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“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
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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

 

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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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This was the question the great 20th-Century business guru, the late Peter Drucker, always asked himself. It was first asked of him by a teacher when Peter was just thirteen. He said his teacher, at that time, did not expect an answer from the class. But when he and his fellow students got together for their sixtieth class reunion, each man confessed their teacher’s question “had made all the difference to him, although they didn’t really understand that until they were in their forties.”

It’s a question, I believe, that will help us to be still, take stock, and remember we don’t know the number of our days. Drucker: “It is a question that induces you to renew yourself, because it pushes you to see yourself as a different person— the person you can become.”

But how can we find a way to push ourselves, to discover within ourselves new strengths, talents, abilities? For those of us who are parents, don’t we want to be, at the least, good role models for our children, and at the best, wouldn’t it be great to be their heroes? Especially when we consider the countless allures of modern-day entertainment; parents can be, well, boring. Kids are expert at seeing who their parents really are, behind the façade of overworked human beings who may or may not yet feel they are truly “grownups.”

Parents must provide, they must do a lot of things for which they may not receive authentic, personal satisfaction. And without a sense of time passing, whoosh! their children are grown and out the door. Some may never look back. But it’s your fault if they have no reason to. Remember, one of the greatest rewards of parenthood is to get to know your child as an adult. You gave the world a gift: this high quality person! Maybe you’ll even find out why your children decided to remember you, to see you beyond your early role of Mom or Dad. You are then blessed beyond words.

Let me share with you a secret I have learned over these past two decades I’ve been a part of Wildlife Research Team: to grow yourself into a person worthy of your child’s respect, become a volunteer for a nonprofit organization. Make a point of challenging yourself! Do something new for a change! Explore another path toward self-realization as you combine your talents with others in pursuit of a greater good.

WRT has been gifted with some of the most amazing and dedicated volunteers any organization could ever hope for. These are people from all walks of life, who in another place might disagree on politics, religion, sports, or other divisive issues, but who have been willing to grab one of our canoe paddles and work in harmony with our Team for the betterment of Nature, the environment, their children’s future, Mother Earth… Every name has a special meaning to that individual, but it’s really all the same: our volunteers know they are making a difference. At that exact moment, they are doing the right thing. Tell me, is there any greater luxury to know you are doing the right thing? Not in my book.

That’s the somewhat secret idea behind volunteering: you think you are helping someone else and at the same time, you are helping yourself to become a memorable person.

However, it’s not always easy to find an organization that will really help people to feel their contributions are meaningful. Sad to say, some volunteers may even be treated like disposable units. Well, I’m here to tell you, WRT has never been like that. For one thing, what we do has an element of risk, so our people have to overcome some very normal fears. Canoes have something of a tippy reputation! What about gators, sharks, crocodiles? Yet our methodologies have maintained a splendid safety record, as set up by my co-founder, Dr. Tom Kazo.

Unbeknownst to our Team, Tom applied his professional research studies in stress and behavior to all of us (yes, me too!). He was a master at getting us to stretch beyond our previous limits. The result: we got a lot done while having fun! During our NOAA-funded habitat restoration project at Matheson Hammock/R. Hardy Matheson Preserve in Miami-Dade County, people were frequently up to their necks in tidal creeks, using hand tools underwater to cut ten-inch-diameter logs, and extracting them with great care to restore healthy tidal flushing. We matched our six grants with 10,000 volunteer hours! Ten or more years later, those good people, though now far-flung by life, look back with glowing memories. Recently, we have honored them on our relaunched website with Member Banners, along with other photos of their accomplishments. What a privilege it has been to work alongside such people! They are Lifetime Members of our Team, never to be forgotten, that’s for sure.

Wildlife Research Team pledges to provide quality volunteer opportunities to people who are seeking to realize their potential. You might be sharing a canoe with a child who needs a caring adult to simply listen without judgment. (Canoes are great for deep thoughts, reflective conversations, and mentoring, by the way.) Maybe you fall into the mud, and share a laugh with new friends as they pull you up. On a waterway or coastal cleanup, you will see for yourself the impact of trash upon innocent wildlife. You will experience deep satisfaction when your canoe is piled so high with tires and debris that you and your partner can barely paddle it! You will experience the thrill of serendipity when you see wildlife close up, not on a screen or in a zoo, but right in front of your canoe, because you learned to paddle silently.

Whoever you are, you are most welcome to paddle out with our other awesome volunteers and become a Member of our Team! You will find strength within yourself as you learn about nature firsthand. Your family, especially your children, will look at you with newfound respect. And yes, you will do something you will always be remembered for.

Would you like to learn more about volunteering and membership in Wildlife Research Team? Then please follow this Link to our website!

We’d love to see you in a black canoe,

Donna

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The sun comes up. We draw the drapes. The room is hot. We switch on the air conditioning. Rain falls, unheard, washing away poisons sprayed on manicured lawns. The sun goes down. We flip on a lamp. Venture forth from the cocoon, look to the stars for guidance as our ancestors did; city lights have washed them away. We look to screens and machines to guide us. Everyday life in our civilized world. Nature is the name of a program on television. Nature, always, yields to the superiority of Technology.

