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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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Hello, dear friend,

How could I think of you otherwise? Words cannot express my gratitude for your company on this seven-day journey back in time, which, as I am sure you’ve realized, is also a journey into the future. I hope you’ve taken courage from the tale of a true Environmental Hero, Dr. Tom Kazo. I hope your imagination has caught fire as you’ve visualized yourself paddling on smooth waters reflecting the brilliant hues of a glorious Florida sunrise. Or perhaps you are thinking of how much safer the waters and shorelines are for humans and wildlife, once WRT’s volunteers have removed the debris. Or perhaps you have a dear person of delicate health in your life who could benefit greatly from a You Point We Paddle excursion.

This is the last chapter in our storytelling campaign. This has been a very emotional time for me. I am not a pushy person! But not much gets done in this busy world without a push, a shove, a stomach-churning thrust of audacity. (This campaign has given me new respect for movie-makers, for one thing!) I realize Wildlife Research Team is not everyone’s cup of tea. But your name is on our list because we believe that YOU are a concerned and caring person who would like to make a difference. WRT is known to attract the very best people!

Rest assured that in the future, The Canoe View News will appear in your inbox not more than once a week, maybe even every two weeks, just enough to keep you aware of events, but not just from our Team. There are so many other awesome environmental organizations out there!

Yesterday I went over our Five Outcomes, the plan which will help us best serve the needs of all members of the community as we pursue our quest to protect the habitat from further degradation. Before I present our Sixth Outcome, let me share with you Wildlife Research Team’s most cherished dream: Our black canoes are busy every day in the year, not just on Saturdays. A rotating team of our certified Canoe Guide/Naturalists and their assistants heads out each day on a different excursion: one day, a coastal cleanup; next day, a Canoe View University class on seagrass identification in Biscayne Bay; next day, a Boy Scout Troop works on their Merit Badges; next day, a special canoeing exercise class for over-40 people who want to get back in shape; next day, an artists’ club heads out for a painting excursion; next day, WRT Members enjoy fellowship and fun paddling together for a snorkeling adventure in the Keys; next day, six little kids from a cancer ward and their caregivers get to breathe fresh air for a couple of hours in a You Point We Paddle excursion…It’s exciting, isn’t it, all the things our canoes and our people can do?

How to make that wonderful dream come true? It starts with our Sixth Outcome: Donor-Sponsor
This very special person may live too far from South Florida to enjoy a trip in our canoes, but wants to make sure others can. Wherever this angel’s location, he or she will receive a tax break to be determined by the Internal Revenue Service’s rules. Rest assured, WRT is registered with the State of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to accept donations which are deductible to the fullest extent of the law. We are grateful for donations of any amount! Every drop in a bucket will eventually overflow it!

My friends, in order for us to gather our forces, plan a budget, and do everything we can to insure a positive and sustainable outcome, we must have money in the bank before we launch. We cannot make progress living hand to mouth. We cannot hire people, even part time, unless we have the funds on hand.

It is our determined goal that Wildlife Research Team eventually becomes self-sustaining. Canoe View University and other fee-based programs we discussed the other day are meant to cover the many free services we want to offer to the community in order to fulfill our nonprofit mission. 

Even though a large gift makes a lovely cushion, however, we will not look to just one single donor-sponsor. For one thing, as a public charity, we are required to spread out our donor base so we don’t appear to be “owned” by any one large entity. We really don’t need as much money as many nonprofit organizations to get our work done. We have enough canoes at the moment! Our trailers take a beating, sure, and eventually we will need more of them. Of course we will always have the best volunteers, but in this economy, we must become job creators! Even a part-time paycheck that honors the person’s dedication and expertise is welcome in the average household. We won’t pay anyone “under the table,” either. We will pay for proper third-party accounting to handle payroll taxes and withholding.

The largest item on our Wish List is, of course, our own tow vehicle. The main reason, remember, that we had to screech to a halt in 2009 was that our beloved Sport Trac could not be repaired due to the economic meltdown. Even a decent older pickup truck, or a van would do the job; it would need to be a six-to-eight cylinder model in order to tow our largest, eight-canoe, trailer.

Can you help us with that?

My most cherished personal goal? To find and develop leaders, and put in place the mechanisms to pay them, so that I can hand this off in good conscience to the next generation. I would continue on WRT’s Board to provide a link to our history and keep an eye on things, of course. I would never abandon Dr. Tom’s Dream Team! When Tom was alive, everyone naturally looked up to him for everything. Nobody had as much charisma as Tom Kazo! Knowing he was terminally ill, he tried to set into place some systems to keep us paddling, but he was fighting the cancer and…After he died, I went back to college and took classes that have helped me to develop as a leader in my own right, and to run a business. It was a great feeling to graduate on the Dean’s List! (Drove to school sometimes with a canoe on top of the vehicle which got WRT some great volunteers!)

