Monday, November 22, 2010

FMNP Upland Habitats Course Completed!

The graduating class!
FMNP participants learn about how fire has affected the plants and habitat at Cruickshank Sanctuary
Florida Master Naturalist Upland Habitats course participants graduated this past Saturday. The class was held every Saturday over 6 weeks with one week off so they could finish their class projects. All participants of the class must do a project as their final task before graduating. This class had a variety of projects including a Make It Take It postcard display for the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary in Titusville, a Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary poster on the Florida Scrub Jay which inhabits this sanctuary, and an Erna Nixon Park self guided tour booklet. The class went on three field trips to the sanctuaries and park listed above and learned about the habitat and organisms found at each location. It was a great learning experience for the participants and for me since this was my first time teaching this course. To learn more about the Florida Master Naturalist program visit We will be offering a Freshwater Wetlands course starting in February and a Coastal Systems course starting in April. The schedules and registration for these classes should be up on the website soon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Secretary of Commerce Approves Amendment 17A to End Overfishing of Red Snapper

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC) received notification on October 27th that the Secretary of Commerce gave final approval to Amendment 17A to the Snapper Grouper Fishery Management Plan. The amendment action plans include:
  • Annual catch limit and accountability measures for red snapper in the South Atlantic
  • A rebuilding plan for red snapper
  • A prohibition on all harvest and possession of South Atlantic red snapper
  • An area closure off southern George and north/central Florida where fishing for all snapper grouper species will be prohibited, except when using spearfishing gear or black sea bass pots to fish for species other than red snapper
  • A requirement for circle hooks in the snapper grouper fishery north of 28 degrees N. latitude
  • A requirement for a program to monitor red snapper
According to the letter sent to the Council, "the final rule to implement Amendment 17A will likely publish in the Federal Register in the second-half of November". Until this final rule is published the actual date that the regulations will be implemented is unknown.
The measures currently in Amendment 17A are based on a 2008 stock assessment for red snapper conducted through the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) program. But a new stock assessment was recently completed for red snapper that includes updated information on red snapper. The assessment (known as SEDAR 24) will be reviewed by the Scientific and Statistical Committee in November before being presented to SAFMC in December, but preliminary results show the stock may be improving.  SEDAR 24 includes data through 2009 with significant additional age samples in the updated assessment. "While the red snapper stock remains overfished and overfishing continues, the three additional years of data and increased age sampling intensity, along with indications of a very good year class, and the impacts of the current regulations in place, have combined to show improvement in the stock," said John Carmichael, the SAFMC's Science and Statistics Program Manager and SEDAR program coordinator. Other modifications to the new assessment include some changes in the estimates of historical recreational catches, changes to estimates for bycatch mortality, and changes in fishery selectivity patterns. Both commercial and recreational fishermen participated in the 3-step series of workshops, including a week-long Data Workshop held in May, a series of webinars for the Assessment Workshop, and the Review Workshop held in mid-October.  
The SAFMC developed preliminary options for modifications to the area closure during its September meeting that would depend on the information in the new stock assessment. The options are being included in Regulatory Amendment 10 and will be reviewed again by SAFMC during its December meeting. The regulatory amendment process would allow SAFMC to expedite any changes more quickly through the management process.
For more information and other news, visit the SAFMC Fall 2010 newsletter, South Atlantic Update.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Florida Center for Ocean Education to be based at Indian River State College

Recently Indian River State College announced a new Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) that will be based at the college in Fort Pierce. This is very exciting news for the coastal and ocean science and education communities. Below is the press release. 

