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09.26.13mailchimp

As South Florida residents happily fling open windows to cool sunny days, swirling snowflakes will remind our family and friends it’s time to visit us lucky folks. Today’s post will help you guide your guests on a budget-friendly but memorable excursion. Miami deserves its reputation as a world-class destination, but it’s not always easy to show it off to its best advantage. The photo montage is to give you a taste of a Canoe View of the Magic City.

These photos were taken during excursions skirting the mangrove preserve on the west side, near the north end, of the barrier island called Key Biscayne. You access this paddling destination at Crandon Marina. You will have to supply your own canoes or kayaks; there is no rental facility at the marina. The boat ramp is open 24 hours a day, so you can paddle out whenever the mood strikes!

This location was the first saltwater canoeing Dr. Tom Kazo introduced me to, at the beginning of Wildlife Research Team in 1993. In those days, sad reminders of Hurricane Andrew’s force were everywhere, with many broken boats rudely shoved into the mangroves. We would often launch in the very early morning, but sometimes we would wait until the late afternoon and enjoy a beautiful sunset. On occasion, we could then turn the bow of our canoe to the east and watch the full moon rise over Key Biscayne. Sometimes, Tom and I would stay out until the wee hours of the morning, marveling at the bioluminescent creatures lighting up the waves, chilled by the mist rising from the water.

The old, gnarled red mangrove trees have withstood the brunt of many hurricanes. These stalwart protectors of the shoreline also fringe a championship golf course for part of the way. The peninsula jutting out into Biscayne Bay, known as West Point, is all dense mangrove habitat. As this is part of the treasure designated as the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, you and your guests may be delighted by sharks, sea turtles, dolphins both fish and mammal, manatee, rays, barracuda, tarpon, snook, glass minnow, pufferfish, needlefish, crabs, jellyfish, brown pelican, cormorant, anhinga, herons, egrets, magnificent frigatebird, and osprey, among many others.

I seriously recommend you check the weather and tides before venturing forth. When the tide is high, you will be able to paddle into cozy coves hidden behind and beneath the mature mangroves, which we made use of just the other day to escape the sun. If there is a strong wind from the east, northeast, or southeast, you can then be fairly sheltered in the lee of the island. I speak from white-knuckled experience: the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay can kick up big time! A strong west or southwest wind, combined with low tide? Pick another day, especially if you are leading a tour of guests unfamiliar with South Florida’s dramatically ephemeral weather.

To get there, take the Rickenbacker Causeway across to Key Biscayne; there’s a $1.75 toll for cars, and if you are towing a trailer, that will jump significantly,  to over $10. My advice is to strap your canoe or kayak to the roof of your vehicle if possible! Your guests will certainly enjoy the view from the causeway; and as you pass through Virginia Key, don’t let them stop at the Miami Seaquarium! Point out University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science just before you drive over Bear Cut; and then you are on Key Biscayne’s Crandon Boulevard. (NOTE: Bear Cut overpass is under construction, so traffic might be heavier.)

Keep a sharp eye to your right for Crandon Marina, as it’s close to the bridge and easy to shoot by. Make that right turn into the marina, and work your way past the parking lots and boats being launched or landed to the very end of the docks, on the left, or south end. The safest place to launch canoes and kayaks is as far away from the big stinky powered vessels and their often erratically driven tow vehicles as possible! Fee to launch a boat is $15, but canoes or kayaks are just $4.00. There are 24-hour automatic pay stations that accept exact change, or a credit or debit card; their public restrooms are about what you’d expect. “Nuff said.

Once you launch, keep to the left, where the water is shallow, so you can get away from powerboats. By following the fringing mangroves, you are most likely to see wildlife, which cannot be guaranteed; but the fabulous view of Miami’s ever-growing skyline is always ready and waiting for a photo! Just make sure everyone has stowed their camera equipment while entering or exiting their vessel, as that’s when you are most likely to drop it overboard! The sailboats moored between the marina and the small  island/rookery make first-rate photo compositions. It’s a nice relaxing paddle along the curving shoreline of mangroves, exploring the nooks beneath the old mangroves and the tiny islands. You are likely to see stacks of glass minnows flashing beneath the surface, occasionally “skipping school” as they leap into the air. Eventually you will reach West Point, inhabited not by future officers of the US Army, but by seabirds, raccoons, and crabs. Straight out from there are sandbars and tidal flats where it’s possible to get out and slosh around with the wading birds, or even picnic, if conditions permit. It’s a stunning view, always. Look for the ivory gleam of Viscaya across the bay.

West Point can be a good turnaround, or you can follow the mangrove preserve until houses appear. At one time, President Richard Nixon’s waterfront home could have been seen further south, but it was razed years ago  Although it would be quite a workout, it’s possible to paddle all the way down to the south end of Key Biscayne and the well-known Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Key Biscayne offers many other great destinations: Cape Florida’s historic lighthouse, Crandon Park’s beach, Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, Crandon Golf Key Biscayne, Crandon Park Tennis Center; and in the developed central area are hotels, resorts, shops and restaurants. Those may be for another day, though, unless the paddlers in your party are in great shape. Don’t forget the sunblock and a personal flotation device for every person in your group.

And remember, there are no two days alike on the water. Every trip will produce its own unique set of wonders, challenges and irreplaceable memories.