Can you help us to re-launch Wildlife Research Team’s canoes? 

It’s hard to believe, but 2013 is almost half over; so we are projecting our budget only for the next six months. Our financial goal is $24,000, or $4,000/month. If an environmental hero donates a vehicle to us, we won’t need that much! It’s PEOPLE we need to pay, because those canoes sure can’t paddle themselves. We would not ask any one of our “Environmental Angels”  to donate more than $4,000. This amount could be pledged, in chunks, over the rest of 2013.

Sponsorship is perceived by the public as more generous and heartfelt than advertising, as the sponsor has shown a dedicated interest in the success of the organization. In today’s tough economy, helping out a worthy and active nonprofit is just good business!

Can you become our Sponsor with a donation of at least $1,000?

In return, we’ll give you wonderful PR: your name and logo will be on our new website and on all of our email newsletters and advertising, and of course we will link to your website from ours. We are a grateful bunch, and will keep thinking of ways to honor you over the six months following your donation. Perhaps a special canoe picnic trip for you and your family? (After everyone has gone through Canoeing 101, of course!)

Contact me, Donna Kazo, at your convenience at paddle4research(at)yahoo.com; feel free to call me: 954.474.8194. WRT uses Paypal for our Donate button on our website, www.wildlife-research-team.org. Paypal of course extracts their fee. This is usually best for smaller donations. You may choose to write us a check for larger donations.

Well, my friends, I see the dock approaching; time to pull our canoe from this river of time we’ve been paddling together. Just one thing before our journey ends: my wish for you is that you will always find the strength within yourself to overcome any challenge. This is what I learned from being the soulmate of Tom Kazo: that there is a deep strength within us, usually brought forth only by crisis or danger. Canoeing can be dangerous. Canoes have a bad name with some people! But Life itself is dangerous, and Canoeing is a metaphor for Life, as I remarked in Part One. Challenge your muscles, break them down, and they become stronger. Challenge your fears by breaking them down a paddle-stroke at a time, and you will become stronger.

As a not-so athletic mom, I so well recall shaking with fright on some of my earliest canoe trips. I’d get really mad at Tom, when I was really mad at myself! Remember that Tom loved to say, “Knowledge eliminates 99% of fear.” As a scientist, he was always testing, experimenting. At some point I realized I was his guinea pig! When he proudly said to me, “You get into that canoe like walking through a screen door,” I knew I had passed some sort of important test.

If I can do it, so can you. Challenge yourself every day to become your best!

Thank you again for your time and attention. All of us in Wildlife Research Team thank you in advance for becoming an Environmental Angel with your sponsorship of our re-launch!

With great hope and gratitude,

Donna

Photo Credit: Donna M. Kazo. At river’s edge, a Wildlife Research Team canoe awaits the adventure of the day.

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To Serve and Protect on Memorial Day

Hi there, friends, hope your day so far has been splendid. (NOTE: remember that these seven chapters of  this “Mini-guide to Wildlife Research Team” were originally sent out as email newsletters to WRT’s supporters.) As this is being sent to you on Memorial Day, many of you are enjoying a day off work, going to the beach, taking advantage of “special” retail sales, etc. Please remember that we get to enjoy such a day because of the brave men and women who put on a uniform in order to serve this great country. Some, like our founder Tom Kazo, returned home under their own power, but others returned to their native soil in a coffin. And others vanished completely. Tom returned on crutches, as a decorated wounded warrior, and chose to continue to serve and protect the public as a police officer; but his Vietnam memories never left him. I was still picking shrapnel out of him the day before he passed away.

Wildlife Research Team was also founded in order to serve and protect. We have worked to make a difference for two decades, and our volunteers have come from all levels of society. It doesn’t matter to us what your financial status, political affiliation or religious persuasion may be, only that you are willing to grab a paddle and help us serve and protect Nature so that our descendants will be able to enjoy it. And of course, even if you are not physically able to paddle a canoe, you are still welcome to join in the fun!

Today’s post presents five of our six “Outcomes” which we believe, based on our experience, cover everybody, beginning at about the age of seven. Possibly younger, but it depends upon the child’s level of maturity and behavior and how well he or she can be controlled by the parent or guardian. In the other direction, I seem to recall a passenger who was 105 years young!

Remember: it all starts with our basic training session which we call “Canoeing 101” which was the subject of a previous post. Even if you tell us you’ve paddled before, well, WRT does things a bit differently. And hey, it’s FREE, so don’t be afraid of being a beginner! And remember, most people will solemnly swear they are good drivers even on the way to traffic school!

