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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please visit these websites:

www.ghostfishing.org

www.marinedebris.noaa. gov

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

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

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

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

www.schnitzersteel.com/values_sustainability_2.aspx

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!

Hope to see you in a black canoe,

Donna

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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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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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