Friday, October 31, 2008

Malacology and Conchology

One of the segments in our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast describes the seashells one is most likely to find on our Brevard County beaches. Seashell is the common name for the hard, protective outer layer created by a sea creature. Most shells that you find on the beach are the exterior shell of marine mollusks. The scientific study of mollusks while they are alive is called malacology. The study of mollusk shells and the collection of shells is called conchology. Our friend Cecelia Abbott, shown with her wrack stick in this first photo, is our resident shell expert. Cecelia’s late husband was Dr. R. Tucker Abbott, considered the world’s greatest malacologist, and author of numerous books on seashells. Cecilia and Dr. Abbott traveled the world as part of their research and writing, and Cecelia is a well-known conchologist.

This lovely shell is a sawtooth penshell. The penshell is a thin, brown bivalve with an iridescent interior and exterior. You’ll often find these washed up on the beach after a storm. As with many of our beach finds, there is real beauty in the smallest of creatures. (Photos by Jim Angy)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach Walk

The Sunday after the Sea-Bean Symposium, a motley crew of about a dozen headed south on A1A. After a visit to the Barrier Island Center (Curt was enthralled and in a later email called it "a treasure"), we eased on down to Sebastian Inlet State Park for a beach walk. A beach walk with these inquisitive folks is an adventure - it took us 10 minutes to get out of the parking lot because there was a woodstork on a light post that provided a great photo op! However, now that I see the results in Jim Angy's photo, it was ten minutes well spent. Jim tells us these woodstorks are not actually beach birds, but like to hang out around the inlet and lagoon in hopes that fishermen will throw them a snack.

In Jim's next photo, I'm sure the lady in the beach chair is wondering who are these crazy people and why are they all looking down? They were looking for beans and/or good flotsam, of course. We didn't find too many beans, as Mike and Alan had been there before us and "vacuumed" the beach clean!
However, as you can see in the third photo, finding a spectacular piece of flotsam was pretty easy! (In our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD, we differentiate between flotsam and jetsam as follows: jetsam is something that has been thrown into the ocean on purpose – like a message in a bottle. Flotsam typically has NOT been thrown in on purpose.) This weather buoy washed up on the beach about a year ago. Curt has recorded all the serial numbers, etc. and will track down its origin and history, so we'll have a more complete posting on it later. Meanwhile, it makes a great centerpiece for a group photo.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sea-Bean Symposium, Day 2

What a glorious Saturday morning - bright, sunny, not too hot! The Symposium activites started with the annual Bean-a-Thon. In this first photo, Alan, Mike, Ed, Curt, and Matt prepare to check in beaners and their beans, sea glass, or flotsam. Winners in categories such as most beans, youngest beaner, smallest hamburger bean, rarest sea-glass, etc. were announced Saturday evening, and certificates were presented.

We've mentioned Izumi Hanno and her husband, Jim Godfrey, in earlier posts. Their Saturday afternoon presentation of Travels with Mr. Sea-Bean gave the audience an up-close and personal look at their travels (by motorcycle) in Malaysia, with movie clips of villagers and beautiful countryside. Izumi and Jim are creating a Seed Museum in Borneo - what an interesting and adventuresome life these two have fashioned! We'll keep you informed about their project as it progresses.

The keynote speaker this year was Richard LaMotte, author of Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems. Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, Richard was educational and entertaining , fitting right in with the spirit of the Symposium, even though it was his first visit with us. His presentation featured some of the many beautiful photos from his book - who knew a single shard of sea glass could be so lovely!

And with that, the official 13th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium drew to a close - but we're already planning next year's, so put that middle weekend in October on your calendar.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blogging Friends

I enjoy following a few other blogs - one of them is Cactus Jack Splash from Washington State, who sent in a comment to yesterday's posting to ask what is a sea-bean? Well, Cactus Jack, sea beans are nuts and seeds from trees and vines that grow along water that flows into the ocean. Some beans will drift for years on the ocean current before landing on a beach. I live in east central Florida, and most of the sea-beans on our beach have been carried here by the Gulf Stream and come from Central and South America and the Caribbean islands. Check out for lots more information. Meanwhile, this photo by colleague Matt MacQueen is of an unpolished seaheart - about the size of a silver dollar.

Another blog I enjoy is Amanda's Veranda. This site has some great music, so have your sound on. (How can you not love a site with an Etta James song on it?) Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom. Amanda is a talented photographer with a wicked sense of humor!

Those two sites focus on horses and ranching. The third blog I follow is by Robin Chapman. Those of you that have been around for a few years will remember Robin as an exceptionally intelligent anchorwoman for Channel 2 in Orlando. We met when she used some of colleague Jim Angy's photos in one of her books, The Absolutely Essential Guide to Winter Park. Robin talks about whatever she wants to talk about, and it's always thought-provoking and well-written.

