Sunday, November 30, 2008

Welcome Home, Endeavour

Bad weather prevented Endeavour from landing at Kennedy Space Center this afternoon, but she touched down safe and sound at the Edwards Air Force Base landing facility in California at 4:25 EST today. According to NASA, STS-126 was the 124th shuttle mission and the 27th shuttle flight to visit the space station. A Florida Today story notes that during the nearly 12-day visit to the space station, Endeavour's crew and three station residents unloaded more than seven tons of appliances, supplies and science experiments from the shuttle's packed cargo container. Another NASA job well done. (NASA photo)

If you watched football this weekend, you saw the rains in Georgia and Florida (go Gators!), and that rain reached us today, along with winds and tornado activity. At least it wasn't snow. I was born and raised in South Dakota, and South Dakota knows how to do snow! A friend sent photos a couple of weeks ago showing the November blizzard that delivered four feet of snow, driven by 65 mile per hour winds. This was a pretty wicked storm, even by South Dakota standards.

And to conclude this weather-related posting, today marks the official end of hurricane season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This and That

A wonderful story in our Florida Today newspaper about the Caribbean Conservation Corporation's 2009 Sea Turtle Calendar. Reporter Maria Sonnenberg had me at the first sentence: "An exquisitely rendered family album, the Caribbean Conservation Corporation’s 2009 sea turtle calendar looks at the marine reptiles with affection and pride." We, of course, are justifiably proud because friends Jim Angy and Blair Witherington have photos in the calendar. Order yours from the CCC on-line gift shop or pick it up at the Barrier Island Center. And don't forget the Barrier Island Bash December 7. While there, you can get started on your holiday shopping in their delightful gift shop or adopt a sea turtle for that special someone! This photo is one of Jim's.

A friend sent her reaction to the oyster mat posting, and I'm still laughing. In her words: "I noticed all the items for oyster mat workshops. This is a true story; I'm not making this up! When I moved here 5 years ago, I signed up for one of these workshops. I swear I thought it was an arts and crafts project. I was hoping to make at least 4 to use on the dining room table!"

I'm dining with good friends at their home tomorrow, as I have done for many years. I'll be giving thanks for family, friends, and critters, those with us now and those who have gone on to their heavenly rewards. I hope your day is filled with whatever makes you happy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aloha!

The other day, we received an e-mail from a sea turtle biologist with NOAA Fisheries at the Pacific Islands Regional Office in Honolulu, Hawaii asking if she could use Jim Angy's disoriented hatchling photos that she found in an August posting on this blog. She explained that she plans to use the photos to illustrate the extreme disorientation that occurs when hatchlings are confused by anthropogenic lights. (Anthropogenic is defined as resulting from the influence of human beings on nature.) Jim is generous in providing his photos for anything educational, so off went five photos. He is still shaking his head at the wonders of the Internet that would somehow connect a biologist in Hawaii with a photographer in Florida!
When we transmitted the photos, I asked Kim (the biologist) if she would share some of her adventures with us, and back came the photos you see here, along with this description of her work. (Serendipitously, the hatchling is a Hawksbill, which fits just perfectly with our previous posting about Sandy, the Hawksbill from St. Croix. ) Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge.
As far as our work out here, it covers a wide range of issues; I generally work on sea turtle issues within the state of Hawaii although our region and therefore our responsibility also includes the US territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. We also are involved in a number of international project with partners throughout the Pacific. We have a turtle team of three here in the Protected Resources Division in the regional office who work on the regulatory/management side of things and also our counterparts at the regional science center who perform research and run the stranding program. I work closely with many partners within the state on projects involving interactions between sea turtles and nearshore fishers and also hawksbill recovery and conservation. Hawaii's hawksbills nest exclusively within the Main Hawaiian Islands (unlike greens who nest mainly in the uninhabited Northwest Hawaiian Islands), so when it comes to addressing anthropogenic threats, hawksbills are often a high priority. While most nesting occurs on the Big Island, several turtles per year also nest on Maui, and there have been conflicts involving artificial lighting on that island in particular. Hawaii Wildlife Fund monitors the nesting activity on Maui, and the Hawaii Hawksbill Recovery Project monitors the activity on the Big Island. Attached is a photo of a Hawaii Hawksbill Recovery Project researcher holding a hawksbill hatchling that emerged in the morning before it scampered to the sea, one of the hatchling on its way to the water, and a broader look at some of the rugged, black sand nesting habitat often used by hawkbills in Hawaii. I took these on one of my site visits to the project. Enjoy!
Our thanks to Kim for sharing her photos and her experiences - such a treat!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sandy, the Hawksbill from St. Croix

This is a story with a happy ending, all things considered. A few weeks back, there was a story in the paper about an injured Hawksbill sea turtle found on a beach in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The 170-pound turtle had come up on the beach to lay her eggs and was attacked by feral dogs. She was rescued and transported to a St. Croix clinic. Her injuries were so severe that the US Fish and Wildlife folks in St. Croix contacted The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, to see if the Hospital would undertake treatment and rehab. American Airlines flew "Sandy" to Miami at no charge, and The Turtle Hospital personnel transported her to Marathon. After examination and medication, she was allowed to rest/stabilize in a salt water tank for a couple of days, and then surgery was performed to amputate her right front flipper and repair damage done to her other flippers. At last report, she was back in her tank, alert and strong, and getting fluids, antibiotics, and vitamins daily.