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!

Hope to see you in a black canoe,
Donna

Giving Thanks

Mailchimp11.22.2013
Hard to believe 2013 is drawing to a close, when to many it seems as if it never got going! Yet here we are, preparing for the holidays, whether we like it or not!

People are basically creatures of habit— we follow certain rituals that help us define who we are. Some may be subtle, some automatic, some are large, loud and imposed upon us by society. Many of these we’d like to ignore because we may not always be up to their demands and expectations, which is why many people suffer the blues during this time of year. Memories of good times and loved ones no longer here to celebrate with us at a festive table, or economic hardship when it should be a time of plenty, stab us in the heart.

No matter your mood or circumstances, remember to give thanks. Of course we hear this a LOT around this time of year, so much so that we’d prefer to tune it out. But there’s a reason! With a collective mind, all of us, as one, are dealing with the losses and successes as this unique and irreplaceable year winds down. Our moods drop very easily now when we look back and wonder where the year went. Again.

So: you have the choice to lift your spirits by remembering, and being grateful for the good people who were in your life in 2013. There’s a very good reason why “count your blessings” is a cliché: like most clichés, it’s true whether we like it or not!

Indulge me a moment as I thank, and bless, some of the wonderful, caring people who have made a difference in my life, and in WRT’s future, in a myriad of ways in 2013: Christianna Cannon, Tom Brown, Vinnie Tozzo, Jason Neer, Bob Cannon, Balu Vandor, Steve Weinsier, Craig Clark, Michelle Albus-Clark, Woody Weatherford, Audra Vaz, Nancy Lamson, Leona McAndrews, Elise Crohn, Olivia Lineberger, Frank Parker, Johnathan Johnston, Sharon Glass, Cathey Wallbank…and a few who I have inadvertently overlooked (forgive me!) or who wish to remain anonymous.

I give thanks for all of you who read this newsletter: for your advice, encouragement, and for continuing on without unsubscribing!

Earlier this year, Christianna and I totally revamped the WRT website. I supplied content but she did the heavy lifting, writing her own code from scratch, using HTML 5 and CSS3 (hope I got that right, as that’s not my personal area of expertise!). One of the things she made me do was gather together photographs of our past volunteer-members so as to honor them on our Members’ Pages. Well, she didn’t really make me do it, as I have always loved to share photos of our Team in action, but a comprehensive Members’ Page was a long-cherished goal of hers. I confess to shedding tears as I sorted through WRT’s copious photo archives. So, I must again give thanks for ALL of the people on that page, and invite you to visit our Members’ Banners, which are a work in progress. Some of them are combined into the above montage.

Even though he’s been gone from this earth since May 8, 2006, I give thanks for my soulmate, husband and canoeing partner, Tom Kazo, for many reasons, some of which are private, of course! Now, I must thank him for dreaming up the idea of Wildlife Research Team, while he was on what had been predicted was his deathbed, and then vigorously acting upon his dream. He changed my life for the better, and the lives of countless others who will never forget him or the positive impact he made upon their lives. He taught me how to handle a canoe, and that taught me strength, courage, and problem solving like no other course of study ever could. If I could possibly pass this teaching along to a few others, I will die a happy woman.

When Tom and I founded WRT with that single canoe, Do-er, in 1993, there was just no way we could not begin to pick up the trash left by others in South Florida’s waterways! We also felt as if we were the only ones who were doing it. Happy we were to be wrong! But it’s only this past year, mostly thanks to Facebook, and as a result of research for this newsletter, that I’ve learned of others who are happy to get wet and dirty, picking up garbage from canoes and other small vessels, all across the country, even the world.

This year I discovered kindred spirits in Georgia’s Jason DuPont and his Off Grid Expeditions and River Guardians; Florida’s Sea Angels Robyn and Mike Halasz; Balloons Blow, in Jensen Beach, started by 20-something sisters Chelsea and Danielle when they were just little girls who loved their neighborhood beach; California’s 5 Gyres, directed by Stiv Wilson; Captain Charles Moore, who first brought to public attention the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; Illinois’ Chad Pregracke and his Living Lands and Waters (just voted CNN Hero of the Year!); Watertrail Keeper Pride, a Facebook group with 132 members who live up to their name; and a man named Harry (who seems to prefer only his first name to be known) whose Flotsam Diaries tell about the debris he recovers from a small public beach in Maine.

Okay, the problem with lists is that someone important always gets left out. The main thing is to give thanks for the people who care about the environment and get off their rear ends and do what they can to make things better. I am grateful beyond words for them, wherever they are.

So, dear reader, if for some reason you think you have nothing for which to be grateful, I am happy to share my list with you. Wildlife Research Team has done a lot of good, exponential for such a small group, but there’s more to be done, much more.

Last but not least: I give thanks for the amazing people I have yet to meet!

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!
Hope to see you in a black canoe,

Donna

 

10.10.13.mailchimp

With the first wisps of cooler, drier air finally beginning to replace our muggy, buggy summertime, some of us in South Florida look forward to more canoeing excursions. Day trips are fun, but have you ever considered canoe-camping? Canoe camping is not for everyone but can be addictive! Do you want to feel a little like Lewis and Clark? Canoes were a big part of the exploration of North America.

