Everglades Science Center Open House a Success!

Everglades Science Center in Tavernier hosted their first ever Open House on April 20th. This event offered the community an opportunity to tour the facility, meet the science team, and learn more about the center’s 78 year history of research in Florida Bay. The over 300 guests in attendance enjoyed live music, door prizes, a silent auction, local cuisine, nature walks, and talks from Audubon staff. The message prevailed that the continued data collection and analysis work of Everglades Science Center is essential to enable informed decisions to correctly regulate the freshwater flow through South Florida. Guests were reminded that Florida Bay is more fragile than ever. Restoration of the Everglades and Florida Bay will affect other marine environments of the Keys, including coral reefs, as Florida Bay serves as a nursery for many reef fish, game fish, dolphins and manatees.

Support Everglades Science Center’s continued research by donating online.

The Free Press released an article recently quoting Everglades Science Center’s Research Manager Pete Frezza: “With this data (that Everglades Science Center collects and analyzes), we hope to influence water managers, elected officials and Congress. Restoration of the Everglades requires congressional action. Hearsay doesn’t get you anywhere, but data and good science does. That’s what we do here.”

Read the full article about the life of Bob Allen and the beginnings of Everglades Science Center here:
Ornithologist Left Legacy of Local Science

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The Important Work and Repair of Backcountry Hydrostations

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Lake Ingraham hydrostation with new stand

Audubon’s  Everglades Science Center has 14 hydrostations, or water quality data collection stations, set up throughout the lower Everglades. Our hydrostations collect hourly data including water level, water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and water conductivity.

This data is correlated with the biologic data we collect (submerged aquatic vegetation, prey fish, and spoonbill nesting) to assess how the physical water conditions are affecting the wildlife that we monitor. Hydrostation data is also used to assess how natural weather phenomena and water management operations upstream in the freshwater Everglades are impacting hydrologic conditions in the downstream coastal mangrove zone. This data is used to guide water management decisions about Everglades restoration projects.

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Bringing out the old stand.

This past winter, the stand used to access the Lake Ingraham hydrostation needed replacement.  Everglades Science Center staff Pete Frezza and Mike Kline set out to rebuild the stand. All materials were measured, cut and prepped at our office in Tavernier. Next the tools and materials were transported by truck to the dock, loaded into a motor boat and taken across the bay, then carried by canoe for the last leg of the trip. Finally they repaired the stand working from the canoe. Great work Pete and Mike!

P.S. Remember to RSVP and get more info about our Open House Event April 20th here! Everglades Science Center Invite

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Come Meet the Team at Our First Ever Open House!

ESC Open House Announcement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click the link below for more information and to RSVP. See you there!
Everglades Science Center Invite

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Dr. Jerry Lorenz Shares the Spoonbill Story with Telemundo

Alerta verde de Telemundo 51 se acerca al hábitat natural de la Espátula Rosada o Ave chocolatera en la Bahía de Florida. La historia de sobrevivencia de esta ave en el sur de la Florida depende mucho de nosotros y a la vez nos ofrece información sobre la propia calidad de vida de los seres humanos.

Translation:
This green alert for Telemundo 51 is about the natural habitat of the Roseate Spoonbill in Florida Bay. The survival story of this bird in South Florida depends a lot on us and offers information about humankind’s own quality of life.

Special thanks to Celeste De Palma for her contribution to this story!

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Dr. Jerry Lorenz’s Roseate Spoonbill Interview with WLRN

Listen to the interview:

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Here is a link to the WLRN article:

Iconic Spoonbills Struggle To Survive In Florida Bay

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Everglades Guardian Dr. Jerry Lorenz

Curious how Dr. Jerry Lorenz started his career with Everglades Science Center 25 years ago? Want to discover what it’s like to monitor a wading bird colony with nesting spoonbills in Florida Bay? Check out this short video of Audubon Florida’s State Director of Research Dr. Jerry Lorenz. Courtesy of WLRN Public Radio and Television.

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Florida Bay Spoonbill and Reddish Egret Nesting Season Has Commenced!

 

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Dark Phase Reddish Egret with brightly colored lores indicating courtship.

Florida Bay is a great place to look for a date right now- if you’re a Roseate Spoonbill or Reddish Egret. The Bay is alive with courtship behavior and plumage.

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Roseate Spoonbill breeding plumage: carmine bar, black head-band, tan shoulder plumage.

From brilliant violet-colored Reddish Egret lores (space between the eye and beak), to carmine bars on Spoonbill wings, these birds are looking their best as they search for a mate.

While most individuals of these species are busy courting, we have seen some early nesting activity as well. Spoonbills in the Northwest Bay were seen flying with sticks in their bills, and nest building is commencing in some of the larger colonies. At this time, these colonies are extremely sensitive; researchers avoid entering a colony or leave immediately if this early nesting activity is detected.