What I love about this story (besides Sandy's survival, of course) is the number of people (and American Airlines) that went "above and beyond" to save this creature. If you are unfamiliar with The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, take a few minutes to wander through their website. This is a great tale of a modern sea turtle hospital housed in a former motel. The goal is to rehab Sandy and eventually return her to St. Croix. I'll follow the story and let you know what happens.

We don't get many of the endangered Hawksbill sea turtles in Brevard County, so we're grateful that Blair Witherington was willing to share his lovely photos. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge - the closeup certainly shows where this turtle got its common name.

Monday, November 17, 2008

STS-126: A Thing of Beauty

Our friend Ann Zscheile has chastised us, and rightfully so, for failing to note a big Space Coast event last week - the spectacular night launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor from Launch Pad 39A at 7:55 p.m. Friday. According to NASA, the mission of STS-126 is to outfit the International Space Station for a larger crew and improve the function of a solar array rotary joint. (For all you acronym lovers out there, "STS" stands for Space Transportation System, the original name for the Space Shuttle Program.) The NASA site always has some beautiful images, and we particularly liked this one. (Image credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph-Kevin O'Connel)

If you've seen the Beautiful Beach segment of our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD, you may remember that we speak of Mother Nature, NASA, and various Government agencies working together to provide us with the interesting juxtaposition of a wildlife refuge adjacent to the technology-driven Kennedy Space Center. Ann really captured this concept in her email to me: "We stood out on the beach waiting for the launch, enjoying the beautiful moonrise, reflections of the moon on the water, and the waves gently lapping at the beach. When the shuttle fired up, it lit up the sky for a few moments, and then we watched it arch across the night sky with the moon nearby. Then, as the rockets separated, it seemed to pause for a moment. We knew the shuttle had separated and was on its way. The booster rockets stayed behind and looked like a new bright star in the sky, gently and slowly dropping down toward the ocean. You couldn't help but think of the contrast of nature and modern technology - the ocean, sky and earth as they have been throughout the ages, a background for the wonders of man and our fascination with space. We were standing near a couple from Germany and another couple from France - they were thrilled by what they saw, and it seemed to connect us all as fellow inhabitants of this earth home. We really do live in a very special place here in Brevard County. "

Thanks to Ann for sharing her perspective of this final launch of 2008. As I write this, all is going well at the Space Station, and we pray for a safe return of the seven astronauts on November 29.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oyster Reef Restoration Mats

Google Analytics reports that in the last 30 days, our blog had visits from 27 different countries. Of course, most of the visitors are from the United States, but even then, we’ve had viewers from 34 states. I think it is safe to say that not all of our visitors know about making oyster mats.

Luckily, we have The Nature Conservancy and Anne Birch, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Indian River Lagoon Program, to explain this oyster reef restoration initiative. The Indian River Lagoon stretches 156 miles along Florida’s east coast and is described as the most diverse estuary in North America. Years of development and agriculture have threatened the health and well being of the Lagoon and everything it comprises, including oysters. The Conservancy is working with Dr. Linda Walters from the University of Central Florida (UCF) to restore oyster reefs in the Mosquito Lagoon area (within the boundaries of Canaveral National Seashore) using oyster mats constructed by thousands of volunteers. The project is funded by grants through a National Partnership between NOAA's Community-Based Restoration Program, the Conservancy, and many other partners throughout the Lagoon.

Leslie from the Barrier Island Center provided us with the above photo showing an oyster restoration mat made by one of the children at a Nature Conservancy workshop held at the Center. Each individual mat is laid like a tile and anchored to another with cement sprinkler weights to form a new reef. Each new reef is made up of anywhere from a few hundred to over one thousand mats. Within 18 months of being placed on the reefs, the mats have attracted oyster larvae and are covered with live oysters, providing habitat and food for fish and crabs and filtering the water. Seagrass is even starting to recolonize next to some of the news reefs.

Those of you that live in or near Brevard or Volusia County can attend an oyster mat workshop – the Florida version of a quilting bee! Follow this link for dates and locations, as well as for more information on the project: http://www.nature.org/oysters

Our thanks to The Nature Conservancy and the volunteers for their efforts on behalf of our Lagoon. I was particularly taken with the spirit line on Anne's email - VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES FOR RESTORING THE CHARISMATIC OYSTER - VIVA LA OYSTERS!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sand

A few days ago, we spoke of beach renourishment and whether it was beneficial to sea turtles. As with most things, there are arguments both ways - Dave Hotchberg from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society noted that while it gave the turtles more beach to use, the sand was different, and the turtles knew it.