Since this is a beach buzz blog, I don't often stray from discussing things beachy, so I'll get back to my Symposium wrapup tomorrow, but for this Sunday night, I'm going to leave Amanda's music on and contemplate life from a horse's point of view, thanks to Cactus Jack!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sea-Bean Symposium, Day 1, Part 2

Friday afternoon (October 17 - where has this week gone!) of our 13th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium featured Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer and his presentation of What's Floating in our Ocean this Year?! For those of you that aren't familiar with Curt, he's an internationally known expert on tides and flotsam. As such, he is frequently called in to offer his opinion or testimony about all things floating in the ocean. This year, Curt spoke of his work in forensic oceanography, and started his presentation discussing the bizarre case of human feet washing up in British Columbia. Doing an internet search on Curt is always fun, and my recent search resulted in several hits about this story. I missed the Larry King show where he and Larry discussed it - darn! Curt moved on to floating bowling balls and the similarity of a floating 9-pound bowling ball with a floating head. It was certainly interesting, and Curt has the scientist's abstract perspective that allowed the listener to focus more on the issue than the blood, but I still dreamed about floating heads that night. Blair Witherington provided us with this dandy photo of Curt and Ed Perry. Curt is wearing his Bean Squad hat - Sam Burnett came up with the idea of providing sea-bean experts with the hats and pins so that visitors would know who to ask for good information.

Floating heads is a hard act to follow, but somehow Bill Blazak and Alice Lowe managed to do it with their presentations on Polishing your Sea-Beans. Bill polishes by hand, and Alice uses tumblers, and both draw big crowds at their tables. They are so good at what they do, and both love to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with visitors.

This first photo shows some of Bill's beautifully polished beans, and the second shows Alice after her presentation, breathing a sigh of relief and holding a bouquet given to her in appreciation for having enough nerve to get up there and present!

Thanks to Matt and his trusty video camera, we'll have excerpts of these talks up on the website soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sea-Bean Symposium, Day 1, Part 1

The 13th Annual Sea-Bean Symposium kicked off Friday morning (October 17) at the Cocoa Beach Library with exhibitors ready to share their knowledge of all things sea-beany, speakers ready to present, and visitors ready to be amazed and amused. The weather was perfect, and given the state of the economy, having something this interesting AND free seemed to be particularly welcome to many.

In the first photo, Ed Perry, Symposium organizer, newsletter editor, and Mr. Sea-Bean, set the stage for the weekend with the first presentation. As you can see in this photo of the audience at Ed's presentation, the Symposium drew sizable, diverse crowds, with standing room only for most talks.
As you might expect, things were pretty hectic, so I have enjoyed looking through my hastily snapped photos and remembering the Symposium ambience. In this third photo, Sam Burnette is arranging the "tribute" display for Cathie Katz, along with Cathie's books. Sam and her husband, Mike, are yearly attendees from Matagorda, and we're so grateful that after Hurricane Ike, they were here safe and sound with us again this year. Next in the photo are Izumi and her husband, Jim Godfrey. We'll talk more about Izumi and Jim in another posting, but suffice it to say, her intricate sea-bean illustrations were greeted with awe and admiration. The fellow behind the end of the table is Blair Witherington. Blair and his wife Dawn are authors of several books, the most recent being Florida's Living Beaches. Blair is a sea turtle expert and research scientist with the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, and you've seen Dawn's beautiful artwork in our postings about the Barrier Island Center. There's a great collection of talent represented in this photo - and this was just a portion of what the Symposium had to offer.
We'll talk about Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer's Friday afternoon presentation in our next posting. Curt introduced us to the world of a "forensic oceanographer" and had the crowd laughing (albeit nervously) and/or groaning with his descriptions of floating heads. But we don't want to get a head of ourselves, so you'll just have to wait for the next posting.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It was a time of such splendor ...

What a wonderful sea-bean symposium - old and new friends, perfect weather, great presentations, educational displays, record attendance - it all came together. Matt got hours of good video, and Jim and I took lots of photos. It will take a while to parse through all the data and develop a good posting, but in the days to come, there will be numerous slide shows, video clips, etc etc etc. Meanwhile, I'm relying on the words of one of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, who said "It was a time of such splendor - charming people, good food, laughter, and brave ideas - enough to entertain us for years!"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Early Morning Fishermen, Tour de Turtles Results

Our thanks to Margie Mitchell for this photo of three reddish egrets fishing in the surf. Jim tells me they were probably looking for sand fleas - yummy!

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation e-newsletter reports that Maritime is the first turtle to complete the inaugural Tour de Turtles migration marathon, traveling 3197 kilometers (1987 miles)! The female leatherback was tagged after nesting in Panama, and was sponsored by Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, CT. (Check out their website for an interesting display of jack-0-lanterns.) Our Belle o' Brevard came in at second place, with 1901 meters ( 1181 miles). Way to go, Belle! (Follow the link to see her route to Delaware! In looking at the routes of Maritime and Belle, it's easy to see why Maritime won - he headed straight across the ocean, while she visited friends all the way up to Delaware.)