And yet…and yet…as biological beings, there remains a yearning in our cells for the sensations found only within the natural world. Perhaps because of the salinity within our cells, we feel a particular longing for the ocean, for the smell of salt on a cooling breeze, the sound of waves calming our caffeine-drenched heartbeats, far horizons which rest our aching eyes, primeval crunch of sand beneath bare toes. We crave it all; we know it will restore us.

In Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, author Richard Louv explores in depth and detail what we lost when technology disconnected us from the natural world of our ancestors. “Nature deficit disorder” is the term he coined to describe what this loss has done to our children. One chilling fact: the Center for Disease Control has linked the rise in childhood obesity to the amount of time children spend watching television. Louv’s books criss-cross the globe on a thoughtful journey to meet a fascinating array of very different people who have dedicated their lives to one overarching objective: salvation of the fast-disappearing natural world. Through their stories, along with discussions of scientific research, we discover how Nature provides therapy, healing, and harmony. Lack of Nature, we learn, actually makes us sick; but we may have already suspected that. Louv takes us down the road to despair but then lifts our sad hearts with realistic optimism, workable projects, doable ideas, provides in-depth resources and contacts.

In one sentence from Last Child in the Woods, Louv crystallized for this writer much of what Wildlife Research Team has been working toward these past twenty years: “People are unlikely to value what they cannot name.” I have to agree; we care most deeply about who and what is familiar to us. When people venture forth in our canoes, they learn, first-hand, that great value resides in the waters which surround and snake through South Florida. WRT’s principal mission has always been to reconnect people with Nature, in a hands-on, primary experience, so that they understand for themselves its importance.

Our early-morning Stress-Relief excursion was one of Dr. Tom Kazo’s most beloved ideas. He knew that watching the sun rise over the ocean restored the soul, and was keen to share this wonder with everyone. No one who took him up on this ever regretted it.

Here in South Florida, most of our waterways eventually lead to the sea, and so are tidal-influenced. Yet that term baffles the average person. So to teach the tide, when we launch our canoes, we have a child push a stick into the area at the water’s edge. When we return, and the water has either left the stick high and dry, or crept toward the top, the child exclaims, “Who moved my stick?” Sometimes it takes a bit of persuasion for him or her to be convinced that it was the pull of the moon which moved the water! It’s always gratifying to see that look of understanding sweep over a young face. You hope that they are sensing, perhaps for the first time, the authentic power of Nature, power beyond the control of humanity.

Tide's Out, We're Walking This photo was taken during our NOAA-funded habitat restoration project at Matheson Hammock Park, which is world-famous for its tidal flats. It was a long walk indeed out to where the water was deep enough for paddling! But by the end of our workday, the water was deep enough to paddle right up to the launch site.

Tide’s Out, We’re Walking
This photo was taken during our NOAA-funded habitat restoration project at Matheson Hammock Park, world-famous for its tidal flats. It was a long walk indeed out to where the water was deep enough for paddling! But by the end of our workday, the tide had come in, and we could, as planned, paddle right up to the launch site.

Citizen Naturalists: The Missing Link

Our Dr. Tom was a wildlife ethologist whose life’s passion was the rewarding study of animal behavior. We’ve helped scientists with studies of horseshoe crabs, manatees, and water quality. In our Canoe View Classroom, teachers and students have enjoyed hands-on lessons in wildlife research. Yet our canoes and volunteers have so often been asked to instead accomplish cleanups or habitat restoration projects; at least we are sure we have saved the homes and lives of innocent wildlife. But cleanups are not enough—people need to learn about the habitat they are rescuing. So when Louv introduced the term, “Citizen Naturalist,” in The Nature Principle, I felt a missing link drop into place. “In every bioregion, one of the most urgent tasks is to rebuild the community of naturalists, so radically depleted in recent years, as young people have spent less time in nature…To be a Citizen Naturalist is to take personal action, to both protect and participate in nature.” He goes on to list many exciting projects taken on by volunteers from all walks of life, who have eagerly provided solid and important data to scientific institutions in several countries. “So let’s increase the number of front-line citizen naturalists, who count, chart, map, collect, protect, tag, track, heal, and generally get to know countless species of plants and animals in the wild, in the elfin forests of their own backyards, or the woods, or the great national parks, or at the end of an alley in an inner-city neighborhood.”

Tide's In, We're Paddling This photo was taken from the same place as the previous one, but turned in the opposite direction. This is what happens when we can pick the best tide for an event, so that our volunteers can paddle right up to the launch/take-out site.

Tide’s In, We’re Paddling
This photo was taken from the same place as the previous one, but turned in the opposite direction. This is what happens when we can pick the best tide for an event, so that our volunteers can paddle right up to the launch/take-out site.

Or, Mr. Louv, how about along the rivers, canals, ponds, lakes, mangrove creeks and coastal fringes of South Florida? For it is within that delicate interface wildlife clings to the last remnant of habitat, there that pollution from pesticides and soil from erosion wash into the water. For twenty years, our Team has been a guardian of that fragile boundary. Now we can take a step further, teach our people about it, and help to satisfy that yearning.

So this is official notice of Wildlife Research Team’s new mission: to develop an active corps of canoe-savvy Citizen Naturalists! We are seeking sponsors to support this exciting new program, and partnerships with some of the excellent environmental educators in our community.

Can you help us? Can we help YOU?

Stay tuned!

With joyful anticipation,

Donna

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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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