You can visit areas not accessible by any other means. Night skies will be dark, starry, free of light pollution. Canoes provide excellent opportunities to photograph wildlife. A canoe-camping adventure is a very good reason to get into shape. But, this should not be your first time canoeing! You will NOT be a happy camper!In my experience, there are two types of people: campers who use canoes on occasion, and canoeists who camp on occasion. The former group usually overpacks. Not as bad as “glamping”  (Google it!) but they are still determined to bring all of life’s comforts and luxuries with them. If they’ve brought too much, just let them paddle their own gear!

With wilderness areas disappearing quickly, you will most likely have to make an overnight reservation at a government-owned preserve, purchase a permit, and stay for only a specific length of time. Even the million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota requires camping permits for overnight stays. My favorite place to canoe-camp in the fall and winter is Georgia’s 700-square-mile Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. I also recommend Florida’s Canaveral National Seashore, where Orange Island was a lovely place to camp after a vigorous paddle as strong ocean winds kicked up Mosquito Lagoon. In 1997, along with his son Ryan Kazo, and friend Frank Parker, my husband Tom paddled the treacherous 100-mile Everglades Wilderness Waterway.

Like most things in life, when canoe-camping, prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

Know the area well before you make your reservations; especially the hydrology, as in, where does the water come from that you will be paddling on? Is it snow melt, salt or brackish, spring or tidal controlled? Will you have to slog through mud? Are there rapids? A heavily loaded canoe made for tripping is not as maneuverable on whitewater. Portages are to be avoided if possible!If you go far enough north, as to the Okefenokee, you will have to brace yourself for brisk cold fronts sweeping down, especially in January. Have you paddled in strong winds and choppy waves? Always prepare for bugs, no matter what time of the year, and in the SE USA, alligators and rattlesnakes.

Even if you love kayaks with all of your heart, for overnight camping, here canoes win out over kayaks. A typical human cannot possibly carry enough gear to be comfortable in a kayak. Gear includes water. A gallon of water weighs eight pounds. Only if you have someone provisioning your paddling route (which sort of seems like cheating to me) could a kayak be feasible.

What kind of canoe do you have? Not all are suitable for overnight trips. WRT has both tandem and solo canoes made by Mohawk, proven perfect for these adventures. You may need to rent a canoe from a local outfitter. Paddles are also essential, so don’t wait until the last minute to get familiar with yours. Even if you rent a canoe, buy your own paddles and paddling gloves. You will be a happier camper. We in WRT use both double and single paddles. If, like me, you paddle solo, a double paddle is essential; but I also keep my single handy.

Your canoe should have ropes (also called lines or painters) attached to the bow and stern, about 15’ each. NEVER get out of the canoe without taking hold of the painter. If your canoe dumps, always stay with your canoe; never try to swim to shore. The canoe will stay afloat, even full of water. In our canoes, we have attached eyelets along the inside edge of the gunwales, so that we can stretch bungee cords to hold our cargo, even if the canoe tips.

Practice getting into and out of your canoe from different heights, from docks, from beaches, from the water. Notice in the photo montage that we are camping on platforms built at least a couple of feet above the water. Paddling with a partner? Practice everything together: switch from bow to stern and vice versa.

Essential: first aid kits for humans and for canoes. We learned the hard way that antibiotic eye ointment is indispensable. As is duct tape! Everyone in your group needs to know basic first aid; the Boy Scout Handbook has good info. Visit your doctor and your dentist before the trip. Tetanus shots up to date? If you take prescription meds, keep them in waterproof containers. Pack a spare pair of eyeglasses.

If it’s cold, or you feel uneasy, wear your personal flotation device, which you’ve purchased well ahead of time, so you know it fits. Keep it handy, if you feel confident. Keep your rain gear handy, too.

Take great care to load your canoe; make sure it is perfectly trimmed (balanced), because you may otherwise have to compensate in your paddling to make up for an uneven load. That gets old FAST, and could cause you to hurt yourself. In the Okefenokee, there were no places to get out and repack for several hours. Make very sure you have a decent amount of freeboard (distance between the gunwale, or top edge of the canoe, and the waterline). If the water will be choppy, will you have sufficient freeboard? In Mosquito Lagoon, Tom had to rescue friends who had overpacked their canoe! It was not really made for camping, with much less freeboard than our Mohawks. Our friends were in great danger of drowning, once their overloaded canoe swamped in the chop and bluster of a spring cold front.

Do not assume that anything electronic will work out there. Do not rely on a GPS or cell phone. Learn how to use an old fashioned compass, and how to read a (waterproof) map. Have spare flashlights and batteries. Headlamps let you work hands-free. Add a pad and pencil to your personal gear.

Invest in a waterproof digital camera, but even then, stow your camera when boarding or disembarking from your canoe. I’ve seen some very expensive equipment ruined because of carelessness.

Water! Pack even more than for drinking; you may need to wash dishes or yourself. At least you won’t have to paddle it back! I always made sure to load the firewood, most of the water supply, and beer in my solo canoe. Then everyone looked out for me! Wildlife such as raccoons may rob your water or food supplies, and they may be more clever than you could anticipate.

Buy or borrow the best quality sleeping bags and tents. Zippers can make your life a living hell. Good quality zippers are essential! There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting stuck inside! Down filling will stay wet longer than man-made fibers, which can also pack tighter into your canoe.

