Want to See Wildlife, Watch The Water

All water sources offer a ton of observation opportunities as well as a chance to get wet, and what kid doesn’t want to get wet with temperatures soaring into the 90’s these days?  So whether it’s a bird bath, a puddle, a pond, stream, ocean or a lake, pack a picnic lunch, the suntan lotion, bugspray and something comfy to sit on (’cause you know those little ones are going to want to curl up in the sun and take a nap sooner or later) and get ready for some watery fun.Adults may want to carry along a book too. Hey there’s no crime in getting in a little relaxation while the kids search!

Some additional items that may come in handy depending on your kids ages: a hand lens and binoculars to better observe the wildlife. Bandana or hat to keep the sweat out of your eyes as well as a good pair of sunglasses. A notebook, pencil or crayons to record your observations. Older kids may want to have a camera and a good field guide too. I reccommend Petersons field guides personally – they are some of the best and not too expensive, usually available from Amazon or your local bookstore. If it’s damselflies or dragonflies though there is no better guide however than Gif Beatons guide available on Amazon.com.

So back to the wildlife. You are apt to see a menagerie of creatures, big and small…to very very tiny. Birds will come to take a drink, as will some bees, and butterflies. If there are freshly washed cars nearby you can watch them too. Sometimes the reflection of the sun on the hoods will confuse insects, causing them to land there expecting a refreshing drink and instead getting a toasty burn on their tiny feet!

If you don’t see wildlife right away you can also go hunting for them. near a creek or river. Walk along the bank and look for footprints or evidence of beavers such as chewed up logs. Also listen. What do you hear? Frogs croaking or chirping, birds singing? You may even hear bugs as they buzz past your ear, checking you out as you check them out!

Look closer into small pools of water. Are they deep or only temporary from recent rains? Are there fish, frog eggs, tadpoles? Why might frogs lay eggs in a temporary pond? are there leaves hanging overhead? Might these add protection or shade? maybe there are no fish that would eat the eggs? All good questions that you can look up online or in your field guide.

Keep a count of the animals and insects you see during your day. Smaller kids can draw pictures of what they see and older kids can practice labeling them and maybe even writing out what family they belong too. All organisms belong to a family, as well as phylum – try to remember it this way Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species or King Phillip Came Over From Great Spain. Sounds silly but all organisms can be placed this way so it doesn’t hurt to come up with funny rhymes and won’t your friends be impressed!

So it is the end of the day and you have seen a lot of animals and even identified some of them. Here are a few questions to think about as you head back home.

1. What about animals that must survive a long time without water? What modifications do they make to survive?

2. What about marine mammals that live in water all the time even though they breathe air. Are they born knowing how to swim?

Water is an incredible resource and one we can’t make more of. In fact the same water that falls on us today is the very same water that fell on the heads of the dinosaurs millions of years ago.So be sure to conserve it. Turn it off while washing your face and hands or brushing your teeth. Respect watering bans and use rain barrels to capture rain water to water gardens or your lawn.

Until next time!

 

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The Moon is Bright, Take a Walk and Learn!

Although most kids are fast asleep (or at least well hidden under sheets with flashlights, books and/or handheld games) by the time the moon has risen to it’s rightful place in the night sky, with summer upon us it may be the time to keep them up after hours to take a walk in the moonlight and learn about what goes on in our nocturnal world.

Start by checking your local listings to see when the next full moon might occur. While there is usually only one per month, on the rare occasion there are two, a phenomena referred to as a Blue moon. You can check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) online and enter your ZIP code to get accurate readings.

Prepare for your late night out by having younger children take an extended nap during the day. The last thing you want are cranky children who show no interest because they can’t keep their eyes open. Also gather a few things together such as a sketchbook or notebook and a pen/pencil and crayons or colored pencils.

Next choose a place where you will have an optimum view. This can be your own backyard, but know if you have bright streetlights or a large number of trees, your view will be obscured. It may be better to go to a local park, just make sure you have permission first from the local police department. Some towns may require you to have a permit. Take a blanket to sit on and a few snacks for younger children. This will be just like a picnic, just at night. A flashlight is always a good idea too as well as a cell phone for emergencies. Always be sure to let someone know where you are going.

Allow your child to sit and have their eyes adjust to the dark. When they feel comfortable enough, have them seek out objects such as a fire hydrant, houses, trees or cars. Make a list of everything you see. Talk about how things look different at night. Are they scary looking? Now is a good time to explain that these are ordinary objects, nothing to be frightened of. If clouds are present in the sky talk about how the moon lights up around them. Does this mean the moon is further away than the clouds? Look for shapes in the clounds, draw pictures and make up stories.

A fun thing to do is to sit and listen to night noises. Many animals are nocturnal (meaning they are active at night). Explain what this means and then try to identify the sounds you hear. At this point it is not important to be perfectly accurate, just to get used to hearing the noises and recognizing that they are representaive of nature…at night.

Imagine you are a nocturnal animal. Take turns telling stories about what you would do, hunt, dig, explore? Draw a picture of the nocturnal animals you imagine to be out there. You can verify these by later visiting the library or checking online.

For more fun, try this game. Stand facing each other in plain view. How many steps can you take backward before you can no longer see each other clearly. Can you toss a ball in the moonlight? Look at shadows, yours, the objects around you. How are they different? You can play a sort of BINGO with the different types of shadows, shapes and sizes.

