Indian River Lagoon Health Update

Indian River Lagoon Health Update

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The Marine Resources Council (MRC) teams with the Marine Discovery Center to present the first ever IRL Health Update report, which examines 20 years of Indian River Lagoon water quality data.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Session 1 at 2:00 p.m.  |  Session 2 at 6:00 p.m.
Location: Marine Discovery Center, 520 Barracuda Blvd, NSB, 32169

  Admission is FREE. The event is open to the public. Attendees must register online.

Dr. Leesa Souto, Executive Director of the Marine Resources Council, will present on the key indicators and targets of lagoon health and how the water conditions have negatively changed over time. Each attendee will be given a copy of the report to use for education and advocacy for the well-being of the lagoon. Together we can bring the IRL back to health!

General IRL Health Update Info:
Local non-profit organization, the Marine Resources Council of East Florida (MRC) in collaboration with the U.S. EPA’s National Estuary Program & Applied Ecology Inc. to produce the first-ever comprehensive health analysis of the entire Indian River Lagoon (IRL) system.

It is common knowledge that the health of the lagoon is in peril. For the first time, we now have a baseline of health, backed by 20 years of available science provided by the governing water management districts, to guide future restoration efforts and policy moving forward to improve the water quality of the failing IRL system. This report is the first step in a comprehensive IRL restoration effort. How do you manage and restore a 156-mile lagoon that spans 42 cities and 5 counties, if you don’t have all the data in one location and easily accessible? Finally, the public can easily see the available information on the state of the lagoon portrayed in info-graphics and charts. The report divides the lagoon into 10 distinct regions from New Smyrna to Jupiter. Each lagoon region is graded based on 5 indicators of health on a scale from 0 to 100, 100 being the best score and 0 the worst. The development of this report has cultivated a communications coalition of lagoon community partners, working together to build consensus on the restoration of the estuary.

We hope you will join us at this educational event to see the results of the first IRL Health Update and get your very own copy of the report.  The more community involvement we have for the well-being of the lagoon, the louder our voice is. Together we can bring the lagoon back to health!

Price Goes Up July 16 In MDC’s Buy-A-Brick Campaign

Price Goes Up July 16 In MDC’s Buy-A-Brick Campaign

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The price of personalized bricks will go up on Monday, July 16, in the Marine Discovery Center’s Buy-A-Brick Campaign.

Construction of an amphitheater is currently underway on the campus of the non-profit organization — once occupied by the former New Smyrna Beach High School. Bricks may be personalized and purchased by the public that will be used in the first installation of the new amphitheater’s main staging area. Find out more about this and other ongoing projects here.

Purchase price for each brick is $45 each through Sunday, July 15, rising to $50 each on July 16. All bricks purchased by July 15 will be included in the initial installation for the stage and will be placed at the site later this fall in October.

The second group order of legacy bricks are scheduled for December 2018, with installation at the amphitheater set for March 2019.

Each brick order may include three lines of up to 20 characters and/or marine/nautical clip art with names and personal messages.

The personalized bricks are also an option for former New Smyrna Beach High School graduates — who attended school on the site from 1963 to 2006 — to commemorate their graduating class.

Brick order sheets for the campaign are available at the Marine Discovery Center, located at 520 Barracuda Boulevard in New Smyrna Beach or online.

For more information, contact the Marine Discovery Center at 386-428-4828.

MDC Hosts Homeschool Summer Camp

MDC Hosts Homeschool Summer Camp

UPDATE: This camp has been cancelled.
This year MDC expands its summer camp schedule with the addition of Estuary Explorers: August 13-17.  Planned for the week after Volusia County students go back to school, this camp is perfect for homeschoolers and others whose academic schedules allow for an extra week of fun and environmental education.

Students in the Estuary Explorers camp will have the opportunity to explore the most biodiverse estuary in North America, the Indian River Lagoon, and will learn all about the significance of this ecosystem. This camp will include island exploration, fishing, marine related arts and crafts, and science activities!  Students will also go on a field trip to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Marine Science Center.

This camp is geared for students ages 5-10, and the five-day experience costs $230. The camp hours are 8:30 – 3:00 p.m. each day.

To register call Diane McColl at 386.428.3310 or email [email protected]  Payment and camper registration form are needed in advance.  Maximum number of campers is 20.

Find out more about our 2018 Summer Camps

The State of Water in Volusia County

The State of Water in Volusia County

State of Water in Volusia County


June • 2018

When: Thursday, June 21 at 6:00 p.m.

