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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
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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

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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

 

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On a beautiful Miami morning, Dr. Tom Kazo and two students enjoy the companionship of a bottlenose dolphin on its morning commute down the coast.

If you are at all familiar with Wildlife Research Team, you know that since our inception, in 1993, our “trademark” black canoes have served as habitat restoration classrooms, field laboratories, mentoring corners, tool carriers, fulcrums, sleeping chambers, fishing skiffs, artists’ studios, garbage barges, ocean cruisers, river racers, swamp transports, camping conveyances, photographers’ stands, psychologists’ offices, celestial observatories, birdwatchers’ nests, tug-or-tow boats, exercise machines, scuba stations, scientist ferries, gossip containers, bravery-testing spaces, dating services, surf boards, picnic places, meditation corners, strength-building vehicles, playtime crafts, vessels of healing, hope, and enlightenment… We have yet to carry bundles of furs in the manner of French Canadian voyageurs, or Native American warriors to battle!

Every possible emotion has been expressed in our canoes, running the gamut from white knuckles on the gunwales to involuntary catnaps due to excessive relaxation, with smiles of wonder and gasps of delight in between. Our oldest passenger was 105; the youngest, born a century later. Some were millionaires; some were homeless veterans. Some were Olympic athletes; some could not walk, some could not see.

Yes, we sure can do a lot in a canoe. What a cavalcade of rich experiences. Such a simple vessel, and yet so versatile. Too versatile, perhaps, and that’s our predicament. As we ponder our Team’s future, we must choose with care the best expression of our overarching mission, which is to reconnect People with Nature in a hands-on, primary experience.

It seems to be a good idea to narrow that focus a tad, don’t you think? Let’s start with a question: who are the most important people in your world? If, like me, you are a parent, it’s your children, no question. My daughters were both in elementary school when their future stepdad, Dr. Tom Kazo and I founded WRT in 1993. Christianna and Jamie literally grew up in our canoes. Their friends were frequent passengers.

Lots of other great kids have enjoyed our Canoe View, and one of my greatest pleasures is learning about their accomplishments as adults. Our canoes have transported future Navy and Coast Guard personnel, nurses, lawyers, doctors, photographers, journalists, teachers, software engineers, artists, writers, a NOAA scientist and many more I am forgetting. Some students were earning Community Service Hours with us for scholarships; some were serving court-mandated sentences.

What a privilege it has been for this writer, to know our humble canoes have provided opportunities for these fine young people to develop into productive citizens. It keeps me going through challenging times; the certain knowledge that we have made a difference and can continue to do so. WRT seems to have created an almost magical confluence between children and Florida’s unique ecology.

So that’s the answer to this delightful dilemma of where should we now focus our resources: on this convergence of young people with South Florida’s unique ecosystem. Now more than ever, our kids need hands-on contact with the natural world, to their community’s ecology. Now more than ever, our irreplaceable region needs to be studied, understood, and hopefully rescued by the people who would like to grow up within its unique and challenging ecosystem.

Let’s face it; all of us today are overwhelmed by too much input zapping us too quickly to absorb. Attention spans shortened, sleep problems epidemic, nerves frazzled. Daily life: artificial, digitized, even meaningless. Nobody is surprised to hear on our daily dose of “news” that people of every age are suffering from noise pollution, air pollution, light pollution, pesticide pollution. Do we really want to do this to our precious children?

Happily, even as we permit technology to overpower our “analog” physiology, there is a growing body of evidence that simple exposure to the natural world restores our biological rhythms. In other parts of the country, a walk in nature can fill the prescription; but South Florida is different! Ours is a very aqueous area, hemmed in by the ocean on the east, and the Everglades to the west and south. The land in between is almost built to capacity. The good news is that it is interlaced with waterways of all sizes and WRT’s canoes have traversed most of them. Our Canoe View excursions have thus been dispensing Nature Therapy for two decades.