FORT PIERCE, FL -- With environmental crises like the Gulf oil spill impacting marine life and coastal systems, scientists and citizens are increasingly aware of the importance of clean and flourishing marine ecosystems.  Florida is taking a major step toward public understanding of the ocean with the new Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) to be based at Indian River State College (IRSC) in Fort Pierce in collaboration with the Smithsonian Marine Station, Florida Institute of Technology, and the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA). 
The University of Florida Sea Grant Extension Program will be involved in community outreach across the state and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute/Florida Atlantic University will provide scientific expertise and mentoring on Florida’s Treasure Coast.
COSEE Florida will help students, educators and people of all ages develop a better understanding of how ocean and coastal systems work.  The Center will be funded by prestigious National Science Foundation grants totaling $2.8 million to IRSC and its partners over a five year period.
As a state with approximately 1,400 miles of saltwater coastline, Florida’s lack of a COSEE Center has been a major gap in coverage of East Coast ocean research.
                “Understanding and maintaining the ocean and coastal regions of Florida is vitally important to the environmental and economic well-being of our State,” said Dr. Edwin R. Massey, IRSC President. “The COSEE Center based at IRSC will ensure that Florida’s scientists, educators, students and citizens are well-prepared to work together to address the challenges of our marine ecosystem and foster a healthy environment for those who live in Florida or visit our state.” 
                Dr. Massey, who holds a Ph.D. in Zoology with emphasis in Marine Biology, will serve as Lead Principal Investigator for the project. Dr. Susan B. Cook, Harbor Branch’s former Education Director, has joined IRSC as the COSEE Florida Project Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the grant.
COSEE Florida will take a three-pronged approach: 
·         Offering workshops across the state to engage ocean scientists and help them effectively communicate their discoveries and the relevance of their ground-breaking research to non-scientific audiences 
·         Designing and disseminating a new ocean-based curriculum for college students planning to teach middle school science 
·         Creating an eight-region Florida Ocean Science Learning Network offering public programs that focus on regional and statewide challenges such as pollution in the Indian River Lagoon or the impact of ocean processes on dolphins, turtles and other animals.
                According to Dr. Cook, “COSEE Florida’s work will give Floridians a much better understanding of the discoveries that ocean scientists are making every day and why that knowledge is relevant to their daily lives and the environmental challenges facing the state. Ocean researchers, higher education faculty and graduate students who participate in the extensive workshop series will become more skilled at explaining their work to a range of audiences. They will become more knowledgeable about engaging nonscientists in research and better prepared to make mutually beneficial connections with teachers, school districts and education centers.”
At IRSC, education majors will develop a deeper understanding of the ocean system, biodiversity and methods used to foster critical thinking among their students. Ocean science content will be added to the IRSC Bachelor’s degree program in middle school science, and, starting in May, IRSC education students will intern with research scientists on the Treasure Coast.  
“Through their collaboration with ocean scientists, these future teachers will gain a better appreciation for the scientific process and will learn how to translate their experience and new knowledge into classroom activities,” said Dr. Richard Tankersley, Professor of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology and a Principal Investigator for the project.
Dr. Valerie Paul, Director and Chief Scientist, Smithsonian Marine Station, and Dr, Edith Widder, CEO/President/Senior Scientist for ORCA, will also serve as Principal Investigators.
                Reaching out to the public, COSEE Florida will bring scientists, educators and people of all ages together under the theme Water as Habitat. Ocean-based presentations and workshops will generate interest in the marine ecosystem, stimulate community discussion and increase awareness of the value of scientific knowledge in environmental decision making.  
COSEE Florida will be based at the IRSC Science Center at the Main Campus in Fort Pierce, Florida  and will join the national network of 12 centers and a Central Coordinating Office funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences. 
                For more information, call IRSC at (772) 462-7503.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Indian River Lagoon Day 2010

Indian River Lagoon Day 2010 is this Saturday, Nov 6th, from 11am-4pm at Riverfront Park, 104 Riveredge Blvd., Cocoa Village. This will be the place to have fun while learning about the most biologically diverse estuary in North America. Florida Tech's SEAS (Science Exploration at Sea) mobile laboratory will be at the event and offering a unique view of life in the lagoon. Anglers for Conservation will host its "Hook Kids on Fishing" program, where professional guides provide kids ages 6 to 16 with advice on casting, conservation, fishing safety, knot tying, and catch-and-release techniques. A limited number of rods , reels and tackle boxes will be given to early participants. Dozens of organizations will be on hand to share information and answer questions about local wildlife, recreation and volunteer opportunities throughout the lagoon region.

Also on Nov 6th there will be a Indian River Lagoon 20th Anniversary Conference from 9am-5pm at the Cocoa Civic Center, 434 Delannoy Ave., Cocoa Village. There will be presentations on the lagoon’s health, protection efforts, threats to the lagoon, wildlife, research and things you can do to protect the lagoon. To see the schedule of speakers and events visit All day in the kids’ area in Conference room #2, visitors will have a chance to participate in and see demonstrations of the EnviroScape watershed model, play Indian River Lagoon ‘Jeopardy’ and the seagrass bag toss. 

For more information about the event visit