It’s worth repeating: once you have volunteered for twenty (20) hours with Wildlife Research Team, you are a Lifetime Member. There will never be dues to pay! We will be introducing a small user’s fee for Members-only events and excursions, however, to cover the direct costs (campsites, launch fees, food, etc.) and to set up a self-insurance fund that will pay for lost, damaged, or worn-out gear or equipment.

First Outcome: Able-Bodied Volunteer – Potential WRT Member – Potential Paid Staff

Criteria:

  • At least 12 years of age;
  • Wants to volunteer with WRT;
  • Wants to become a Member;
  • Physically able to become a strong paddler;
  • Lacks financial means to pay for our fee-based programs.

Outcomes:

  • He or she is welcome to volunteer for WRT cleanups and other physically demanding water-based activities;
  • Welcome to volunteer for land-based events such as shop workdays, office tasks, fundraising drives, etc.;
  • If needed, can earn Community Service hours;
  • Welcome to volunteer as assistant on You Point We Paddle excursions;
  • Earns Lifetime Membership after twenty hours of volunteering;
  • Could become a paid, certified Canoe Guide/Naturalist, or other staff member;
  • Therefore: this person won’t ever have to open his or her wallet to enjoy a rewarding relationship with WRT;
  • We consider this opportunity to be part of our nonprofit missionPerhaps a donor would step forward to help this Member pay the user’s fees for some Members-only excursions, which this person might not be able to afford.

Second Outcome: Able-Bodied Volunteer – Client – Student  Potential WRT Member – Potential Paid Guide or Staff

Criteria:

  • At least 12 years of age;
  • Wants to volunteer with WRT;
  • Wants to become a Member;
  • Physically able to become a strong paddler;
  • Can easily pay for WRT’s fee-based programs, tours, extra canoe lessons, tuition to Canoe View University classes.

Outcomes:

  • He or she is welcome to volunteer for WRT cleanups and other physically demanding water-based activities;
  • Welcome to volunteer for land-based events such as shop workdays, office tasks, fundraising drives, etc.;
  • If needed, can earn Community Service hours;
  • Welcome to volunteer as assistant on You Point We Paddle excursions;
  • Earns Lifetime Membership after twenty hours of volunteering;
  • Could become a paid, certified Canoe Guide/Naturalist, or other staff member;
  • Student of Canoe View University classes;
  • Client for other paid programs (ex.: books a customized You Point We Paddle tour for parents’ anniversary);
  • WRT Members enjoy a group outing, and this person is able to pay user’s fees.

Third Outcome: Passenger – Client – Volunteer – Student  Potential WRT Member – Potential Paid Staff 

Criteria:

  • A person of any age who is less able to paddle due to chronic illness or disability, or perhaps age is a handicap;
  • Able to pay for fun or educational You Point We Paddle tours and/or Canoe View University classes;
  • guide would be required to power this person’s canoe.

Outcomes:

  • Welcome to volunteer for land-based events, such as shop workdays, office tasks, fundraising drives, or the like;
  • If needed, can earn Community Service hours;
  • Earns Lifetime Membership after twenty hours of volunteering;
  • When WRT Members enjoy a group outing for which there are user’s fees, this person is able to pay them;
  • Possibly could become paid staff for land-based jobs not physically demanding;
  • Can afford tuition for Canoe View University classes;
  • Client for other paid programs (ex.: books a customized You Point We Paddle tour for a special personal event);
  • WRT Members enjoy a group outing, and this person is able to pay user’s fees, although a guide will be required to paddle this person’s canoe.

Fourth Outcome: Nature Therapy  Client – Passenger Only

Criteria:

  • People of any age who are not physically able to paddle to improve their health through interaction with nature;
  • May or may not be able to pay for our programs;
  • Unable to volunteer due to limitations of health, age, etc.;
  • Would require our most highly trained guides for the safest possible You Point We Paddle excursion;
  • May require a health care assistant or family member in their canoes (and of course, these people would also be required to attend Canoeing 101).

Outcomes:

  • Improved health!
  • Happiness!
  • WRT would seek sponsors for such excursions so that we could offer Nature Therapy as part of our nonprofit mission and still be able to cover our costs (which would include paying our Certified Canoe Guide/Naturalists).

Fifth Outcome: Client – Passenger – Student

Criteria:

  • Ages 7 and up (with parent/guardian if under 18);
  • Can easily pay for WRT’s fee-based tours or tuition for Canoe View University classes;
  • Not able to paddle strongly enough; definitely require a guide;
  • You Point We Paddle classification;
  • No interest in volunteering, WRT membership, or working as paid staff.