South Florida possesses another rich asset— an exciting assortment of first-class environmental educators. Some of them are reading this newsletter! Some of them have already been out in our canoes, usually as dedicated volunteers participating our waterway and coastal cleanups. (Thanks, folks!) And some of them have expressed regret that they were not able to reach those who needed their knowledge the most, in a meaningful manner.

So here’s how WRT can combine the needs of these three factors: our local ecosystem; our community’s children; and our frustrated environmental educators. We will do this by placing carefully selected teams in our canoes to pursue hands-on research studies of South Florida wildlife and its fast-vanishing habitat. In order to accomplish this, we will create a team-within-a-team of trained canoe guides.

Again, if you are familiar with WRT, you will know our first program was “You Point We Paddle” in which our guides were the “engines” of our canoes. Passengers were not required to paddle, which meant that people who were too young, too old, or infirm could still enjoy a Canoe View excursion.

Thus, each canoe in our wildlife research studies will be paddled by one of our trained guides, with two young naturalists-in-training per canoe. The environmental educator and Group Leader will share a canoe. The day’s lesson will be developed by the educator and WRT.

If you are such a person, would you like to share your knowledge and wisdom with a captive audience of motivated young people? Let us know!

Obviously, these will be small groups, but our results have proven to be exponential. Just a single excursion has been enough to lift a young person to a positive outlook. Permit me to paraphrase Mother Theresa; that we may not be able to do great things in our lives, but we can always do small things with great love.

Our dilemma, I hope you agree, has been delightfully resolved.

Stay tuned.

Hope to see you in a black canoe,
Donna

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In the photo above, pitcher plants grow abundantly in Georgia's vast Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge. Canoes are the ideal vessel to explore the wonders of this natural treasure. The inset photo is a result of the curiosity of WRT member Paul Lamborn, DVM,  who wanted to see how many insects these carnivorous plants consume.

In the photo above, pitcher plants grow abundantly in Georgia’s vast Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge. Canoes are the ideal vessel to explore the wonders of this natural treasure. The inset photo is a result of the curiosity of WRT member Paul Lamborn, DVM, who wanted to see how many insects these carnivorous plants consume.

One of the most important books I’ve read in the past ten years was Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. It has helped me clarify the overarching mission of Wildlife Research Team, for one thing, that what we’ve been doing since 1993 has been to reconnect people, especially children, with nature. His term, “nature deficit disorder” put a name to something I had detected among the kids who have volunteered with us. I’ve also learned of some very cool people in its pages, and I would consider them to be kindred spirits.

Mr. Louv also wrote of Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking discovery of multiple intelligences. The first time I had ever heard of this was when my daughter, Christianna, entered her new school’s new sixth grade gifted program. I recall thinking that this was a big step forward, understanding that not all children learn in the same way. There have been too many children who suffered under the belief that they were stupid because they could not grasp the standard curriculum. Many educators have since embraced Professor Gardner’s 1983 work. He argued that basing intelligence on I.Q. testing was far too restrictive. He even linked each intelligence to a different part of the brain; demonstrating that if that specific part of the brain was damaged by injury or disease, that the individual lost that type of intelligence.

Here are Gardner’s seven types of intelligence: linguistic intelligence (“word smart”); logical-mathematical intelligence (“number-reasoning smart”); spatial intelligence (“picture smart”); bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”); musical intelligence (“music smart”); interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”); and intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”). People can possess more than one type of intelligence, or even all of them! Think about it: understand which types of intelligence you possess, and you are much closer to choosing a satisfying and productive career. Don’t we all want to understand ourselves, others, and most importantly, our children, so that we can effectively guide them? Professor Gardner’s work has been a revolution. Curious about the seven intelligences? Google “Howard Gardner” and you will learn a great deal more.