Where: Marine Discovery Center, 520 Barracuda Blvd, NSB, 32169

Cost: FREE

The lecture is open to the public at no charge and no reservations are required.

“The State of Water in Volusia County” will be the topic of the Marine Discovery Center’s public lecture this Thursday evening. Clay Henderson, executive director of the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience at Stetson University, will be the guest speaker.

Long engaged in Florida environmental policy, Henderson served on the 1998 Florida Constitution Revision Commission and sponsored most of the environmental provisions in Florida’s Constitution, including the creation of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

He previously served as senior counsel at Holland & Knight LLP, practicing in the public policy section in the field of environmental law. He also served as president of the Florida Audubon Society and was elected to two terms on the Volusia County Council.

Henderson co-authored the Florida Water and Land Legacy Initiative, a conservation-funding program ratified in 2014. He was also a leader in the development of Florida’s signature land acquisition programs and negotiated the acquisition of more than 300,000 acres of conservation lands.

Clay Henderson

A native of New Smyrna Beach, Henderson has received the national public service award from The Nature Conservancy, as well as the Bill Sadowski Memorial Award from the Environment and Land Use Section of the Florida Bar.

Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, of which Henderson directs, utilizes faculty and student research to inform policy options for significant environmental issues.

MDC’s June lecture is open to the public at no charge and no reservations are required. Early arrival is recommended, as seating is limited.

For more information about the lecture, contact the Marine Discovery Center at 386-428-4828.

Gopher Tortoise Halts MDC Construction, Prompts Relocation

Gopher Tortoise Halts MDC Construction, Prompts Relocation

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by Lisa D. Mickey

The Marine Discovery Center got a little surprise from a burrowing reptile after it had started construction this spring.

Executive director Chad Truxall was walking the center’s campus in early April and noticed a hole in the base of what will be the seating area of the new amphitheater, currently under construction.

“We knew we had a gopher tortoise onsite a while ago, but we had not seen it and we thought it was gone,” said Truxall. “As soon as we saw that burrow, we knew we had to do something about it.”

Truxall said that a survey on the property for endangered and threatened species was standard procedure before construction could begin. Unfortunately, an assumption was made that the survey had already taken place.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) informed MDC that it needed to determine if there was one tortoise or more than 10 on the property. Procedural requirements vary based on the number of animals present.

Truxall reached out to Joe Young, owner of Biological Consulting Services who came to the center’s campus in early April and performed a gopher tortoise survey one week after construction had begun at the site.

Young arrived with a measuring instrument, which he snaked into the burrow to determine the size of the hole and the location of the tortoise. Once he determined there was one tortoise in the burrow, all construction within 15 feet of the area was halted until the animal could be removed.

Following the survey, MDC was given two options:

The first option would be to install a silt fence around the entire construction project and the tortoise could be removed and placed outside the silt fencing. The fencing would have to be dug into the ground for several feet around the site. The price was substantial for the process.

“Gopher tortoises aren’t normally found around here in a disturbed site,” said Truxall, of the former campus site of New Smyrna Beach High School where MDC is now located. “And even when those steps are taken, there’s no guarantee the tortoise would not be impacted in some kind of way. They can dig and could get back into the construction area.”

The second option would be to extract the tortoise in its burrow and move the animal offsite to a different location within 100 miles. The site would be a designated area approved by the state for a gopher tortoise.

“Once you decide on an option, you apply for a permit and let the state know your plans,” said Truxall. “Then they get back to you with specifics on the extraction of the tortoise.”

Extraction in action

On the day of the tortoise extraction, Truxall watched nervously from a distance while the process took place. Young and Weaver Construction — which both donated their services to the nonprofit — executed a precise extraction using a backhoe.

The burrow was approximately 20 feet deep and during the course of the extraction, the tortoise made several U-turns in its shelter, Truxall noted.

“I watched it for about an hour and it was a little nerve-racking,” he admitted. “As the backhoe dug up more dirt, there was some collapse of the burrow, but those guys have been doing this for years and they knew what they were doing.”

The extraction rendered a large female tortoise, which was relocated to a state-approved area. MDC paid for the permitting from the state and the relocation of the tortoise.

A little elbow grease is needed

“This is far better than entombment, which they used to do,” Truxall said. “For a long time, construction companies could pay a fee – in what’s called a ‘take’ – and just fill in a burrow, not knowing whether it was active or not. They pretty much buried tortoises alive and maybe even crushed the tortoises with their bulldozers while only paying a fine.”

