Tag Archives: Florida Master Naturalist Program

Treasure, Trash and Tracks

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As previously mentioned, I’ve been attending classes for the Florida Master Naturalist program. The first module is Coastal Systems, for which I need to make a 3 minute presentation. I became inspired by way of indignation while reading about sea turtles and the conditions that can ensure their success in creating a nest – or else pretty much guarantee their failure.

Since my turn to present won’t happen until about 6:30 PM tonight, you guys are getting a “preview” – shhhh! 😉

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Treasure, Trash and Tracks – this presentation aims to deliver key messages about how YOU can Help Coastal Wildlife To Survive and Thrive

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Everyone loves the beach for different reasons. In addition to the relaxing and beautiful environment, I love the beach for the TREASURES that can be found there. I’m always on the hunt for the perfect gastropod, but I see beauty in imperfection as well – decomposition and decay, as seen in worn driftwood and crumbly sand dollars, can indicate that naturally-occurring, healthy cycles are in place and chugging along.

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I’m not just interested in dead things! Wildlife is a kind of treasure, too, offering much beauty to be enjoyed. Plants and animals are bountiful when the environment is healthy and available.

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Rules have been put in place to help wildlife to survive and thrive. These rule were meant to govern the behavior of those who visit the beach, so the wildlife and their habitat are not harmed.

Do people always follow the rules? The sand in the sink is the least of it….

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People who love to the beach come here to play, to create, to celebrate, to build or just to relax. They leave behind evidence that they’ve been here doing all those things. Much of it is beautiful or interesting to look at (ahem – The Man From Nantucket), even thought-provoking like the left-behind shoes and the messages in the sand. But there are other things that people leave behind on the beach that are not beautiful or interesting, and can impact wildlife and the environment in distressing ways…

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Trash is defined as something that’s unwanted, discarded. Sometimes it’s done with flagrant disrespect for the environment and the rules, but sometimes it’s just that things get forgotten or lost, and that’s how it becomes trash. Much is plastic or other materials that won’t biodegrade. It will stick around “forever” and become a hazard to life or an obstruction to natural behaviors.

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A HAZARD is something that can cause risk or danger. Sea turtles and other coastal life have been found dead with the remnants of plastic bottles, toys and other debris in their digestive systems. Wildlife can be injured and even killed from becoming tangled in discarded fishing line. Some of this stuff is not only non-biodegradable, it’s also disgusting. Dirty diaper in the dunes – really? REALLY?

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The trappings of fun and recreation can make a turtle turn right around and head back into the sea without ever having completed her mission – digging a nest and laying eggs.

Baby turtles emerge from the nest exhausted and still need to keep going to reach the water – but they cannot do that with so many obstacles. If a hatchling encounters one of these holes, he may fall in and die there. The smallest things left on the beach can prove insurmountable for the babies.

These holes are also a hazard for humans – people can fall in and become injured. I’ve turned an ankle on smaller holes than these.

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A “false crawl” is when a turtle visits the beach but doesn’t make a nest. There are a variety of naturally-occurring reasons that a turtle will leave – maybe the sand conditions aren’t right, or there are predators present. These are compounded by people-caused conditions such as HAZARDS and OBSTRUCTIONS, noise, light and activity.

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Wildlife and the environment are TREASURES worth preserving.

TRASH and other people-caused impacts can lead to hazards and obstruction of natural behaviors.

If hazards and/or obstructions persist, then turtles will make TRACKS back into the sea without laying eggs

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If you want to help wildlife to survive and thrive, then let this be your pledge – LEAVE NOTHING ON THE BEACH BUT FOOTPRINTS. Thanks very much for your attention!

CREDITS: My friend Tootie provided all of the “trash” pictures, as well as the photo of the false crawl, which she documented on her blog last week. The rest of the photos were taken by yours truly.

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Snook Bight Marina on Fort Myers Beach

My Florida Master Naturalist class is going on a field trip today through Estero Bay in Southwest Florida. Heading out soon aboard Good Time Charters; we are SO lucky that the owners are in our class! Hoping to have some quality critter encounters!

Florida Master Naturalist program starts tonight!

I’m excited to be starting the Florida Master Naturalist program tonight! This is the Coastal Systems Module. There will be multiple field trips during June. If there’s opportunity to take photos during this adventure (I *am* supposed to be learning something) you can be sure I will share!