It’s his Eighth Intelligence that has greater meaning to Louv, to environmental educators, and to me, because of Wildlife Research Team. In the late 1990s, Gardner added naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”) to the list: “The core of the naturalist intelligence is the human ability to recognize plants, animals, and other parts of the natural environment, like clouds or rocks…our ancestors needed to be able to recognize carnivorous animals, poisonous snakes, and flavorful mushrooms.” However, neurophysiology has not yet been able to pinpoint what part of the brain is associated to this eighth intelligence.

“Nature smart” people exhibit behaviors such as (but not limited to): caring about animals and plants; greater enjoyment of nature walks and camping than others; sharper sensory skills, to include noticing small things others don’t; can easily name, gather data about and categorize patterns, species and objects in the natural world; collect their findings in scrapbooks or logs, or make collections of specimens; and just like being outside in nature. Career choices include marine biologist, botanist, veterinarian, geologist, zookeeper, and many more. Please Google “eighth intelligence” and you will be richly rewarded!

Gardner declares Charles Darwin, John Muir, and Rachel Carson, as “nature smart” people; I must add WRT’s primary founder, Dr. Tom Kazo, to this esteemed list. Tom’s doctorates were in Ethology and Olfactory Mechanisms (he was a pioneer in drug-sniffing dogs). His mentor, Karl Lorenz was the preeminent name in ethology, which is much like, but not the same as, animal behaviorism. As Tom explained it to me, ethology is the study of how animals change their behavior in response to their changing environment. I’ve read different definitions since, but his makes the most sense to me. That was the underlying reason he named us Wildlife Research Team. I know he would have agreed with Gardner, that he possessed “nature smarts.” I guess you have to, if you can live alone for several weeks in the Amazon jungle.

I witnessed the great enjoyment Tom could get out of his observations of nature. For one thing, he was never bored. Isn’t that what we all desire, to never be bored, to enjoy every moment of our brief lives as they fly by? Tom’s secret: pay attention to nature. Not only is paying attention free; it will reward you in return. Time will become meaningless if you can learn to lose yourself in the actions of even the smallest creature.

When we take people out in our canoes, we often have to overcome the “Disneyfication” that they possess. Everyone wants to see a hippo! Everyone wants to race! Everyone want to get there NOW!

What makes you crazy? The little things, right? Coming at you too quickly? I am here to tell you, conversely, it’s the small gentle wonders that have the power to soothe and delight our frazzled souls and overcome that false sense of urgency. I think everyone can be “nature smart” with the right experiences. Since neurophysiology has yet to link a specific part of the brain to the eighth intelligence, perhaps it means our whole brain can become attuned to nature, for the good of all beings. What we know about, we care about.

When you paddle a canoe, you are usually traveling at about a walking pace. Life these days is all about going ever faster, but are humans really made for speed? How fast do you really need to fly through your life? What are you running from? Instead of fleeing to new countries, you might find happiness and peace in your very own neighborhood by developing your naturalistic intelligence. Develop awareness of the gifts nature has provided to you.

To me, this explains a lot: why canoeing can be both relaxing and energizing. A change in perspective always refreshes, don’t you agree? So come and enjoy WRT’s Canoe View, increase your eighth intelligence, slow down to Mother Nature’s authentic pace, and get more out of your life.

Tom wrote an article about a creature we almost always see from our Canoe View, the seemingly humble waterbug. This little guy, you will learn, is right up there with the Batmobile in abilities! This article was previously published in Tropical Trails magazine in the 1990s and has just been added to our Articles Page on our website.

“They are commonly called a whirligig, water bug, crazy beetle and a host of other colloquial names. Scientifically, they are Gyrinidae, in the order of Coleoptera. For normal folks, that’s the beetle family…”

Follow this link to read “Gyrinidae, The Ultimate Sports Bug.”

Thank you for being part of Wildlife Research Team!

