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Friday, July 20, 2012

Wildlife to Watch Out for This Summer

Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent    
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern  

For many people the scorching hot days of late July in Florida means beach getaways, barbequing, and watching baseball. Along with these fun summer activities, it is also a fantastic time for observing exciting wildlife activity.

If you do find yourself heading for the beach, watch your step as you may come across sea turtle nests and baby turtles as they begin to hatch in August!

July also marks the beginning of baby animal season. Young raccoons, foxes, armadillos, possums, and bobcats will begin to leave their dens for the first time and may be spotted following their parents. Keep your eye out for young alligators too! They are just beginning to hatch or already have.

If you are heading to a local park or preserve to observe these wildlife happenings, remember to bring insect repellent. Mosquitoes and chiggers are abundant this time of year. 

Florida is truly an amazing place rich in biodiversity and nature to explore. The summer months are filled with a lot exciting wildlife activity, so it’s a perfect opportunity to go out and experience some of the natural beauty that Florida has to offer.

July’s fun fact: On July 22, 1982 the first Florida bog frog was discovered in a panhandle wetland.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sustainable Floridians Master Volunteer Program

What is sustainability and why is it important? The University of Florida has a new training program to help citizens and local government staff learn about sustainability and connect with others who are already interested in local, sustainable community projects. Sustainable Floridians is a 7-week course that provides a forum for education and action to address Florida concerns about water, transportation, energy, and land use. The program uses instructor led sessions and participant discussion to create a lively classroom learning experience. Participants receive valuable sustainable living items like rain barrels and energy saving devices to promote behavior change. There are also opportunities for ongoing learning through the UF Extension network and monthly meetings and field trips for Sustainable Floridian graduates. This program is offered to residents of Pasco and Hillsborough counties also.

In order to be considered for the program, participants must submit an application to the program coordinator ( Applications are due September 7, 2012.

The next training program will be offered at Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center in Tarpon Springs. Orientation (open to anyone interested) is September 6, 2012 from 10 am to 12 noon at Brooker Creek Preserve.

Dates for Program: September 13 – October 25, 2012. Classes meet every Thursday during the 7 weeks from 9 am to 1 pm. Participants must complete the training and required volunteer hours to be considered a certified Sustainable Floridian graduate. Participants meet the 30 hour volunteer requirement and 15 hour ongoing training requirement by completing Extension approved projects. These may include working at community outreach events, writing articles, and working with schools to educate youth about sustainability. Since the launch of the program in 2011, Pinellas County has trained 47 volunteers who contributed more than 700 hours to extend the mission of Extension. Join us for this exciting program and become a part of the Sustainable Floridian network of graduates!

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Summer Internship at Pinellas County Extension

Rebecca Herrin 
2012 UF/IFAS Intern 

An internship is a great way to get a hands-on taste of what a certain company or agency has to offer. While some internships provide a spectators view with busy work, there are others that immerse you in the field. My internship at Pinellas County Extension was the latter.

I am currently a senior at the University of Florida, studying Sustainability and the Built Environment and Political Science. This summer I was the Sustainable Living Intern for Pinellas County Extension and I spent a majority of my time working with Libby Carnahan, the Sea Grant Extension Agent, at Weedon Island Preserve. Working with the Sea Grant Extension Agent has been a rewarding experience, as I have been able to develop an understanding of coastal resilience. Although I am a native of Pinellas County (born and raised in Largo), I never really appreciated (or understood) the concept of coastal sustainability!

I spent roughly eight weeks with Extension and I experienced a little of everything from sitting at the Lawn and Garden desk conversing with the Master Gardener Volunteers to canoeing the mangrove tunnels of Weedon Island. I dug up sweet potatoes at the 4H garden, helped host a hurricane preparedness workshop, and attended a nutrition class geared towards a group of adults getting their lives on the right track. The public certainly appreciated the classes, events, information and resources provided by Extension. At a rain barrel workshop, the ecstatic attitudes were demonstrated in more people showing up than we had barrels. Other participants were excited to meet like-minded people. One attendee said she was so happy to see so many people excited about water conservation. 

The University of Florida is a land-grant university that has been in existence since Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act 150 years ago! Land grant universities educate the public and provide research on agricultural and mechanical processes and improvements. Although very little agriculture remains in Pinellas County, the extension services thrive by adapting to the varying needs of its constituents and its purpose has expanded to involve solutions for every aspect of urban life. 

My internship allowed me to experience all aspects of extension and allowed me to see the value of every department. Every day was a different day at Extension, but the variety only drew me closer to the idea of Extension after graduation. Each agent I worked with had a passion for his or her field and a plethora of knowledge. Extension fosters that creativity and enthusiasm, making this internship a rewarding experience and possible career choice after college.