve also logged time on the water with Wendy Noke of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute looking for sick and injured dolphins. I’ve watched Wendy suspend her great affinity for specific animals she had monitored for years when it came time to perform necropsies to determine what had killed them. A few years ago, when a deadly virus swept the offshore dolphin population, I knew I could find Wendy with a scalpel in her gloved hands, harvesting tissue for pathology results – sometimes twice a day. Maybe even Wendy wanted to cry at the loss of so many magnificent animals, but there was too much work to be done in the name of science.

If you want to get excited about sharks, listen to George Burgess talk about his favorite species. Burgess is the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Fla. He has spent his career following these animals and documenting their behaviors and statistics. He can tell you where not to swim in New Smyrna Beach, based on shark-bite statistics and baitfish prevalence, but he can also espouse the miracles and mysteries of these animals from a lifetime of research.

A few times, I’ve had the privilege of walking at the elbow of Dr. Jane Brockmann, a professor emeritus at the University of Florida, who has studied horseshoe crabs for more than 30 years. Once I was with Dr. Brockmann when we found spawning horseshoe crabs on an atypical shoreline. These animals are thought to have been in existence for more than 445 million years, so to observe the surprise and delight of a veteran scientist who was seeing something new after three decades of study was better than witnessing a half-court buzzer beater.

Sometimes I have dinner with another professor, Dr. Hyun Jung Cho, who teaches integrated environmental science at Bethune-Cookman University, and I find myself marveling at her commitment to study wetlands and aquatic vegetation at all times – even if she’s wearing a dress on her way home from church and happens to spy a retention pond with interesting grasses. “That’s why I keep rubber boots in my car,” she said matter-of-factly, when I asked if she really waded into these ponds in her Sunday clothes.

Research ecologist Gina Kent, of the Avian Research and Conservation Institute, monitors the nesting habits, migratory patterns and the habitat challenges of swallow-tailed kites. When these magnificent raptors return to Central Florida from South America to nest each year, Gina is collecting data. And with the information I have learned from her and shared with others who live where these birds nest, now my previously uninterested friends are excitedly offering regular reports on “those birds with the interesting tail feathers.”

Even away from the institutes and universities, the scientists among us help shine a spotlight on our world and its living organisms that really should be valued and cherished more than any homerun, slam-dunk, 60-yard field goal or ace in the hole.

Michael Brothers, of the Marine Science Center, for example, can look at a gathering of 10,000 seagulls on a beach and identify several different species with one quick glance. Chad Truxall of the Marine Discovery Center can lead a group to a sandbar and suddenly unveil a host of creatures just under the soil’s surface that could otherwise easily be overlooked.

Maybe I’m slowing down as I round the bases in life, but I can “see the pitches” better than ever. These scientists clearly demonstrate skill, knowledge, experience, commitment and passion – asking for nothing and giving everything they have every single time they perform.

That’s why I say, if you want to applaud someone for a genuine superstar performance, save it for our scientists. They do their excellent work for the species they study, but more importantly, for the role their species plays in the world.

Scientists are looking at history, the present and the future with the hope their respective work can help us better understand our world and what we can do to assure a viable planet. And the passion they show for their work is contagious – kind of like that wave that starts in a stadium and brings true fans to their feet.

UPDATE: MDC & Hurricane Irma

UPDATE: MDC & Hurricane Irma

Tuesday, September 12: MDC staff spent the morning cleaning up the center from blown-in water, monitoring tanks and checking for any issues, putting furniture and kayaks back, and generally making sure things are ok. We had some minor damage to outside structures (such as the dock and our info kiosks) but otherwise we had no major damage that we have seen.
Right now we do not have a solid update on when we’ll be back to normal operations as our power & phones are currently still not working. We’ll likely be open for business again with our regular tour schedule on Thursday, September 14.
 
Keep updated on any news via our Facebook Page.
MDC To Benefit From New Smyrna Beach Paint Out

MDC To Benefit From New Smyrna Beach Paint Out

by Lisa D. Mickey

The Marine Discovery Center, along with Friends of Canaveral, will benefit from this year’s New Smyrna Beach Paint Out.