Hope to see you in a black canoe,

Donna

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I have a confession to make. I’ve not always enjoyed canoeing. There have been times I was shaking so badly I thought my adrenaline would never kick in. Those were the mornings when my partner Tom Kazo and I had clients for a “You Point We Paddle” tour, and the early morning seas, instead of being flat calm as they usually were in the summer, were more than a bit choppy for human-paddled canoes. I began to call them “slappy” because of the sound they make when the waves smack our hulls.

I am thinking specifically of trips when I was learning to paddle solo, and he had one, two or even three people in his canoe (he was a powerful paddler!). I’m remembering how he taught me how to cut into the waves at a certain angle for both speed and safety; you’d never want to get caught in the dip between waves and broached; meaning the canoe would roll over and be swamped.

After all Tom Kazo had raced powerboats at frightening speeds from the tender age of thirteen, over the same Biscayne Bay where we were now paddling our Wildlife Research Team canoes at about 97 miles slower per hour. He knew how to handle any type of water, could read the waves like a menu in a Chinese restaurant.

I never thought to ask him if on those slappy days he wore his fluorescent yellow shirt with the words NO FEAR across his broad back to encourage me. That man of mine was a risk-taker par excellence! But he was never foolish. Our canoes were carefully packed and in top condition. After starting WRT in 1993, we quickly adopted nine-inch-bladed double paddles from Mohawk Canoes for the power we needed when he and I, as guides, were the “engines” of our canoes. This way, our passengers could enjoy the delights of nature without paddling, gliding magically over the clear water, feeling the stress melt away.

On those choppy morning excursions, we could not paddle parallel to the shore, or risk the above-mentioned fate. Nope: Tom’s methodology was to head out at an angle, southeast, triangulating our route according to where we intended to go down the coast. Which meant that the waves would get bigger the further from shore. Wonderful.

While navigating my fourteen foot canoe through these obstacles, feeling the twist and tug of the currents and tides beneath me, my mind flashed on certain things— such as the opening credits of the WWII documentary Victory at Sea, where the foredeck of the battleship crashes into an immense wave and is completely submerged. The most comforting thought was of my dad, Captain Don McVicar, awarded the King’s Commendation and Order of the British Empire for his World War II Arctic explorations piloting a ski-plane in the service of the Royal Air Force Ferry Command, and also for his courage and flying skill in the development of the Crimson Route across the most northerly reaches of the globe, so as to deliver warplanes from North America to Europe. Along with the other brave men of the RAFFC, Dad flew many deliveries across both the North and South Atlantic. The 10,000 bombers delivered were vital to the defeat of Hitler.

To feel my father’s bravery burning in me, to give it a reason to catch fire, even in a far less dramatic way, turned my fear into fuel. As Daddy had navigated over uncharted, mountainous, frozen territory where magnetic North played havoc with compasses, and weather reports were only guesses, in my much smaller way, I navigated between the ever-changing aqueous topography. I concentrated on where to place each stroke of my paddle, that the blade would bite water and not air. Every stroke mattered. I learned that a double paddle could act as an outrigger, to brace myself!

The most terrifying moment came when we had to turn towards the shore, momentarily exposing the hull of our canoes to the cresting waves. Which, were, I have to repeat, much larger out there. How far were we out? I’d like to say, Scotland was nigh, but I could be exaggerating. Let’s just say, the curve of the Earth revealed tall buildings well inland. Like maybe, Naples on the west coast.

After about a century of floundering in the trough between a couple of tsunamis, and finally turning my bow to the correct angle, Tom would exclaim, “Let Mother Nature help us out!” and we’d basically surf back to land! With my double paddle positioned behind me to keep me steady, yes, I have to admit: it was fun! The waves actually sizzled around me. Who needs a roller coaster?

After twenty years, I’ve never (touch wood!) tipped or dumped. I’ll give Tom credit for teaching me well, and my dad for genetically passing down his courage and skill. But I’m proud of myself, as Tom was proud of me. Yet I really did it for love; there is no more powerful fuel. When I became his canoeing partner, it was to help him control his diabetes; continual foot ulcers kept him in a wheelchair for many months of the last sixteen years of his wildly challenging life. Paddling burned off his excess blood sugar, so I can state with certainty that canoeing saved his life.