For older kids consider these questions:

1. What makes the moon glow so brightly at times, less so at other times?

2. What are the names of the phases of the moon? Can you draw them?

3. The moon and it’s phases are know by many names, given to it throughout history either by folk stories, native tribes, etc. How many can you name?

Once your lids have become heavy, carefully return home knowing that you have enjoyed a fun family activity unlike those you can do during the day. Hopefully, you will all be able to sleep in for a while!

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Got an Idea? Get it ON your Chest!

This week’s adventure is actually a profile of one my favorite conservationists, someone who is out there making change on a day-to-day basis. This  installment is from T-shirt creator and conservationist, Duncan Carson Founder of Ban T-Shirts which are quickly becoming the thing to have for activists of all ages. I asked Duncan a few questions about how he got started and what he thought his ultimate goal was. Enjoy!

1. Explain a little about what you do and why. Give me a little background.

I have always loved T-shirts with cool and funny comments or designs on them. I used to blog about T-shirts that I liked but after I got laid off from my job I thought maybe I could start to create some of my own designs and make a business out of it. Politics is something that has interested me for a long time – well, maybe not so much the politics, per se, but the issues that affect all of us whether we recognise it or not – the state of the planet, pollution, extinction, conflict, human rights, and so on. To me those issues are what politics are about, and the politiciansm themselves are the ones that make people think that politics is all about in-fighting and party allegiances, the politicians themselves are often the ones that put people off getting involved. But I think they probably like it that way. They say they want democracy.. but not TOO MUCH democracy. Anyway, I decided to start making shirts that actually said something interesting and of worth rather than just being funny for the sake of being funny.

2.  How did you get into the T-shirt business? And why the subject matter? Is there a personal story behind it?

I think I’ve kind of half answered this in question 1 (I started rambling!). As far as the subject matter is concerned I just do T-shirts on things that matter to me. They are sometimes about things that annoy me, such as Glen Beck, Fox News, the literal interpretation of the Bible and the lack of corporate accountability, and they are sometimes about things I just care about, such as our Mother Earth.

3.   How has social media helped you become successful? For those entrepreneurs out there, what advice would you give them?

Social media has been a big help, especially Twitter. I think Twitter is a godsend for the little guy. With a little hard work you can start to get your business name and brand out there. I’m lucky in that I actually enjoy spending time on Twitter interacting with people and sharing ideas. If I had more time I would spend more time on it, but the other aspects of running a business (like creating new designs for shirts!) stop me from doing so.

As far as advice goes I would say take a little time to get to know your social media apps and take it slowly at first. Most of all you have to enjoy it, because if you don’t enjoy it, it’s going to show and it will be a waste of time. If you don’t like using Twitter, then try something else, maybe posterous or Facebook. Whatever floats your boat! I’ve actually found that posterous is pretty good. Posts seem to get a lot of views. Also, if you are going to spend time on Twitter (or any other social network) remember that it is a SOCIAL network. Look at it like you are in a room with a bunch of people – you wouldn’t just walk up to someone and say, “Hey, buy one of my shirts!”, it would be kind of rude! So just hang out with people, and let them find out what you do, and share stuff with them if they are interested. But don’t do a hard sell, it’s very off-putting!

4. Have you had other businesses either online or off before this one? Were they similar in nature?

No, this is the only one.

5.  You are pretty outspoken politically. Do you find that it helps or hurts your business in any way?

I think it probably hurts it and helps it. It hurts in the sense that some people may like some things about the website or shirts (eg, they may like the look of the designs, or the fact that most are organic), but they might not be into the messages, they may want something a little more laid back or of a different political persuasion. But I think it helps in the sense that it’s fairly obvious that I’m only doing shirts about things that I believe in and care about, so there is a sense of authenticity there, that you don’t get with most businesses and products. Integrity is important to me and I wouldn’t be happy doing right-wing shirts, the whole exercise would lose value and validity.

6.What message do you think/hope it sends to young people who might buy and wear the shirts?

I want to bring messages and “issues” out of the ether, out of the TV, radio and internet, and bring them into the real world that you and I live in. These things are not just happening somewhere else, they are things that affect us day-to-day. You wear a Ban T-shirts tee and you’re showing other people that you’re not just passively accepting what is being beamed out to us from corporations and the government, you’re thinking about this stuff, you’re participating and you have your own angle on what’s going on.

7.   Lastly, what is your ultimate goal in doing what you are doing? What do you hope to accomplish?

I just want to keep on making shirts that lambast those that need to be lambasted and support those causes that need to be supported. I’m not going to change the world – but then again, who is? I just do what I like and do my best to do it with integrity. I am a great believer in living according to your beliefs. It’s not always easy in this society, but I think we should try our best. I hope people feel inspired to get more active and demand more from the rich old men that are in power.

Thanks Duncan! Don’t forget you can find his shirts as well other neat items at his website. You can also follow him in Twitter and become a fan on Facebook!

My Favorite BAN Tee

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Beginning Anew

When I lost my job a few weeks back, I was convinced for a time that I had lost my identity. Not because of the type of job I did per Se and not because of how I lost it, but because of what I did meant to me, what my job stood for, or rather what I thought I stood for by doing it.  Herein lies the danger when you mix an incredible amount of passion with your J-O-B.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be passionate about what you do. In fact they say if you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life. However, there should always be an italicized cautionary fine print at the end of that statement. Because there will always be those at the end of the day who are jealous of what you feel in your heart that they can never understand.