Although camping without a campfire and S’Mores wouldn’t seem right, where you will obtain fuel? Don’t assume the area where you will be setting up will have dry wood to burn. There is also risk of introducing insects into an area if you bring firewood with you. Duraflame has introduced Campfire Logs, safe for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows. Check to see that open fires are even permitted. Don’t make Smokey the Bear mad at you!

When paddling, always keep the canoe in front of you and the one behind in sight, but don’t follow too closely. Keep at least one canoe’s length from each other. What if you get hung up on a root?

Last but not certainly not least, leave no trace. What you pack in, pack out. Do not leave litter behind. Don’t cut down or chop at trees. Respect the wildlife; you are visiting their home. If there are outhouses, please use them. Further reading: How to S**t in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer.

Consider this to be a very brief introduction to the wonderful world of canoe-camping. Now grab a paddle and get out there!

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!

Hope to see you in a black canoe,

Donna

09.17.13mailchimp

“We win!” exclaimed the young volunteer, raising his fists in the air in triumph. He had just heaved a nasty, mud-covered truck tire into our canoe as he stood knee-deep in the Miami River. His genuine enthusiasm was infectious, even though I am not a competitive or sports-following person. Yes, if we remove noxious debris from the habitat, I guess Mother Nature’s Team does win!

I’ve never forgotten this episode over the years, because I’ve witnessed the same fervor among our volunteers whenever we extract a tire from the coastline during our cleanups. Heck, I have felt that way myself when I loaded a real stinker into my solo canoe after pulling it out of the mangroves! It’s the challenge, I guess: large, bulky, slippery, full of water and muddy filth, hard to load into a canoe; a tire is the definitive example of civilization’s intrusion into the fragile habitat. You can see from the montage above we’ve removed quite a few of these bad boys from South Florida’s waterways.

This got me thinking, and then researching, about the ubiquitous tire.

The good news is that 90% of tires in the US are now recycled. But don’t get too excited; since there’s a tire scrapped each year for every person in the US, that’s still 10% of 311,000,000 tires that may end up where they are not wanted: like in our local waterways.

But people are finding ingenious ways to make use of an item once considered to be out-of-mind once it was out-of-sight. Back in “the good old days” people simply piled old tires out in the country, or in empty lots. Now there is less open space for such eyesores and ignorance, but even worse, tires collect rainwater and become breeding heaven for mosquitoes, while burning tire-piles are hell on earth.

In order of preference, the Environmental Protection Agency upholds this sequence: reduce, reuse, recycle, waste-to-energy, with appropriate disposal at the end of the list. Estimates vary, from one to three billion scrap tires currently stockpiled just in the U.S., so everyone needs to become part of the solution.

Reduce
How? Help your tires last longer. Simply keep them properly inflated, rotate and balance them every 4,000 miles, keep your vehicle in alignment. Choose to use your car as little as possible. You will save money while helping the environment.

Reuse
It’s heartening that people seem determined to reuse scrap tires, whole or in pieces, in a myriad of products. Tires rammed full of dirt are used to build houses, called “Earthships” for living off the grid. Roofing shingles are made from large pieces of tires, with the steel belts adding strength. As an artist myself, I was thrilled to find sculptures by Korean artist Yong Ho Ji: large and dynamic fantasy animals built from strips of tires that make especially fine use of tread patterns. Other artisans have crafted the tough rubber of tires into utilitarian items such as shoe soles, furniture, baskets, flowerpots, woven and crocheted floor mats, belts, gaskets, dock bumpers, planters, bike racks, playground equipment, toys, purses, wallets, even jewelry…and let’s not forget that much loved tire swing over the creek! One of my best childhood memories is when my dad gave me a huge inner tube from one of his airplane tires.

If there were an award for “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time But Instead Was an Ecological Disaster” my vote would go to the well-meaning coalition of folks who in 1974 dumped about two million tires into the ocean 7,000 feet off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. They were sure that this giant rubber jumble, dropped upon an artificial reef of concrete jacks known as Osborne Reef, would become a thriving habitat for fish, coral, and other undersea life. Some tires were tied together with steel or nylon bands, some just freely dumped by boaters. In hindsight, it seems incredible that nobody (on record) predicted that the bands would fail, and the tires would move, damaging natural reefs and organisms that had attached to the tires. Tropical storms and hurricanes shifted the tires for long distances. Despite the drastic failure of Osborne Reef, other countries attempted to install tire-reefs in the 1980s. In 2002, Ocean Conservancy’s director of strategic conservation, Jack Sobel, said, “I don’t know of any cases where there’s been a success with tire reefs.” Heroic attempts have been made to remove them but that’s too much for this brief article! Google “Osborne Reef” to learn more.