Little Crush won the Causes Challenge ($3048) - Belle o' Brevard is in second place, having raised $2258 (needs just $242 more to meet the goal, and there is still time to contribute). Belle's cause is awareness of coastal development.

Be sure to visit and mouse over the various turtles - nice animation!

Good job by all involved - CCC, MeGotta (website), and most of all, the turtles!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Species Extinction and the STPS

There were several disheartening stories in the news yesterday regarding species extinction. According to a report issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 1 in 4 mammals faces extinction. A Los Angeles Times story noted "The proportion of marine mammals in trouble appears to be higher, with an estimated one-third under serious threat of being wiped out. Many are killed when they are struck by ships or become entangled in fishing gear and drown."

But to help balance out this bad news, along came an email from Ann Zscheile, Sea Turtle Preservation Society volunteer extraordinaire, telling us about the Society's new Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program (STERP). Ann writes:

"As you know, STPS launched a new program this fall called the Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program. The goal of this program is to decrease loss of post-hatchling sea turtles that have washed ashore after an extreme wind or wave or other event that causes large numbers of post-hatchling sea turtles to wash onto the beach. We hope to increase the number of post-hatchling sea turtles that are rescued, rehabilitated and eventually released back into the ocean. Over 157 people were trained to search for and rescue these "washback" sea turtles in Aug. and Sept. They have received Letters of Authorization from the state of FL to rescue and transport these turtles.

On Sat. Oct. 4, the wind from the ENE picked up and caused huge mats of seaweed to wash up on the beach. The STPS office received 7 washback sea turtles. The winds, waves and seaweed increased overnight, and more turtles were found Sunday morning. Because of this, an Emergency Response event was called, and all 157 of our volunteers were contacted. If you were on the beach on Sun (10/5), you may have noticed the STERP volunteers with their yellow-lidded buckets with Keep Sea Turtles in the Dark stickers on them as they were picking through the seaweed in search of lost and trapped turtles. At the end of the day, the STPS office received 19 washback sea turtles - 17 were found by the STERP volunteers or 89% of the total. These turtles were transported that evening to the Marine Life Center in Juno Beach. On Mon. 10/6, approximately 20 turtles were rescued, 12 of which were rescued by STERP volunteers. Although the numbers were not huge, they definitely indicated to us that having our team on the beach made a big difference in the number of turtles that were rescued." (Photos courtesy of Ann Zcheile)
We can't solve all the world's problems, but these volunteers are doing their part. I'm reminded of the story of the young boy throwing a live starfish back into the ocean. A passerby noted that saving a few of them would not make much difference, to which the boy replied, "No, but it makes a big difference to this one."
Our thanks to the new STERP volunteers (like the Griffin family in the first photo) for making a difference.
Visit STERP volunteer Jay Wherley's website for more photos.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sea Turtle News

Jim Angy reports that this has been an exceptional year for taking sea turtle pictures, with more than usual daytime nestings. This is one of my favorites of his new photos - a daytime nesting loggerhead amongst the flowers. Be sure to click to enlarge the image so you can see how lovely this turtle is up close.

The other day, I received the Fall issue of the Sea Turtle Preservation Society newsletter, Turtle Talk. It was full of news and stories, including one story where our own Matt MacQueen was recognized for his narration of the new STPS program, Vanishing Ancient Mariners. STPS volunteers provide over 50 programs a year to schools and other public functions, and this new DVD presentation will really "jazz up" those events. It's a beautiful show, and we were proud to help.

According to the newsletter, "The purpose of the STPS is to educate the public about marine turtles and the environmental niche that they occupy. STPS reaches thousands of people each year through lecture presentations and exhibits at area events and through guided walks during the sea turtle nest season. Follow the link above for contact information.

Included with the STPS newsletter was The Carr Companion, the newsletter of the Friends of the Carr Refuge. It contained some interesting statistics regarding sea turtle nesting activities in the Refuge this season. Good news! Loggerhead nesting was up significantly. Green and leatherback nesting was up, considering that 2008 would normally be a low year. (For the green and leatherback turtles, a high year is followed by a low year, which is followed by a high year. 2008 was a low year, and it was higher than the last low year. That's the best way I can describe it.) Turtle nest totals for the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge as of September 2008 were: Loggerhead - 11,399 nests, Green - 2,923 nests, and Leatherback - 29 nests. No wonder the Archie Carr Refuge is described as Our Nation's Most Important Sea Turtle Refuge.

The newsletter goes on to report that Loggerheads lost the greatest percentage of nests to the late summer storms - 12 - 15%.