So back to the job, the day-to-day inner workings of my place of employment were not what mattered so much, it was the bigger picture, what I was working towards, that I felt in some way defined who I was, made me useful. I poured three years of my life into it, giving everything I had to it. I was making a difference.

In the end, it was those silly day-to-day bureaucratic things however, that became the wedge, a tool for those petty enough to use it.

Since that fateful day; What I have discovered though, through many days and longer nights of reflection is that my passion for conservation of wildlife, and on a grander scale, of conserving this planet for those that will come after me has not been dampened. My job, as spectacular as it was, did not define who I was. I brought everything I had to it and made it better, not the other way around. I briefly shared my gifts with some incredible like-minded individuals and at the same time learned much to add to my arsenal for the future.

I will continue my work in one way or another simply because I have too much left to do to just quit as I feel that some wish that I would. I am not going to go quietly into the night, not when there is so much work to be done yet.

I do know that I will never again be defined by a career or a job. I am defined by my passion for creating a better world, for helping others be they man or beast and by my love of this beautiful planet that we have been assigned as caretakers for, for  as long as that may last.

Wherever that takes me, so be it. Yes, bad things happen to good people. But as long as you know in your heart who you are then you can never be defeated.

Thank you to those who listened and helped me see the light. You know who you are.

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Community Welcomes Critically Endangered Right Whales With Songs, Laughter & Education

Right Whale Festival 2010: Huge Success!

Hosted in Jacksonville, FL for the second year in a row, the event could only be referred to as an amazing follow-up to the break-out attempt in 2009 of combining education for the critically endangered north Atlantic right whale with eco-tourism.

With less than 400 left, there are more children in the average elementary school than there are north Atlantic right whales, a comparison that really drives home the rarity of these incredible species to many of the visitors at the festival, especially the kids.

Local Artist, Nicola Barsaleau

Things got off to a great start as vendors from all over Florida and Georgia set up their booths with everything from local whale arts and crafts to the local volunteer sighting network, where locals could sign up to become a part of the network that scans the coastline for the rare glimpse of these majestic marine mammals during the calving season.

Jawbones and Baleen

The weather stayed breezy and cool, perfect for a day of song and dance with both the Salt Water Cowgirls and the Split Tones providing musical entertainment throughout the day. Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) provided an interactive display complete with actual jawbones and baleen for kids and adults alike to examine.

NOAA and Georgia DNR set up a disentanglement table to provide important information on one of the primary causes of right whale mortality – entanglement in fishing gear while others emphasized the “No approach Rules” , critical calving grounds and the recently passed mandatory ship speed reduction rules that apply to ships over 60 feet in length while in the critical habitat areas designated by the National Marine Fisheries Service and NOAA. This rule will hopefully reduce the number of ship strikes, the number one cause of right whale mortalities – primarily due to the whales being slow swimmers, dark in color and their tendency to bask on the surface close to shore – which coincides with the shipping lanes in and around the Georgia and Florida coasts.

passport prize

Kids and adults alike went from vendor to vendor, passport in hand answering questions, designed to help teach them the basics about the whales that visit the Georgia and Florida coasts from November to March. As each page received a stamp (questions ranged from how are individual right whales identified: callosities, to what type of zoo-plankton do they mainly eat: copepods) the participant came closer to receiving a their prize, a realistic model of a right whale of their very own.

Over all, the 2010 festival pulled in nearly double the number of visitors from 2009 and plans are already underway for next year’s festivities according to co-organizer and Marine Mammal Outreach Specialist for NOAA Cheryl Bonnes.

Special thanks goes out to all the vendors and sponsors including The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Nongame Conservation Section; NOAA Fisheries Service; Guana Tolomato Matanzas Estuarine Research Reserve; Marine Resource Council; Marineland Right Whale Project; Analysis, Design, & Diagnostics; Sea to Shore Alliance; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation; Surfrider; Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens; Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center and Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Conservation Field Station; Keep Jacksonville Beautiful; Jacksonville University, Marine Science research Institute; Wild Amelia; Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute; JAXPORT; U.S. Coastguard; Keepers of the Coast; Navy; Environmental Services Inc.

For the entire album of photos be sure to check out the flickr page!

Saltwater Cowgirls rocked out with both kids and mascots alike

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Rivers Alive: Kickin’ it to The Curb For Clean Water

October 9, 2010

 

Enthusiastic Cub Scouts

 

For the second year in a row the dedicated  boys from Boy Scout Troop 789 in Statham, Georgia donned gloves and boots and came armed with industrial grade trash bags and a ton of feisty spirit to clean up Bear Creek.

Joining them were the two newest recruits, Cub Scouts Race and Hunter from Pack 789 in their first ever Boy Scout adventure.

Saturday afternoon was a perfect day for the clean-up. Warm temperatures and clear skies made for a cheerful environment as the boys gathered at a man-made pond across the road from the creek. After a few quick reminders about safety, the boys were ready to get going. Bags in hand, we split into two groups, each taking a different direction along the creek.

 

What's a tape?

 

 

I'm keeping it.