Recycle
After processing, the rubber from scrap tires becomes a component in at least 100 products. The metal from the steel belts must be removed and reclaimed. Then the tires are processed into shreds, crumbs, or powder on their way to becoming Tire Derived Product (TDP). Ground-up rubber is called crumb. The rubber not only meets the road, but becomes the road, as yearly, twelve million scrap tires go into rubberized asphalt to resurface highways. That’s the largest single use of recycled rubber. There’s a new recipe for railroad ties: grind up 80 pounds of scrap tires, add plastic from recycled bottles, wrap around a steel beam, and wait ninety years for it to wear out. That’s three times longer than a wooden tie and twice as strong. TDP makes rubber composite decks last 25 years with less maintenance than wood. Hyperseal Inc., a California company founded by chemical engineer and USAF Colonel (Ret.) Ronald Savin, uses TDP in their durable and waterproof coating products and caulks (I have to admit I am really excited to discover this company, as it sounds like their paint would be perfect for the deck of WRT’s eight-canoe trailer!). Apokalyps Labotek is a Swedish company that uses TDP for beautiful and tough parquet flooring. Chopped into larger, one-eighth-inch pieces, scrap tires become mulch that lasts far longer than wood mulch, won’t float away, or attract bugs or mold. It’s also used in playgrounds as a kinder, cushier surface than dirt.

Fun Fact: Next time you are in the market to rent a car, consider that Hertz has vowed to recycle every tire from its rental fleet, which in 2012 amounted to 170,000 tires.

Waste-to-Energy
The EPA or any other governmental agency (or anyone with common sense!) does not condone the disposal of tires by burning in the open. Tires burn fiercely, as each produces the same amount of energy as seven gallons of oil, and yield 25% more BTUs than coal, releasing thick black smoke and poisonous gasses into the air. Millions of tires are legally combusted as waste-to-energy in several industries. When shredded, they become tire derived fuel (TDF). However, there is controversy about the emissions that is beyond the scope of this article.

Disposal
Certainly, YOU, Dear Reader, are not the type of loathsome cad who would dispose of old tires by chucking them into the bushes or a waterway! Your state, city or county government can advise you on their tire disposal policies. To get rid of old tires, you may have to pay a fee, which may go to fund recycling or cleanup programs. The information you need will be easy to find on the internet.

Have I tired you out with the results of my research? Hope not; I, for one, feel better knowing that so many inventive and determined people are dealing with this obnoxious, omnipresent representative of our love affair with the automobile.

Meanwhile, Wildlife Research Team will continue to remove the tiresome relics of humanity from our precious habitat, thanks to the winning enthusiasm of our wonderful volunteers.

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!
Hope to see you in a black canoe,
Donna

Garbage Patch Kid

3739mailchimp

Forgive me for getting this missive out later than usual. I’ve been absorbing thousands of words about the oceans of the world, distilling them down to a few hundred to share with you. It’s been quite a voyage.