Now when I paddle a solo canoe off the coast like that, I eagerly seek the slappy waves. In those early days, we’d rig up ballast in the bow so my canoe wouldn’t blow around, but as my experience grew, the day came when I preferred the bow to be light, because with enough speed, my canoe can be mostly airborne as I skip across the wavetops. Exhilarating!

Tom and I later enjoyed several strenuous canoe-camping expeditions in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge with dear friends; in my solo canoe I again challenged myself and was rewarded with wonderful memories. (Photo taken by Tom, above)

Not everyone has an Arctic-exploring pilot in their genes. But all of us have times we need courage, when our bones and muscles feel like water as we wait for the adrenaline to power up. We may never know when we’ll be called upon to overcome fear, save a life of a loved one, even to be a hero because we were strong enough. Canoeing empowered me. Not that I wish to put anyone into jeopardy! But one reason Wildlife Research Team has value is that our people have the opportunity to challenge themselves in a small way, to prepare themselves for The Big Scary Stuff that WILL come to get you when you least expect it. It’s because of experiences like this, I began to say, “Canoeing is a metaphor for Life.”

So when you pick up a paddle, and launch a canoe, you are about to experience a great combination: fresh air, restorative water, improved mood, stronger muscles, endorphins by the truckload, challenges met, fear overcome, courage and self-knowledge increased, exponentially.

Such a deal!

Hoping to see YOU in a black canoe,

Donna

www.wildlife-research-team.org

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The photo  was taken during our Canoeing 101 class this past Saturday; seasoned WRT Member Craig Clark, in the stern, and new volunteer Jason Neer, are paddling next to the 595 overpass. Wonder if anyone looked down to see our black canoes enjoying the beautiful day?

The photo was taken during our Canoeing 101 class this past Saturday; seasoned WRT Member Craig Clark, in the stern, and new volunteer Jason Neer, are paddling next to the 595 overpass. Wonder if anyone looked down to see our black canoes enjoying the beautiful day?

Much has been made of the importance of teamwork. I’d be the first to get on board with the concept. After all, I am a founding member of “Wildlife Research Team.”

But the other day, after a fine canoeing excursion had successfully concluded, it suddenly struck me; the good heart and willing spirit of a single person can be exponential given the opportunity. I am happy to report, that after several frustrating years of barely making headway, WRT is on the rebound specifically because of the generous contributions of two men. They deserve special mention today.

Vinnie Tozzo has repaired two of our three trailers on his own time, with only a small reimbursement for the wheels and wiring harness of our smallest trailer. Vinnie and Tom Kazo, who I am sure you must know is WRT’s primary founder, go way back. During his precious free hours, Vinnie has welded, rewired, and installed new wheels on our trailers so that we can get back to work. What good is a fleet of canoes if we can’t get ‘em wet?

Jason Neer is our newest volunteer and is fast becoming a superlative one. He’s happy to tow our canoe trailer when he can get the day off from his full-time job. He even installed a special towing hitch on his truck just for this purpose. Saturday’s excursion was only his second time in a canoe but he’s learning fast! I hate to say it, but some volunteers stand around talking while others do the many less-than-glamorous tasks that go into a safe and successful canoeing excursion. But show Jason just once, and he gets it, which makes everything run more smoothly for all of us.

As I was thinking of these individuals with gratitude, my thoughts expanded: one person can truly make a significant difference, for good AND bad. Good names sprang forth: Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Lindbergh, Martha Stewart, Winston Churchill…Tom Kazo. At least my “bad name” list is very short: Adolf Hitler. Perhaps Napoleon Bonaparte could be added.

But even if you don’t agree with my quick list, I am sure you agree that not all of the people who have changed lives have been famous.