 

By the time all was said and done the final tally included: 15 bags of trash, 4 tires, 1 exhaust manifold, 1 love-seat, 1 sleeper couch, parts of a wooden dresser, 1 Tanya Tucker cassette tape and 1 owl shaped wall hanging.

Great Job guys and thanks for your dedication to keeping our rivers and streams clean! See you next year !

 

Deputy Wilkerson

 

Special Thanks to Deputy Wilkerson from the Barrow County Sheriff’s Department for keeping the road safe!

Interested in getting involved with a Rivers Alive clean up in your area? Visit their website to find one or start your own!

 

The Crew

 

 

Cubbies

 

Safety Tips:

  • Stay with a buddy at all times
  • Leave wildlife alone, even if you think you know the difference between harmful and harmless it is better safe than sorry.
  • Ask for help before handling items such as broken glass, rusty metal, or tires.If you come across medical waste such as needles, DO NOT TOUCH, get an adult.
  • Wear Gloves at all times.
  • Stay within sight of an Adult at all times.
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Oil, Orchids and Opportunity: Plant Conservation in Georgia

Some of the best adventures I have had since I started working in conservation PR have involved the group that I got to spend time with today, the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA). This group, formed out of the need to standardize management practices of rare plants in Georgia by various agencies and organizations has become synonymous with terms such as safeguarding, outplanting and has even been recognized nationally for their conservation efforts.  Primary partners include state agencies such as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Nongame Conservation Section and The Georgia Department of Transportation as well as Federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The U.S. Forest Service.  Other critically important partners include the State Botanical Gardens, The Atlanta Botanical Garden, Zoo Atlanta, The University of Georgia, Georgia Power, Fort Benning, Chattahoochee Nature Center and many others.

Today’s meeting was hosted by the Chattahoochee Nature Center and the locale couldn’t have been more perfect; Beautiful fall weather and wonderful peach-mango juice with an assortment of goodies were the ideal way to start the meeting off right. (yum!)

Jim Affolter from the University of Georgia greeted everyone, thanking Henning Von Schmeling, our host for the day, and then we jumped right into things since there was so much on the agenda.

USFWS biologist Jimmy Rickards was first up to the plate. The conversational buzz in the room quickly went silent as he began to recount his 32-day tour of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf.

“I often wondered if the footprint of the clean-up effort was actually bigger than the spill itself…there was just so much stuff we were taking in there…”

Rickards’ slide show presentation left most people wondering about the impacts of the nearly 30,000 people involved in the clean up efforts, not to mention the “temporary” infrastructure and supplies needed for the job. In addition to the massive booms everyone kept hearing about on the news every night, there were additional, more permanent booms placed into the water held in place with giant pylons driven deep into the ocean floor. In areas where the authorities attempted to sever the channels from the ocean, enormous sand bags were air-lifted and dropped into place. And all of this doesn’t begin to cover the amount of waste that 30,000 additional people create on a daily basis.

“the biggest surprise…the turf wars…so many were worried about getting their piece of the pie…there were so many things that were so much more important. It was pretty disheartening.”

Despite the extensive media sensationalism, Rickards explained that the spill and resulting slick was surprisingly dynamic. “There wasn’t oil everywhere, it was there one day and then you might not see any for a few days. It moved. But the media made it sound as if it was everywhere on everything.”

The booms, skimmer boats and other clean up efforts were more effective than most were being led to believe, he said, and within weeks much of the oil had either been collected, burned off or had sunk and was no longer visible.

“The amount [of wildlife] we were saving was minuscule…”

Probably the saddest thing to come out of the talk was the point that what he and the hundreds of other individuals from USFWS, NOAA, and state agencies such as GADNR were doing, could not be called a rescue mission, that essentially it amounted to looking for a needle in a haystack. Each team surveyed hundreds of square miles for various oiled wildlife, but often, unless directly in the path, the animals could be easily missed. More importantly, the majority of the affected wildlife were not severely oiled, and so would stay well out of reach of researchers and volunteers…until it was too late to help them. “It is easy to catch the ones [birds]that are sick and can’t run away because they can barely keep their head above the oil in the water. but the ones with just a few spots of oil that go back to the rookeries…they are preening themselves, ingesting oil…they are getting sick and will eventually die and we will never know it.”

Despite the bleak environment, 100 degree heat and surprising amount of push and pull between the government and the media just to give the public access to what was actually happening, when asked if he is glad that he took part in the efforts, Rickards wrapped up his talk with this: “I couldn’t imagine not being down there. It’s what we do.”

Orchid Conservation

After the heavy intro the room needed a little levity so it was the perfect time for Jenny Cruse-Sanders from the Atlanta Botanical Garden to take over to cheer everyone up with her talk about the newest plant conservation initiative: Orchids!

Orchids come in a variety of shapes and sizes with over 60 species calling Georgia home. A few years back Matt Richardson (ABG) decided that these beautiful plants needed their own management plan and got together with botanists at the Georgia DNR to prioritize them based on their conservation needs. Out of this came the Georgia Orchid Initiative. The primary purpose of the initiative is to locate, monitor and then safeguard populations of orchids around the state through on the ground conservation methods, data collection and botanical guardianship. Members of GPCA identify populations and then develop educational materials and native displays for sustainable use at partner gardens. The initiative also works to restore orchid populations by working with private land owners and networking with those doing on-the-ground field work around the state to determine areas of conservation need.