What caused me to set sail was a news item about a 19-year-old Dutch student who has become a media darling for devising a plan to clean up the oceans in five years. Sounds great, right? Except that the scientists who have actually been working on this problem say it’s impossible. When I watched Boyan Slat present his idea at TEDxDelft I had to admit, he’s the very picture of the Boy Wonder, the young hero our culture waits for to solve all of our problems. He could easily be a rock star with his shaggy hair and poster-boy face. In a delightful accent to his English, he spoke in a confident yet breathlessly nervous voice of his plan to remove 7,250,000 kilograms of plastic from the ocean’s gyres in just five years, even making a good profit from recycling the plastic. He came up with the concept while in secondary school in his native Holland. In 2012, his Ocean Cleanup Array won Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology, where he is now an aerospace engineering student. He founded The Ocean Cleanup Foundation in January 2013. www.boyanslat.com
Using the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise $80,000 for a feasibility study, he surpassed his goal in one month: $89,518 was the final tally. At the end of his presentation, when he says, “I don’t know if it’s possible, and that’s exactly the reason I’m doing it” you want to believe him!
Except…
As Stiv Wilson, Policy Director for 5 Gyres Institute writes in his rebuttal, “The sea is cruel and it’s really, really, really big.” And unlike Slat, Wilson has traversed four of the five gyres and has seen the horror humanity has wreaked upon the ocean with his own eyes.
A gyre (think “gyroscope”) is a giant vortex in an ocean basin created by vast ocean currents. The water in a gyre’s center may pile up six feet higher than sea level outside the gyre. Even if you’ve never heard of an ocean gyre, certainly you are familiar with the Gulf Stream. It is the western current of the North Atlantic Gyre; there are three currents along the other sides.
But it was the North Pacific Gyre which was first brought to public attention in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore. He was sailing home from a long-distance race and encountered an immense area of floating debris, most of it small bits of plastic. Soon it was dubbed “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch” with varying estimates of its size; Marinedebris.info states it’s twice the size of the United States.
Not all of the plastic is on the surface where it could be more readily measured. Not only do fish, birds, and animals become entangled in marine debris, they consume these bits of plastic, thinking they are food, causing internal blockages and starvation. Even worse, bits of plastic have been found to absorb PCBs and pesticides such as DDT (banned in the US since 1972, but still used in other countries). Think about the food chain: a small fish eats what it believes to be plankton but are actually microscopic pieces of poisonous plastic; a larger fish eats that fish, and others; and up the food chain we go, with greater concentrations each link until your lovely fish dinner awaits! Yes, we humans are ingesting greater amounts of micro-plastic every year. And we have only ourselves to blame. 
Experienced marine debris researchers, on www.MarineDebris.info compiled guidelines for cleanup of debris, especially plastics, from the open sea. Slat did attempt to address these issues but I have yet to find an actual scientist who supports his plan (doesn’t mean they don’t exist, just that the community of researchers who have been battling marine debris for years do not agree with him).
Briefly, here are the basic challenges Slat’s system will face, according to MarineDebris.info and 5 Gyre’s Stiv Wilson:
1. the size and depth of the ocean gyres within which floating marine plastics tend to gather; Slat may have to moor his platforms at 4,000 meters, twice as deep as BP’s Atlantis dual oil and gas production facility, 190 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico which at 2,000 meters, is the deepest mooring in the world.
2. depth and concentration of microplastics; Slat’s system uses long, flexible surface booms, but debris can drift down the water column, to 150 meters or more.
3. capturing tiny particles of plastics while not harming microscopic marine organisms such as plankton mingled with the plastics.
4. potential for entanglement of larger marine life in the systems. Wilson: “If one endangered sea turtle was caught up? The fines that Slat would face would bankrupt his project in a second.”
5. strength and stability in extreme sea conditions; Slat’s array would not survive weeks of thirty-foot waves. It would become marine debris itself, a hazard to maritime navigation.
6. maintenance and fouling; Wilson: “Outer space is less corrosive to machines than the ocean is” and sea life grows rapidly on any surface.
7. the physical properties of ocean-weathered plastic; Slat claims that plastics retrieved from the five gyres for recycling would be financially profitable. He does admit it would not be of top quality; other sources state it would be worthless due to degradation. Recycled materials must be clean to be utilized, and this material would be fouled by sea life such as barnacles.
8. legal issues; a bewildering multitude of laws regulate the deployment of structures at sea.
Like Stiv Wilson, I hate to be thought of as a bitter “kid-hater” because I am really happy there are 19-year-olds like Boyan Slat in the world. You probably agree: “what is wrong with kids today?” is a common lament. Unlike most people, however, I have been blessed to know many great kids like him who have volunteered with Wildlife Research Team. I have to wish him well.
In closing, I quite liked this comment from “Harry,” who watches over a particular beach in Maine, and discusses his findings in his blog, on Slat’s plan: “This idea that if we’ve messed something up, there’s science/tech out there that can fix it. That keeps us from having to make the hard choices about our lifestyle. In this case, there isn’t. It is not possible to clean the oceans up of their debris. Not without breaking the bank of every nation on earth and scooping out and killing all the life in its first 100 feet of depth. That’s what we have done to our planet in just a couple generations. That’s plastic’s legacy. We cannot actively go out and clean it up in any meaningful way. What we can do is to change consumption behavior, change materials, improve waste management; do the things that stop persistent plastic from getting in the ocean in the first place.”
It starts with me, and with you. What actions can we take today to reduce our dependence on plastic?
Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!
Hope to see you in a black canoe,
Donna
P.S. Another great source you should check out is DeepSeaNews. It’s Cocktail Week!
Photo credit: Donna McVicar Kazo
A Portugese Man o’ War, 
Physalia physalis, like plastic, lets the winds and currents take it where they may.

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In the heart of urban Fort Lauderdale, Florida, lies a little-known gem of a paddling destination. It’s a river dear to the hearts of WRT members: the North Fork of the New River, a 3.5 mile tributary of the New River itself. The North Fork has all a paddler could want out of a paddling destination. First, it’s wonderfully convenient; second, it’s historic and unique; third, no powerboat traffic = safer paddling; fourth, there’s a wide variety of sights—wildlife to urban life. The trees and understory foliage along the shoreline provide precious habitat to wildlife, while the spaces beneath the bridges provide shelter to homeless humans. You might see a train or a manatee: true urban canoeing on Broward’s Blueways Trail.

Visit mynorthfork.fau.edu to learn more of this river’s fascinating history. WRT is proud to be a Keeper of the River as part of a longstanding Adopt-A-Waterway program. In 2000, our late founder,Dr. Tom Kazo, fell in love with its remnant Everglades habitat. He loved the challenge of restoring the wounded river to health after decades of abuse. Our black canoes have since led many cleanups of its troubled waters, more than I can recall! Over the years, we’ve made great friends and strong partnerships with other caring organizations and individuals. On mynorthfork.fau.edu, learn about Broward Urban River TrailsFlorida Atlantic University’s Florida Atlantic Planning Society (FAPS), Broward County’s Environmental Protection DepartmentSouth Florida Water Management DistrictKids Ecology Corps, and the historic African-American communities, among others. Now we want you to know about our river, and fall in love with it too!

There are no marinas along the stretch of the river north of Broward Boulevard, which is why the agencies mentioned above worked together to create a canoe launch at Reverend Samuel Delevoe Park. The park remains the only official launch site. The helpful staff asks that you call them in advance when you are planning to paddle, so that they can open a gate and you will be able to drive right to the launch area. They also request that you plan your trip to be back at the park by about five pm, as the park closes at six pm. Having them watch out for you adds a safety factor to your excursion, just like a pilot filing a flight plan. How many paddlers forget to tell someone where they are going?

Across from the launch site, are huge pond apple trees and cypress, with leather ferns at their base, survivors of a pond apple forest which began on the south shore of Lake Okeechobee and extended all the way to the New River. It’s now all sugar cane, farms, and suburban/urban development. The North Fork pond apples are magnificent relics. Undeveloped stretches of shoreline provide homes to wildlife such as raccoons, opossums, foxes, snakes, all sorts of herons and other birds, to include osprey. You may see manatee, mullet, tarpon, snook, and turtles. Folks from the community fish from the riverbanks, despite the health warnings of toxic metals to be found in their catch.