FWC banned the practice of entombment in 2007, ending a state policy that allowed construction companies to bulldoze burrows for a paid permit. The Humane Society took action in halting the statewide practice, which reportedly entombed anywhere from nearly 100,000 to 900,000 gopher tortoises in Florida from 1991-2007.

“Everyone has an affection for turtles and tortoises,” added Truxall. “Whether they’re in the ocean or on land people are drawn to them and go out of their way to help. When people realized what was going on with the entombment practices, they were really upset. I’m glad the laws were changed.”

In addition to being a creature commonly seen in residential Florida communities, Truxall noted that gopher tortoises are important because they are a keystone species. Their burrows provide refuge for many animals, ranging from mammals and reptiles, amphibians, insects and birds. More than 350 other species have been identified as commensally residing in gopher tortoise burrows.

Taking measurements

Certain endangered species, such as indigo snakes, the gopher frog and the beach mouse, all share gopher tortoise burrows. They will use the burrows throughout their life cycle, but they will also take refuge in the burrows during fires.

“One of those ecosystem-services the gopher tortoise burrow provides is the cycling of nutrients in a scrub habitat or in a dune system where you don’t have a lot of nutrients in the soil,” Truxall added. “The home they build provides habitat for so many other animals.”

Ready for relocation

While some humans may be inconvenienced that the presence of a threatened animal could hold up an entire construction project, Truxall said state laws are now in place for a reason to protect gopher tortoises.

“We have to be mindful that it’s not just about humans first,” Truxall said. “Of course, we are excited about our amphitheater construction project because we feel like it will help us create a bigger impact and awareness in the community.”


“But we are going to do whatever it takes to protect the environment that we are impacting and tell the stories about the other species that live here,” he added. “I once heard a statement that ‘Your greenest project is the one you don’t build.’ When it comes to gopher tortoises, we certainly have come a long way.”

Contact: [email protected]

May 2018 Lecture Series, Bees & BeeKeepers

May 2018 Lecture Series, Bees & BeeKeepers

May: Bees & Beekeepers

Marine Discovery Center Monthly Lecture Series
The Journey of Bees and Beekeepers – Understanding Our Partnership With This Amazing Insect

When: Thursday, May 17 2018 at 6:00 p.m. (Honey tasting 5:00-6:00 p.m.)

Where: Marine Discovery Center, 520 Barracuda Blvd, NSB, 32169

Cost: FREE

The lecture is open to the public at no charge and no reservations are required.

For more information about the lecture, contact the Marine Discovery Center at 386-428-4828.

“The Journey of Bees and Beekeepers – Understanding Our Partnership With This Amazing Insect” will be the topic of the Marine Discovery Center’s May public lecture.

Doug McGinnis, who has served for nine years on the National Honey Board, and has been an officer in the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association, as well as the American Beekeeping Federation, will be the guest speaker.

The presentation is set for Thursday, May 17, starting at 6 p.m. The lecture is hosted by the Marine Discovery Center, located at 520 Barracuda Boulevard in New Smyrna Beach.

A special honey tasting will take place at the center prior to the lecture from 5-6 p.m. Several varieties of locally sourced honey, including black mangrove honey and Brazilian pepper honey, will be available for tasting and purchase at MDC during that time.

At the lecture, McGinnis will discuss the role and duties of beekeepers today as they carry bees around the country to make honey and pollinate food crops, and how this corresponds to the life cycle of honeybees.

Florida is among the nation’s top honey-producing states, and because of its warm climate hundreds of thousands of honeybee colonies are carried throughout the state by migratory beekeepers. This movement is compounding the problems facing honeybee colonies, however, whether from diseases, pests, pesticides or other environmental stresses.

McGinnis will talk about the variety of Florida honey plants and how the bees produce honey from their nectar, including the coastal region’s black mangrove trees. He will also discuss how the honey supply is dependent on pollination, what pollen is, and what pollen does for the honeybees.

In addition, McGinnis will help the public learn how to help Florida’s bee population, and will talk about some of the work being done at the University of Florida Bee Lab to combat the loss of bees and improve the knowledge of beekeepers.

McGinnis has been involved in beekeeping and honey production for most of his life. His family’s business, Tropical Blossom Honey Co., of Edgewater, Fla., sold honey products from Florida beekeepers throughout the nation and to more than 20 countries.

Currently McGinnis serves on the Board of Trustees of the Atlantic Center for the Arts and keeps his beehives at ACA’s New Smyrna Beach campus.

The May lecture is open to the public at no charge and no reservations are required. Early arrival is recommended, as seating is limited.

For more information about the lecture, contact the Marine Discovery Center at 386-428-4828.