In its seventh year in the New Smyrna Beach area, the Paint Out, formerly known as “Canaveral Seashore Plein Air Paint Out,” will be held Oct. 8-14.

The event features professional artists invited from around the country to paint “En Plein Air” within Canaveral National Seashore and around the historic community of New Smyrna Beach.

The weeklong event features an evening gala on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille on the North Causeway. Tickets are $40 each or $70 for two tickets.

There are also a variety of featured and judged paint-out events, a plein air gallery, live auction and events featuring both local and national artists capturing the essence of our coastal community.

Just as televised chef competitions give contestants a set amount of time and ingredients to create a culinary dish, one event gives artists two hours to create a painting, which is then judged.

Art patrons and Paint Out sponsors support the event financially, with proceeds benefitting the Marine Discovery Center and Friends of Canaveral through sales and sponsorships. 

To learn more about the New Smyrna Beach Paint Out, visit nsbpaintout.com

Volunteers Ready To Pitch In For 2017 Coastal Cleanup

Volunteers Ready To Pitch In For 2017 Coastal Cleanup

By Lisa D. Mickey

Joe and Margaret Anglin

Once again, it’s time for volunteers to spread out on beaches and parks in Volusia County and New Smyrna Beach for the annual International Coastal Cleanup and Halifax/Indian River cleanup.

The theme for the annual event each September is to “think globally and act locally.” This year’s International Coastal Cleanup will be held on Saturday, Sept. 16, from 8-10:30 a.m.

Volunteers collect garbage and debris from shorelines, parks and beaches at various designated sites. The collected debris is then weighed and recorded as data that is shared with Ocean Conservancy for national and global statistics.

Registration to participate in the event closes on Friday, Sept. 1. The first 1,750 registered volunteers will receive a thermal lunch tote. To register, visit: www.volusia.org/cleanup

“Last year, more than 500,000 volunteers around the world collected over 18 million pounds of trash during the International Coastal Cleanup,” said Becki O’Keefe, who works in Volusia County’s Environmental Management Division.

“In addition to taking part in the cleanup, local residents can have a major impact on marine debris simply by reducing the amount of waste they create on a daily basis and by organizing their own beach cleanups,” she added.

During the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup, 2,131 Volusia County volunteers collected a total of 7,448 pounds of trash. O’Keefe hopes to break that record this year.

Several collection sites have already reached maximum capacity for volunteers, but the listed sites below still need help. They are:

Beach Sites

* Bicentennial Park, 1800 Oceanshore Blvd., Ormond-By-The-Sea

* Tom Renick Park, 1575 Oceanshore Blvd., Ormond-By-The-Sea

* Birthplace of Speed Park (Granada approach), 21 Oceanshore Blvd.,
Ormond Beach
River Sites

* Sanchez Park, 329 Sanchez Ave., Ormond Beach

* Cassen Park, 1 South Beach Street, Ormond Beach

* Sunrise Park North, 1135 Riverside Drive, Holly Hill

* Daytona Beach City Island Park, 105 E. Magnolia Ave., Daytona Beach

* Port Orange Causeway Park, 93 Dunlawton Ave., Port Orange (located at large boat ramps under Dunlawton Bridge)

* Turnbull Bay, Between 2880 & 2902 Sunset Dr., New Smyrna Beach (river access point at the west end of Willard Street)

* River Breeze Park, 250 H.H. Burch Rd., Oak Hill (6 miles south of Indian River Blvd., SR-442 off U.S. 1)

Volunteers should wear comfortable clothing, closed-toe shoes and hats. Sunscreen, water, work gloves, trash grabbers and buckets for trash collection are also encouraged.

Ocean Conservancy spearheads this initiative each year in an effort to slow an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic from entering the ocean and impacting more than 690 species of marine animals.

Research has shown that plastics in the ocean both absorb toxins from surrounding waters and become ingested by animals. Animals that have eaten plastics and microplastics in ocean trash also potentially contaminate the food chain, which could impact human health.

For more information about the local event or to learn how you can get involved, contact Becki O’Keefe at (386) 238-4716 or at bokeefe@volusia.org.

To learn more about what you can do to help encourage trash-free oceans and waterways, visit www.oceanconservancy.org