Heading north and west (left from the launch site), you’ll be going upriver. Sistrunk Boulevard is the first bridge. I love the pond apple and cypress bayou on the right. On the left is a busy bus repair company, revealed when exotic nuisance trees were removed. The banks are now covered by large white stones, called riprap, and only natives, such as pond apple, mangrove, and leather fern, are planted. The North Fork displays many contrasts, and this is one of note: rows of smelly buses on the left, a charming pocket of Everglades habitat on the right.

The river turns and twists enough to sustain that “what’s around the next bend?” feeling. Its winding course also means that on breezy days, you are protected in some areas and digging in on others. The New River is tidal-influenced, so check the tide charts, and think about paddling along with the tidal flow, inland or to the sea. Beginning paddlers may find a three-knot tidal current too much to handle. Full-moon high tides have forced us to sit in the bottom of our canoes as we squeeze beneath the lower bridges. At least low bridges keep the powerboats out of our hair!

The river narrows as it passes between suburban homes on high banks. At low tide, you can see natural rock formations and perhaps an old (probably stolen) rusty bicycle embedded in the muddy bank above. We’ve taken out dozens but they still keep appearing, along with car parts, shopping baskets, liquor bottles, soda cans, construction materials…and you name it, we’ve taken it out of the river.

The New River once received fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, up until the early 1960s. It also used to handle five million gallons of wastewater per day, along with elephant manure from a now-defunct circus. A flood control structure along Sunrise Boulevard now effectively terminates the North Fork, changing its pleasant meandering to a business-like, boring canal. Before we get there, we turn around at the debris-catching boom just south of Sunrise, and head back southeast. A major source of litter is the swap meet on Sunrise and the boom keeps some of it from escaping down the river into the sea. It was much worse before a fence was installed along their parking lot, after our group complained to the owner. The water is definitely cleaner these days.

Return to the Delevoe canoe launch, and you’ll have gotten a good four-mile workout, especially if you’ve been paddling against wind and tide! (I think my personal record was four times up and back to check on straggling volunteers!)

Paddle south, you’ll be slanting east. More giant pond apples and undeveloped shoreline will be providing precious habitat. Look left, above a sea wall at a tiny rock chapel (overgrown by a huge fig tree the last time I saw it); that’s the old Sweeting estate.

As you paddle beneath the railroad bridge, Tri-Rail may pass overhead. Then it’s true urban canoeing beneath I-95’s massive spans. Shafts of light pierce strong shadows cast by tons of concrete to create an eerie black-and-white abstract painting, complemented by harsh sounds of traffic reverberating all around you. All those hurrying, stressed-out people, have no idea of you beneath them, a modern-day Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer in search of adventure!

Further south, a broad, shallow section of the river bends around a small peninsula, forming what was known as The Barrel. Pastors from the many neighborhood churches could safely baptize large numbers of their congregations at once.

About a mile from Delevoe Park, the North Fork passes beneath Broward Boulevard’s fairly low bridge, but the spell is broken. From now on, large boats are tied up along banks shored up by seawalls. A paddler will feel as loved as a bicyclist on I-95. It’s kind of fun to get a canoe view of some beautiful yachts, and you could paddle downtown for lunch at a waterfront restaurant, but you must be on guard at all times for heavy boat traffic or suffer the consequences! Not only are the wakes of the 100-foot yachts a challenge for a canoe, but the seawalls will bounce them back, creating very sloppy water and tricky twisty paddling.

Scoot back under the Broward Boulevard bridge and make your escape! Get back to the Huck-and-Tom mode within the green walls of pond apple and cypress, and pray they never raise that bridge!

Look for this article on WRT’s website soon, illustrated with photos of every place mentioned. Our Galleries already feature many photos of our many dozens of cleanups and hundreds of volunteers.

Sunday, September 29, 2013, FAPS will again be hosting a cleanup of the North Fork. WRT plans to be there. Please call me, Donna Kazo, to reserve a seat in our black canoes: 954.474.8194. I will also be leading a brief Canoeing 101 class before the event. Community Service Hours available to students.
Details:
Reverend Samuel Delevoe Park
2520 NW 6th Street (also called Sistrunk Boulevard) Fort Lauderdale FL 33311
Phone: 954.791.1036

www.broward.org/Parks/ReverendSamuelDelevoePark/Pages/Default.aspx

Photo Montage: Top left, FAU volunteers at the canoe launch; top right, giant pond apple tree; center, December 2003, volunteers from all the groups mentioned gather around the new Adopt-A-Waterway sign with the day’s haul of trash; bottom: view south from the Sistrunk Boulevard bridge back to the canoe launch at the park.

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!
Hope to see you in a black canoe,Donna

 

Ghost Power

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At this very moment, an innocent creature of the sea is becoming ensnared in a fishing net. Well, you may say, isn’t that the purpose of fishing? But what if the net has been abandoned long ago, perhaps washed overboard by a storm or otherwise discarded? Even when humans are no longer manipulating them, nets, lines, ropes, traps, pots and other derelict fishing gear keep on working to capture and entangle denizens of the deep and of the coast.