That started me to thinking about an interesting article David McRee wrote regarding sand (http://www.beachhunter.net/florida-beach-sand.htm). David notes that "Florida beaches have so many different types of sand, and they are all beautiful. All kinds of things make up the beach sand--quartz crystals, broken shell, minerals, fossils, the shells of various marine animals, organic matter, and coral fragments. " His story includes photos of some of the various types of sand found in Florida, including sand from Playalinda, Cocoa Beach, Indialantic, and Sebastian Inlet. Once you look at David's photos, it makes more sense that matching sand during restoration is probably difficult, and that indeed the turtles can very likely tell the difference.

David's story also includes a video of sand scuptures. This being a small world after all, one of the sculptors in the video is Thomas Koet, who was recently featured in the Viera Voice newspaper. Every year, Koet and his partner, Jill Smith, return to Manatee Elementary School in Viera to create a sand sculpture for the school's lobby, using 12 tons of sand they donated to the school six years ago!

The photo above is one of Jim Angy's, and I accused him of "staging" the beautiful shell background. I was, of course, wrong - the photo was taken on an Indialantic Beach, which, as David notes, is composed of beautiful crushed shell mixed with white quartz crystals. Be sure to click on the photo to enlarge it - this is a dandy photo of a loggerhead hatchling. Just look at that face!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day 2008

I don't love repetition, but I do value tradition, so I'm looking forward to hosting my Third Annual Veteran's Day lunch tomorrow. Attendees will be former co-worker veteran friends, most of whom I now see only at this luncheon, and it's always such a treat to catch up on their lives and honor their former military service. We hold this luncheon at Loreen's Cafe, which is decorated year-around with flags, red, white, and blue, and anything and everything patriotic! (Eagle photo by Jim Angy, illustration by Matt MacQueen)

In the very early days of the Iraq war, I led an effort of co-workers in supporting a Battalion stationed in Iraq that used equipment manufactured by our employer. We did "parties in a box" - a great NFL Kicks off in Iraq party, as well as Halloween and 4th of July parties. For our Christmas party, a good friend wrote a poem that was featured on the back of the card we inserted into the "goodie bags" - unfortunately, it is as applicable today as it was in 2003.

Not Just Any Soldier
We do not know your name,
It's important, just the same.
This war has a face
And it's yours.
Take care. We care.
Written with love by Judy
November 2003
To all Veterans - we thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

CCC 2009 Calendar Winners Announced

We were delighted to receive news from the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC) announcing the winners in their first Calendar Contest. According to the announcement, "Photographers from around the world submitted beautiful sea turtle images to help show their support for conservation. A panel of CCC judges selected their favorite images from almost 80 entries." The reason for our delight? April, September, and November will feature colleague Jim Angy's photos, and friend Blair Witherington's photo is the July image. We're not sure which of Jim's images were selected, but this photo of a loggerhead is an example of his sea turtle portraiture.

You can purchase your 2009 Sea Turtle Scenes Calendar at the nifty Barrier Island Center gift shop or via CCC's online gift shop. Leslie tells me the Barrier Island Center also has the CCC 2008 holiday ornament.

Congratulations, Jim and Blair!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beach erosion and sand renourishment

Over the past couple of months, we've talked about beach erosion and included some excellent photographs sent to us by beach-walking friends. I took this picture last month while Matt was videotaping Ed and Curt on a stroll along Canova Beach, and it gives a decent perspective of the erosion (and how the sea oats are valiently trying to keep everything together).

This morning's Florida Today headlines announced a $7M federal grant that would be used for sand renourishment along the south beaches - Indialantic and Melbourne Beach. Most of the folks I know have mixed emotions about sand renourishment. From a practical point of view, the next Tropical Storm Fay could wash that $7M worth of sand right back out. From an environmental standpoint, Sea Turtle Preservation Society board member Dave Hotchburg stated it thusly: "It's like a two-edged sword. Without the renourishment, there's not as much beach for the turtles to use. But it always changes the beach," he said. "No matter how closely they match the sand to the rest of the beach, it's going to be different. And the turtles react to it." Hochberg said records indicate that "false crawls," or aborted egg-laying expeditions, increased on some beaches and decreased on others after crews added new sand.

Our Beach Hunter friend, David McRee, has some interesting photos on his website showing beach renourishment projects on Florida's west coast. http://www.beachhunter.net/renourishment.htm

A reminder that the Sea Turtle Preservation Society has an excellent program scheduled for its meeting on Thursday, November 6, 7:30 P.M., Melbourne Beach Community Center. Karen Holloway-Adkins, a Wildlife Biologist, will speak on Coastal Waters and Reefs: Sea Turtle Foraging Habitat. These meetings are open to the public, and you'll be cordially welcomed by this dynamic group of folks. Doors open at 7:00, so come a little early and meet some interesting new friends.