Surprisingly, we did find early Reddish Egrets nesting at a newly discovered colony in the central bay.  This particular colony has all color phases of the Reddish Egret present: dark, white, and pied.

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Dark Pied Reddish Egret

A pied Reddish Egret commonly has mostly dark feathers with some white feathers, usually found on the wings. The location and amount of white feathers is individual to each bird. This makes the pied-feathered birds particularly exciting to observe, because the individual is easily recognized.

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White Phase Reddish Egret

 

The white phase of the Reddish Egret is sometimes confused with juvenile Little Blue Herons, which are smaller, have more greenish colored legs and lack the longer adult plumage. White phase Reddish Egrets may also be confused with the Snowy Egret, which is smaller in size as well and has tell-tale yellow feet.

Remember, if you should happen to encounter any of these birds in any stage of courting or nesting activity, leave the area immediately so the birds will not abandon their nesting location.

Here’s to a successful 2016 nesting season!

 

 

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Audubon at Florida Bay Day Jazz Fest

Bay Day Jazz Fest

Katharine Becker and Heather Rafferty hosting  Everglades Science Center’s table.

Audubon recently participated in Florida Bay Day Jazz Fest. This event was full of fun and information about Florida Bay. Present were local environmental research and educational organizations, along with phenomenal live music and great food. Even though it rained most of the day and the event was moved inside, Everglades Science Center shared our mission and research with many folks from the community, including younger ones that had fun playing the Spoonbill Game. In this game they pretended to be a parent spoonbill collecting fish to feed their chicks. From this game, they discovered that spoonbills nest during the winter dry season, when the water levels are low and the small fish they eat are all concentrated together. That way spoonbills catch more fish at a time to feed their chicks, who go from hatchling to fledgling in just a month and a half- that’s a lot of food needed! It was a great day for Florida Bay!

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Biking For Everglades Research

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From left: Everglades Research Manager Pete Frezza, State Director of Research Jerry Lorenz, Field Biologist Mike Kline, Executive Director Eric Draper

This year’s Florida Audubon Assembly in Orlando was a great opportunity to bring members from all over the state together to celebrate the amazing work of the past year. In addition, Everglades Science Center Biologist, Michael Kline, successfully rode his bike over 300 miles from the Florida Keys to the Assembly! Why bike all that way? To raise money to purchase necessary field equipment so Everglades Science Center may continue research and monitoring in the Everglades and Florida Bay. In case you missed this fundraising event, check it out at https://give.audubon.org/Giving/Page/278/1/278. Thanks Mike for your efforts and dedication to keep Everglades Science Center’s scientists in the field working hard to RESTORE FLORIDA BAY!

 

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Everglades National Park Final General Management Plan

Nearly ten yNational-Park-Serviceears in the making, Everglades National Park has finally signed a record of decision on a Final General Management Plan (GMP) which outlines park management into the next 15-20 years. The long anticipated GMP chiefly provides guidance for decisions about resource protection and visitor activities within the park. Audubon is excited about the new GMP and believes it to be a conservation success story. We feel it will also be an excellent compliment to Everglades Restoration efforts which are addressing water related concerns for the park. Highlights of the new plan are an addition of 85,300 acres of ‘Wilderness’ in the East Everglades section of the park, a new 120-mile Everglades Paddling Trail, and most significantly a major refinement to boating regulations on Florida Bay, meant to protect ecological integrity and wilderness value of the vitally important marine waters of the park.Fishing in Florida Bay

Audubon’s Everglades Team played an engaged and influential role in the development of the GMP over the decade’s long process. Using our long history of science and research in the area, we were able to effectively advocate for changes to bay management that should lead toward improved nesting and foraging habitat for water birds and other marine life. Notable changes will be ‘no-motor’ and ‘idle speed’ buffer zones around sensitive habitat including all nesting islands in Florida Bay and the entirety of the bay’s mainland shoreline, a distance of over 50 miles. New with the plan is also the inclusion of over 100,000 acres of shallow seagrass flats within protected ‘pole/troll’Nesting spoonbill with chicks zones where outboard motor operation is not allowed. These flats are not only important foraging grounds for the myriad water birds of the bay, but also for game fish, sea turtles, manatees and dolphin. Audubon also played an important role in the development of a soon to be mandatory boater education course which will provide boaters with information on the key elements of the plan related to use of the park’s marine areas.

The next challenge will be the implementation of the plan; a process that the park envisions over the next few years. We will be continuing our monitoring of bird activity in the bay over this exciting time and hope to report on successes of the new plan.