Already there are success stories. In particular, Chapman’s Fringed orchid (Platanthera chapmanii), not seen since 1903 was rediscovered by Dr. Richard Carter in 2009 in Camden County. Nearly 20 plants in two populations both in Right-of-Way’s owned by local utilities. Additional surveys in 2010 led to the discovery of two subpopulations in 2010 also in Camden County. Unfortunately the plants were in need of help and fast. The local EMC applies herbicide to the area on a regular basis for weed control. The Atlanta Botanical Garden and Georgia DNR Nongame Conservation folks stepped in and struck a deal to hand clear the area in order to protect the rare finds. Kudos to Brian Davis (ABG), Tom Patrick(DNR) and Matt Richards (ABG) for saving the day!

Lastly, if you are really into long-term orchid conservation you may want to look up the Orchid Seed Stores for Sustainable Use (OSSSU). No less than 24 countries are working together to develop standards for long-term seed storage in the hopes of conserving some of the world’s rarest orchids.

Want to learn more about the initiative or volunteer to be a botanical guardian? You can get involved by clicking here or contacting Heather Alley at the State Botanical Gardens.

From orchids to opportunities…

Here are a few shout outs from some of the members of the group.

If you plan on being in the Dekalb area don’t forget about the Fernbank Science Center. Teri Nye invited the group to come on down to visit the center which serves the Dekalb school district primarily but also serves to educate teachers about science, conservation and sustainability.

Zoo Atlanta was well represented by Danielle Green who wanted to make sure that everyone knew about the up and coming addition to the Complex Carnivores exhibit she has her fingers crossed for. She is hoping to get some Pitcher Plants and educational signage put up to help visitors understand that the zoo is about more than just animals, that Zoo Atlanta  is focused on maintaining healthy habitats in their ecological entirety which includes plants! Curious to find out what else the horticulture team is up to down there? Check out their Field Notes page.

Professor Jerry Pullman from Georgia Tech is achieving awesome new feats in the field of plant tissue culture thanks to his students. His group of 16 highly dedicated kids from various degree programs have all worked on a variety of projects involving rare plants around the state in class referred to as Project lab. The class focuses on endangered species and provides hands-on training & experience in modern approaches to biological research along with an opportunity for publication in a scientific journal. Their experiments with long-term storage of seeds such as cryo-storage would further conservation efforts of some of the rarest plants in the world. Great Job!

Special thanks to Jennifer Ceska, GPCA Coordinator for keeping us all pulled together even though we tend to scatter like seeds!

Wrapping up…

The meeting continued long into the afternoon with postcards from the field – their regular recognition of those of us in the trenches and then a special ceremony where select landowners were honored for their contributions to plant conservation. This adventurer is signing off for today however so you’ll have to wait ’till next time…

Chapman Fringed orchid photo courtesy of Brian Wilson

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Conservation Success Stories Around the State

What are YOU doing this weekend?

This Friday and Saturday there will be a multitude of FREE public events aimed at celebrating conservation success in Georgia thanks to the State Wildlife Grants Program which is celebrating its’ ten year anniversary this year. No matter what you are into or where you are in Georgia, you can find adventure. Here is a brief overview:

Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area

Named one of the Top Ten Places to see before you die by former AJC columnist Charles Seabrook, this is one place that you have to see to believe. There will be two events. A presentation given by botanist Mincy Moffett at the Southeastern Technical College on Friday and a Guided Hike of the Natural Area on Saturday. More information can be found courtesy of the Swainsboro Forest Blade here or the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Website here.

Sea Turtle Conservation – Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island

If you love sea turtles and plan on being on the Georgia Coast this Friday, then head over to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for a presentation on sea turtle conservation in Georgia given by DNR’s sea turtle program coordinator, Mark Dodd. He will also be highlighting some of his recent experiences in the gulf as he worked with a team of specialists to assess the plight of sea turtles impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Space is limited so get there early. The presentation begins at 7:00p.m. You can find out more information on there Facebook page here.

Privet Pull Workday at Panola Mountain State Park

Hate invasive plants? Feel like they are taking over? Join a group of like-minded folks at Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  2600 Ga. Hwy. 155, SW  Stockbridge, GA 30281

  • DNR Park’s Chuck Gregory and Louise Todd will lead work party to eradicate invasive privet and restore native grasslands at park.
  • Dress comfortably for working outdoors.  Bring a water bottle, snacks, work gloves, and hand saw (if you have one).
  • Pre-registration is required.  Participants will be required to fill out a liability release form in order to volunteer.
  • Directions.  Meet at Panola’s nature center, off Ga. Hwy. 155 in Stockbridge.  Visit www.gastateparks.org/panola to find detailed maps (scroll to the bottom).
  • For more info and to pre-register, call Panola Mountain State Park  ~ 770.389.7801.

Doerun Guided Bog Walk

I have to say, that you haven’t truly lived until you have taken a walk in one of the most under-appreciated but most beautiful habitats we have here in Georgia, the bog. So if you plan to be in the area, consider taking the guided bog walk. You’ll need water, snacks and comfortable shoes for sure. And who knows, you just may catch the itch to come back and do a little restoration work (what we call “swamping”) of your own! More info can be found here.