The very apt term for this nightmare activity is “ghost fishing.”

As you can see from the above montage, Wildlife Research Team’s stellar volunteers have loaded up tons of this pervasive form of marine debris into our canoes over the past two decades. When discarded rope/cables/hawsers/fishing line wash into the mangroves, they weave a noxious net that may ensnare creatures as well as other types of trash, which makes an even bigger obstruction. Even the string from helium balloons can wrap around the roots, beginning the process that may develop into an unholy, unsightly, and even deadly mess; what goes up, will come down.

When WRT started doing waterway and coastal cleanups in 1994, we were dismayed by the tragic proliferation of this type of marine debris. We researched ways to recycle the many different types of line but learned that environmental degradation of the materials, which were usually petroleum-based, would not allow for much of that. At least there are now programs which place containers for discarded fishing line at many marinas. But it sadly seemed to us as if most of our haul from a typical cleanup was destined for the landfill.

Recently we learned of a nonprofit organization, founded in the Netherlands in 2012, which addresses the chronic problem of “ghost fishing” around the world. The founders of Ghostfishing.org are technical divers who have personally observed the severe consequences of ghost gear, and regularly lead dive teams to extract it from the depths. It’s truly heartening for those of us in WRT to find kindred spirits around the globe! On their website and Facebook page, they share information on other noble organizations all over the world who are also fighting the battle against marine debris. (Even though many people shun Facebook for its pettiness, it’s proven to be a great educational resource!)

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the issue of ghost fishing was first brought to the attention of the world at the 16th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries in April 1985. They recognized the danger to not just sea life and habitat, but to vessels; when propellers get caught and snarled, there could possibly be loss of the ship and even human life.

Recently, Ghostfishing.org posted news of a program that converts defunct, worn-out fishing gear into clean power. Several entities have combined to reduce the menace of ghost fishing. Some ghost fishing occurs because the owners of fishing boats do not want to pay to haul their worn-out nets and gear to the dump for disposal. As long as there have been humans, the sea has been our dump site. So, over the side for unknown tons of junk fishing equipment.

Now, thanks to a partnership called Fishing for Energy, free removal services are provided at 37 ports in nine states. Through 2012, 1.8 million pounds of fishing gear had been collected. Fishing for Energy partners are NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Covanta Energy Corporation and Schnitzer Steel Industries. Since the program began in 2008, Covanta reports that more than 2.2 million pounds of used-up fishing gear have been processed at Covanta’s east and west coast facilities. For the Covanta Waste-to-Energy plant in Haverhill, Massachusetts, which is the focus of the article on Ghostfishing.org, after the gear has been collected in bins at the docks, it’s the Schnitzer company which first sorts it to recover and recycle metal, donating the hauling and recycling services. Some fishermen, reports the Schnitzer Steel website, have even found a new source of income in retrieving abandoned gear from the ocean floor, and then selling it for the value of the metal.

What cannot be recycled, Covanta turns into clean energy. According to Covanta, as much as 95% of the material that is brought into a waste reduction facility goes through a high-tech type of combustion, with the rest turned into non-leachable ash. This combustion unit reaches temperatures of up to 1850 degrees Fahrenheit; the most important byproduct is clean electricity produced when boilers of water are heated until steam is produced, then steam turbines spin and drive power generators.

Here in South Florida, Covanta operates Miami-Dade County’s Resources Recovery facility as Covanta Dade Renewable Energy in Doral. Covanta’s website states the plant processes 3,000 tons of municipal solid waste and 1,200 tons of wood waste each day, generating 77.0 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 45,000 homes. Also recovered from the waste stream for recyling: 26,000 tons of ferrous and 2,000 tons of nonferrous metals. Fishing for Energy, according to the NFWF website, offers bins at multiple locations in Miami-Dade to dispose of cast-off fishing gear. Covanta Dade Renewable Energy is a sponsor of Baynanza, the yearly cleanup of Biscayne Bay, which WRT has participated in for many years.

It bears mention that there is another waste-to-energy plant, close to our canoe storage facility in Davie, Waste Management’s Wheelabrator facility. It was opened in 1991 to serve southern Broward County, and processes up to 2,250 tons daily of solid waste; it can generate 66,000 kilowatts, enough to supply 38,000 homes with its clean, renewable energy. Although their website gives no indication of direct participation in Fishing for Energy, they contribute to the community with a yearly environmental education symposium for middle school students.

It’s good to know that such technology has been created to deal with two monumental issues of civilization: municipal waste and clean energy. For those of us in Wildlife Research Team, it’s really good to know that underwater habitats are safer for wildlife thanks to the efforts of our many kindred spirits all over the world.

For further information, please visit these websites:

www.ghostfishing.org

www.marinedebris.noaa. gov

www.nfwf.org/Pages/fishingforenergy/home.aspx

www.fao.org/fishery.topic/14798/en

www.covantaenergy.com/what-we-do/community-engagement/fishing-for-energy.aspx

www.wheelabratortechnologies.com/plants/waste-to-energy/wheelabrator-south-broward-inc/

www.schnitzersteel.com/values_sustainability_2.aspx

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!

Hope to see you in a black canoe,

Donna