Post by Pete Frezza

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Updates from Florida Bay

After returning from the 2014 Audubon Assembly, everyone at the Tavernier is gearing up for the upcoming field season.  The Assembly was held on Hutchinson Island this year where staff members were able to participate in field trips to Savannas Preserve in the Indian River Lagoon, and the St. Lucie Nuclear Power plant.  We were also able to participate in some great learning sessions including; engaging the next generation of conservationists, Amendment 1, and balancing protection, restoration and maintenance and climate change.

After viewing a very inspirational slide show launching his new book showcasing Florida watersheds from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay by former Everglades Science Center employee, Mac Stone, we were all able to enjoy a  banquet where Jerry Lorenz was honored for his 25 years of commending and dedicated work with Audubon and his achievements for Everglades restoration.  Pete Frezza was also revered with a service award for his amazing work with Audubon and his gallant efforts to restore Cape Sable.

This field season the office is welcoming back Heather Rafferty, who worked as a fish technician from 2009-2011. Heather will be returning to monitor the Roseate Spoonbill nesting efforts in Florida Bay. She will be joined by Katharine Becker who joined the Audubon team in June as a fish technician, but has an extensive bird background and is thrilled to be able to bring her experience to Florida Bay

Additionally, the office was the lucky recipient of a (used) boat donation for the spoonbill project. We have cleaned, polished, and made some renovations to the 17 foot Mako in order to get it outfitted for field work this season. It will be ready for its maiden voyage next week after the GPS is installed.   The boat was donated by Robert Foley a local veterinarian well known resident of the upper Keys.

The Roseate Spoonbill nest monitoring will begin in November along with the prey base fish sampling and both will continue through April.  Submerged aquatic vegetation monitoring will also be conducted on a bimonthly schedule during the upcoming months to coincide with the prey base fish studies and the spoonbill nesting. We are looking forward to a successful field season and hopefully seeing increases in the amount of nests in Florida Bay where the spoonbills have historically nested. Over the past couple of years populations appeared to be moving their colonies further north and into tree islands on the mainland portion of Everglades National Park. The high water levels throughout the Florida Keys and Florida Bay are unprecedented and could be a result of sea level rise.  Audubon as an organization has launched a new website modeling the impacts on roseate spoonbill population and 313 other species that will be effected by sea level rise and climate change. The website can be found at climate.audubon.org.

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Audubon Scientists Study Bonefish Disappearance

Bonefish populations in Florida Bay have been declining over many years, with steep population decreases noted in the past five years. Beyond an indication of an ecological problem, bonefish were once a big draw for recreational fishing in the Florida Keys. With fewer bonefish to catch, business is going elsewhere.  The decline in bonefish could also indicate other ecological problems and affect other species in Florida Bay.

The precise cause of the bonefish decline is unknown, so Audubon scientists are studying what is most important to a bonefish:  food.

Have the crabs, shrimp, and worms bonefish need also declined?

The food available—or not available—at bonefish habitats will help Audubon scientists piece together what has led to their virtual disappearance in Florida Bay. Changes in historical water flows through the Everglades has resulted in many changes to the Florida Bay ecosystem, although it is not yet known if the bonefish decline is related to Everglades water flows.

Based in Tavernier, Audubon’s scientists at the Everglades Science Center are uniquely positioned to study Florida Bay and the backcountry of Everglades National Park.

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Dry Season Ending

The winter dry season appears to be coming to an end. Heavy nimbus clouds now pace over Southern Florida ushering in the wet season. As the Everglades and Florida Bay wait for the spring and summer rains, water levels continue to drop all across the wetlands. Prior to the arrival of the dry winter, American alligators excavate deep pools in cypress sloughs where they can rely on small populations of fish to concentrate and sustain them until the rains return in April or May.  In a territorial display, this American alligator opens his mouth to warn invaders that he’s not leaving his choice location. Should another alligator approach, they would battle over the mud hole and the loser would be forced to search out another, which could be miles away.

Post and Photo by Mac Stone

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Roseate Spoonbill Nesting

The Roseate Spoonbill nesting effort in Florida Bay has concluded for the season.  The birds typically begin initiating nests in November and have finished rearing chicks by March.  This year’s nesting season in Florida Bay was dismal: only 69 nests were initiated, down from 233 last year.  This is the lowest nesting effort recorded in Florida Bay since 1953.  Mangrove islands that can support hundreds of spoonbill nests were virtually silent this winter and spring.

As spoonbills are considered an indicator species for the health of Florida Bay, downward nesting trends raise alarms that other species and the state of the estuary may also be faring poorly.  It’s too soon for us to know exactly why the birds largely abandoned the Bay this season, but analysis of data from our research programs studying water quality and prey base fish should provide clues. We have confirmed reports of large numbers of Roseate Spoonbills nesting in Water Conservation Area 3A to the north of Everglades National Park, and suspect that this is where many of our Florida Bay birds have relocated to.

Post by Karen Dyer

Photo by Mac Stone

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