Bog Turtle Conservation at Chattahoochee Nature Center

What is more fun than gazing in wonder at these adorable baby bog turtles? You can learn all about the Head start program that helps to conserve and protect the smallest turtles in North America as DNR herpetologist Thomas Floyd walks you through the entire program while giving you a first hand look at both these new “boglets” as well as  few adults in the program. Find out more about how you can join in the fun by clicking here.

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From the Corporate Jungle to the Real Thing!

My post this week comes from Kevin Peterson, a former member of corporate America and the current CEO and founder of The Eco Preservation Society International. I met Kevin via the internet world while looking for ways to get more involved with conservation work. He thought I would be a good fit for his turtle conservation program and while I did not get to go due to logistical reasons, I was able to assist him with some other ventures he was involved in. So, over the last year I have stayed in touch and the work he is doing in Costa Rica is amazing. The following are questions he answered about his own adventures in the conservation world.

First things first, what kind of work do you do and how long have you been involved with this type of work?

I don’t know where to start.  If I listed everything that I do, no one would believe it.   For those of us with an entrepreneurial background, you become accustomed to doing everything yourself.  I don’t look at “to do” lists as often as I should because they look so ridiculous.  As the leader of an organization, you are always looking for ways to delegate responsibilities.  When you are just starting out, there is no one to delegate to.  As you build up your team, roles become better defined.  Even then, I find myself jumping in and filling in gaps and that changes all the time.

How did you become involved in conservation work?

I had been working in the corporate world for more than fifteen years.  I enjoyed it and it afforded me with many opportunities and a lifestyle that I enjoyed very much.  Like many people, I came to a crossroads in my life where I felt like I wanted to do something different with my life.   I lived on Maui for many years and I was intrigued by the work being done there by the Pacific Whale Foundation and how they have integrated their conservation research with an eco-tourism whale watching experience.  Coming from a tourism background, I was always fascinated by their model.   After making several trips to Costa Rica as part of corporate incentive groups, I became interested in applying that same concept here in Costa Rica, with the thought of duplicating it elsewhere.  So I spent nearly two years developing a business plan for EPS and now we have been here in Costa Rica for nearly fours years.  So I am almost six years into this journey and we are really just now beginning to see our projects kick into full gear.  I like to joke with people when I tell them that I am in year three of a one-year plan.  Looking back on it, there might have been a few things we could have done to make the process move along faster, but all in all,  I believe that our experience is not all that unusual.   You have to be prepared to dedicate yourself to your vision over the long haul and be prepared to ride out the tough times if you want to be successful.   I honestly think now is a great time to start something.  Those that can ride out the tough times now will be well positioned when things get better.

Have you ever had to draw upon skills that say college grads may not consider relevant to conservation work (diplomacy/politics, writing, legal, socioeconomic considerations, etc) to facilitate your work? What advice would you give to those who are just getting started or are considering a career in conservation?

That is an interesting question, because those skills that some may consider “not relevant” are what I do.   I come from a business background, not biology or conservation.  These “other skills” are what I call “Life Skills” and they are what largely determine an individual’s success in a career.    For anyone that has any thoughts of working within any organization, it is these “other skills” that will have far more influence in determining how far you will go in the organization than your expertise in a particular field.

Your expertise will get you in the door, but that is just a starting point.  However I think it is generally true that the skills most important for the work of an organizational leader are entirely centered on organizational and communications skills.  Having some field expertise is nice, but that alone is not going to get you very far unless you are in a purely research type of role.  Those opportunities are out there, but they are few and even there you will need the “other skills” if you want to advance in your career.

What is the most fun you have ever had while working in conservation? Is there a particularly funny story you want to relate?

I wish I could spend all my time out in the field. I savor every moment.  I spend 90% of my time behind a computer, I live/work in a wonderful little coffee growing village foothills of a volcano in Costa Rica.  I am not complaining; But just being out and experiencing the wildlife and knowing that I am doing something to make a difference.  I don’t know how more alive you can feel.  For me personally, when you have purpose in your life, there is not much else you really need.

Have you ever had situations where you felt your project or even your life was ever “in jeopardy” because of the work you were doing? Explain.

That is another interesting question and not so easy to answer.  I got into this because I was looking to live a more purpose driven life.  My background is entrepreneurial and I was not looking for a job when I made the decision to go in this direction with my life, so I come at this from a different perspective.

While my work is only a part of my life, I can’t really separate it and compartmentalize it in the way the question implies.  First of all, my work does not feel like work too me.  There is not really a clear line between what I want to do and what I need to do to fulfill the mission.  I am driven to bring this mission to life and I start working on it the first minute I wake up and I work until I don’t feel like working anymore, and then I go play (family, friends, etc.)  I play until I am tired of playing, then I go back to work. I love what I do and consequently the work part of my life does not seem all that much different than the play part.   I fill in the gaps with eating and sleeping, beyond that I don’t need much else.  What else is there?

Lastly – why do you feel that you continue to do the work that you do? What impact/changes are you making? Is it worth it?

I have been blessed, I am done a lot of cool things in my life, been to a lot of cool places.  Life in the corporate incentive travel business afforded me opportunities that are really unattainable in any other walk of life.  Despite all of the great times and great experiences, it was not fulfilling for me, or at least over time, it eventually became that way.  For me personally, there is nothing like living a purpose driven life.  It is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed (most days).  I think that anyone that can find that sort of passion in their lives and an opportunity to pursue it is a very fortunate person indeed.  From my life experience, there is nothing that compares to it.