Think: in your own life, what ONE person gave you courage, inspired or influenced you, served as either an example to follow or one—sadly—to veer from? Let’s hope your parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members are the earliest candidates. Then, a certain teacher, a coach, an employer, a Scout leader, or a minister may have been The One in your young life, who recognized your potential and encouraged you. Sadly, our prisons are full of people who never had The One to set them on the straight and narrow path.

With both pride and humility, I can attest that I’ve been that One in a few lives. Even Tom Kazo’s, when he was at his lowest ebb as a nursing home patient in 1990, having been given a three-months-to-live prognosis. (Why is it always three months?) Uncharacteristically, he reached out for help—and I was happy, even honored, to respond. It was simply the right thing to do. Until his passing in May 2006, he went on to become The One for so many people, and of course, the animals he loved so much and understood so well.

Now, this is a great opportunity to thank three exceptional people who have been The One for me in these past difficult years. Steve Weinsier, of Allstate Resource Management, blessed me with his time, support, and mentoring. WRT Director Tom Brown kept WRT going while I recovered from my ’09 burnout. Christianna Cannon lovingly volunteered countless hours of her time and skill to build a website which beautifully honors our people and establishes our contributions to history.

There have been others who stepped up to be The One to keep WRT paddling with their outstanding financial support. A quick dash of history: we became a nonprofit in 2001; our six grants from NOAA and FishAmerica Foundation funded our five-year restoration of the hurricane-devastated Matheson Hammock/R. Hardy Matheson Preserve. These grants were closed out successfully in 2006, a few months after Tom died. With no other revenue streams, like other charities, we had to turn to the public for donations. Whether I liked it or not, on top of everything else, I became Chief Fundraiser!

I confess my first call for help was driven by desperation and panic. But I was overwhelmed by the response! If YOU, reading this, are one of those angels who donated your hard-earned dollars to WRT back then, THANK YOU. Your generosity, 2006-2009, helped WRT to accomplish over sixty waterway and coastal cleanups, providing more than 700 volunteers with exciting and educational opportunities, removing tons of harmful debris from the habitat (you can stuff a lot of trash in a 17-foot canoe and we have the photos to prove it!). Great kids, including some awesome Boy Scouts, earned Community Service hours performing meaningful tasks. I’d like to think that each person felt they were part of a great Team and gained new personal strength.

So as far as I am concerned, your donation made you The One. Your gift to us made an exponential difference.

It was the unexpected and total breakdown of our dedicated tow vehicle in December 2008 that curtailed our mission. We still lack such a vehicle; we are still held back. The generosity of Vinnie and Jason has at least let us begin again. Every journey is accomplished one paddle stroke at a time. We are needed more than ever, and we will continue to make progress…

But we need your help.

Do you have an older but serviceable vehicle to donate outright? If not, any donation is welcome and will be put to good use; like any business, we require operating capital. Remember that as a 501(c)(3), WRT can provide you with a tax deduction to the fullest extent of the law.

Since you have to pay your taxes anyway, why not have some control over where your money goes? Your donations will be put to good use in your own back yard instead of being vacuumed up, without thanks, by Washington.

Why not feel The Power of One?

To make your donation, you can follow this link to WRT’s website and our Paypal button, or contact me, Donna Kazo, at paddle4research@yahoo.com, or feel free to call me at 954.474.8194. Our mailing address is 2165 SW 83 Avenue, Davie, Florida, 33324.

All of us in Wildlife Research Team thank you for your generosity!

Gratefully,

Donna

This is the paragraph legally required of us whenever we hit you up for donations:

WILDLIFE RESEARCH TEAM, INC. IS A FEDERALLY REGISTERED 501(C)(3) NONPROFIT CORPORATION, AND IS ALSO REGISTERED WITH THE STATE OF FLORIDA TO ACCEPT CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW. A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 800-435-7352 WITHIN THE STATE. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE. REGISTRATION #CH22576

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