Our main focus is on reforestation and habitat rehabilitation.  As far as I am concerned, this is the front-line for the conservationist movement.  We are well beyond the point where simply protecting what is left is an acceptable standard.  The loss of biodiversity in my lifetime has been simply staggering, unbelievable really. As a child, I never dreamt that we could possibly find ourselves in the position we find ourselves today.   It is stunning and we must do better.  We need to show the way for the next generation so that they do not continue with the course that my generation has followed.  That is a very big responsibility and it is one that I have taken upon myself.

If you’s like to find out more about Kevin or his conservation projects you can find him on the web EcoPreservation Society.org or the Replanting the Rainforest web site.

You can also support the many causes that the EcoPreservation Society works to conserve by becoming a fan on Facebook and on Twitter at @EcoPreservation and @EcoInteractive or @EcoActions

1. First things first, what kind of work do you do and how long have you been involved with this type of work?

I don’t know where to start.  If I listed everything that I do, no one would believe it.   For those of us with an entrepreneurial background, you become accustomed to doing everything yourself.  I don’t look at “to do” lists as often as I should because they look so ridicules.  As the leader of an organization, you are always looking for ways to delegate responsibilities.  When you are just starting out, there was no one to delegate to.  As you build up your team, roles become better defined.  Even then, I find myself jumping in and filling in gaps and that changes all the time.

2. How did you become involved in conservation work?

I had been working in the corporate world for more than fifteen years.  I enjoyed it and it afforded me with many opportunities and a lifestyle that I enjoyed very much.  Like many people, I came to a crossroads in my life where I felt like I wanted to do something different with my life.   I lived on Maui for many years and I was intrigued by the work being done there by the Pacific Whale Foundation and how they have integrated their conservation research with an eco tourism whale watching experience.  Coming from a tourism background, I was always fascinated by their model.   After making several trips to Costa Rica as part of corporate incentive groups, I became interested in applying that same concept here in Costa Rica, with the thought of duplicating it elsewhere.  So I spent nearly two years developing a business plan for EPS and now we have been here in Costa Rica for nearly fours years.  So I am almost six years into this journey and we are really just now beginning to see our projects kick into full gear.  I like to joke with people when I tell them that I am in year three of a one-year plan.  Looking back on it, there might have been a few things we could have done make the process move faster, but all in and all, that is what it takes.  You have to be prepared to dedicate yourself to your vision over the long haul and be prepared to ride out the tough times if you want to be successful.   I honestly think now is a great time to start something.  Those that can ride out the tough times now will be well positioned when things get better.

3. Have you ever had to draw upon skills that say college grads may not consider relevant to conservation work (diplomacy/politics, writing, legal, socioeconomic considerations, etc) to facilitate your work? What advice would you give to those who are just getting started or are considering a career in conservation?

That is an interesting question, because those skills that some may consider “not relevant” are what I do.   I come from a business background, not biology or conservation.  These “other skills” are what I call “Life Skills” and they are what largely determine an individual’s success in a career.    For anyone that has any thoughts of working within any organization, it is these “other skills” that will have far more influence in determining how far you will go in the organization than your expertise in a particular field.

Your expertise will get you in the door, but that is just a starting point.  However I think it is generally true that the skills most important for the work of an organizational leader are entirely centered on the organizational and communications skills.  Having some field expertise is nice, but that alone is not going to get you very far unless you are in a purely research type of role.  Those opportunities are out there, but they are few and there are you will need the “other skills” if you want to advance in your career.

4. What is the most fun you have ever had while working in conservation? Is there a particularly funny story you want to relate?

I wish I could spend all my time out in the field. I savor every moment.  I spend 90% of my time behind a computer, I live/work in a wonderful little coffee growing village foothills of a volcano in Costa Rica.  I am not complaining.  But just being out and experiencing the wildlife and knowing that I am doing something to make a difference.  I don’t know how more alive you can feel.  For me personally, when you have purpose in your life, that is not much else you really need.

5. Have you ever had situations where you felt your project or even your life was ever “in jeopardy” because of the work you were doing? Explain.

That is another interesting question and not so easy to answer.  I got into this because I was looking to live a more purpose driven life.  My background is entrepreneurial and was not looking for a job when I made the decision to go in this direction with my life, so I come at this from a different perspective.

While my work is only a part of my life, I can’t really separate it and compartmentalize it in the way the question implies.  First of all, my work does not feel like work too me.  There is not really a clear line between what I want to do and what I need to do to fulfill the mission.  I am driven to bring this mission to life and start working on it the first minute I wake up and I work until I don’t feel like working anymore, then I go play (family, friends, ect.)  I play until I am tired of playing, then I go back to work. I love what I do and consequently the work part of my life does not seem all that much different than the play part.   I fill in the gaps with eating and sleeping, beyond that I don’t need much else.  What else is there?

6. Lastly – why do you feel that you continue to do the work that you do? What impact/changes are you making? Is it worth it?

I have been blessed, I am done a lot of cool things in my life, been to a lot of cool places.  Life in the corporate incentive travel business afforded me opportunities that are really unattainable in any other walk of life.  Despite all of the great times and great experiences, it was not fulfilling for me, or at least over time, it eventually became that way.  For me personally, there is nothing like living a purpose driven life.  It is the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed (most days).  I think that anyone that can find that sort of passion in their lives and an opportunity to pursue it is a very fortunate person indeed.  From my life experience, there is nothing that compares to it.

Our main focus is on reforestation and habitat rehabilitation.  As far as I am concerned, this is the frontline for the conservationist movement.  We are well beyond the point where simply protecting what is left is an acceptable standard.  The loss of biodiversity in my lifetime has been simply staggering, unbelievable really.  As a child, I never dreamt that we could possibly find ourselves in the position we find ourselves today.   It is stunning and we must do better.  We need to show the way for the next generation so that they do not continue with the course that my generation has followed.  That is a very big responsibility and it is one that I have taken upon myself.

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Summer time is Outreach season!

One of the most important and interesting (and arguably the most fun) aspects of a job in conservation PR has to be doing outreach. It can also be one of the most hectic.

Spring and Summer are generally busy seasons for us with festivals, end-of-the-year classroom appearance requests, media events, etc. In a perfect world, the requests would come in,  be assessed by staff availability, scheduled and materials gathered. But of course we all know this doesn’t happen in the real world of nonprofit PR or government public affairs when you are working off grants and slashed budgets,

So we end up panicked, pulling out our hair with last-minute requests, pulling presentations out of the air and praying that nobody noticed that we just said loggerback sea turtle…(oops!) But hey – this is part of what make us good at what we do. We are willing to work on the fly, under stressful situations and often we pull it off with only us the wiser.

This past season was especially crazy. Pretty much as soon as the insanity of Weekend for Wildlife (deserving of a whole other post which it will get) was over, I began my season of outreach. First on the docket, Fire on the Mountain. This was my third year running the show and I swear if ever Murphy’s law was true, it was this year. Everything that could go wrong simply did, right up to us canceling the event…after it had already started. we had vendors pull out and no-show, rain, a flooding river and recruiting volunteers was like pulling teeth. All that ans we went over budget for an event that essentially didn’t happen. ugh. Many thanks however to parks, TERN, BB&T, Jim Candler, the SCA crew and my brother for braving the elements and coming out anyway.

I wasn’t much recovered when it was time to begin planning for the Pine Tree Festival. I felt better about this one because I wasn’t in charge of anything except my own people. That I could manage, or so I thought. Somehow or another the local chamber of congress sweet talked us into being one of the event’s primary partners, so all the sudden our contributions to the festival got a whole lot more “involved” going from a  simple booth to two feature presentations at a banquet, manpower for a prescribed burn at the forestry field day and attendance in a parade. (Okay, I admit that last part was pretty fun!)

Between getting ready for large events like these I was also doing smaller outreach events like doing presentations for schools. I visited an elementary school in Conyers where I taught a group of 2nd graders the importance of sea turtles (thanks Mark for the PowerPoint!). They were great and asked lots of questions. I felt like I really made a difference.

Back to the insanity – The next big thing to come up was J.A.K.E.S. Day which is put on by the National Wild Turkey Federation every year and held at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, Georgia. I have had a booth there for the last three years. Usually I try to bring a live animal, (last year we had a tree frog) along with my trivia wheel but this year with things being rushed, I only had my trivia wheel. I still think it went okay and I had a good crowd and gave away most of my items.  Dan (my director) even made a visit to my table with his daughter Lanier. I brought my favorite helper (my son, James) and together we played some good trivia with the visitors.

Just when I thought things might be settling down I got a call from both a bank and an elementary school asking me to present for Earthday. I knew I couldn’t be in two places at once so I chose the school since I figures I’d  make more of an impact there. I went out to Barksdale Elementary and rotated through five  fourth grade classrooms. These kids loved the trivia and really got competitive. It was actually one of my better outreach events.

improved trivia wheel(little faded with age)

trivia wheel (brand new)

Next up- World Ocean Day. I had been asked to help cover this last year along with fisheries and didn’t think much of it. Now I was being asked to do it all by myself. It wasn’t so bad, It was at the Georgia Aquarium after all, and I did get to watch the adorable beluga whales while I worked, but there were thousands of kids and several times I got mobbed, so it was difficult to tell if I really got through to any of them or if they just wanted my “stamp” in their passport so they could move on to the next booth. Sometimes those events are counterproductive.

Probably one of the better events I had this past season was Outdoor Adventure day at Centennial Olympic Park in June. I worked this booth with Linda May and together we were able to reach a lot of people who may otherwise have never seen a gopher tortoise or a barred owl up close. Kids, fascinated, would follow the tortoise  (nicknamed “Bondo” for her cracked shell) as she wandered around our area.Hopefully we convinced at least a few to buy our wildlife tag!

"Bondo"

( I stayed close and kept watch.) Many of them had never seen a turtle, much less a large tortoise and certainly didn’t realize how quickly they could move. When I fed Bondo raspberries, it looked as if I had put lipstick on her and kids laughed. It was a great moment.

So since June things have quieted down and the last little bit of outreach I have had to do is the Bat Blitz (see previous post).  Of course the season is not over yet. There is still the State Wildlife Grant program 10th anniversary event, Coastfest, Colonial Coast Birding Festival and the Right Whale Festival to look forward to, but for now…I can breathe, even if only for a moment. I can’t say that I am not glad because truthfully, outreach season wears me out!! I love being able to reach people, especially kids, but there are times when you get all talked out. So for now, this adventurer is signing out!!!

See you next time!

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