Outcomes:

  • These people may seek “only” personal enjoyment and enhancement of being;
  • Could become a student of Canoe View University classes;
  • Could become a client for other paid programs (ex.: books a customized You Point We Paddle tour for a special personal event).

Where do you see yourself? If we’ve somehow missed you, or a family member or a friend, please let us know. If you think that a challenge to your mobility bars you from enjoying our Canoe View, think again! One of the best features of our wide-bodied 17-foot tandem Mohawk canoes is that we can fix up the center area quite comfortably. We use plenty of cushions, and cover the gunwales (those are the upper edges of the sides of the canoe, for you landlubbers) andthwarts (the crosspieces that keep the canoe from folding up) with foam insulation. Our passengers have become so cozy and relaxed they’ve fallen asleep!

One more day and this particular journey together will be at an end.

Tomorrow, Part Seven, the Sixth and Final Outcome: How YOU Can Help! 

Thank you again for your time, tenacity and interest in our Team.
May your ears catch the song of every bird.

Warmest regards,

Donna

Photo Credit: Donna Kazo. Canoeing in South Florida can happen almost every day of the year! A sparkling December morning on Biscayne Bay, as WRT volunteers set out on a cleanup of the mangrove shoreline of Matheson Hammock/R. Hardy Matheson Preserve. 

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Hello again, and welcome back to our seven-day journey; we are now on Day Five. Thank you so much for your time and continued interest! 

If you are wondering where the term Canoe View came from, it originated in our earliest years. Remember that Dr. Tom Kazo and I started Wildlife Research Team in 1993 with our You Point We Paddle program, which we found out was unique among ecotourism outfits. Well, in early 1994, we carried a film crew from a local television station on an excursion along the historic Coral Gables Waterway. When we watched the segment on the television news later that week, they named us as “one of the most fun things to do in South Florida!” And when the reporter referred to our “Canoe View” we were thrilled. Had such a nice ring to it, that we’ve stuck with it all these years. It’s true: life through our Canoe View is a lot more interesting!

Part Four discussed the first step into the fun, exciting and educational world of WRT, the basic training session we call Canoeing 101, and provided a hint of what lies beyond for those who choose to enhance their lives by learning how to paddle a canoe. I’ve also mentioned another early program, our Canoe View Classroom. Since our early years, we’ve been honored to help out many wonderful teachers and students from all grade levels with stimulating hands-on field studies in various aspects of science. But with more organization and a tad more effort, we can expand our curriculum and bring new excitement to education in a wider variety of subjects.

So without further ado, here’s a very basic description of what we call…

Canoe View University
Yes, since our beginning, WRT has nurtured close relationships with teachers and students at all levels of study. We believe that teachers are some of the most important people on the planet! We’ve helped kids in elementary school with award-winning science fair projects that originated in our canoes, and hosted field trips for high school and college students. Boy Scouts have earned their Merit Badges, all the way up to the highest designation of Eagle Scout. Several esteemed college professors have sat on our Board of Directors. “Research” is our middle name and we take it seriously! We have gladly assisted scientists of different disciplines with their research projects. During our five-year restoration of Matheson Hammock/R. Hardy Matheson Preserve’s Essential Fish Habitat, “Project Baitfish,” we performed studies of the effects of our habitat restoration methodology. Our canoes became field laboratories. It wasn’t long before we coined that happy term, “Canoe View Classroom.”

Why should learning be restricted to an enclosed space, anyway? Who hasn’t fallen asleep in a stuffy classroom? Who hasn’t been bored to tears by a Power Point presentation? Don’t our brains need oxygen to retain information? How do you feel after sitting in front of a computer for a few hours? Are your eyes glazed over, your head throbbing, your body stiff and sore? How much of that online lesson do you think you retained? Wouldn’t you love to be out in the fresh air and on the water with other adventuresome students and an inspiring teacher in pursuit of an invigorating learning experience?

Canoe View University:

  • Will further our mission statement of “Environmental Education through Habitat Restoration and Conservation;”
  • Will build upon our cherished programs, You Point We Paddle and Canoe View Classroom;
  • Will charge a reasonable tuition fee to cover our expenses;
  • Will offer scholarships to deserving students, encouraging third parties to become sponsors (for which they will receive a tax deduction to the fullest extent of the law);
  • Will have teachers/instructors/professors on a surprisingly wide variety of subjects (see below);
  • Will aim to pay these people, and their assistants, and some of our certified Canoe Guide/Naturalists who will lead the excursion and act as “engines” for some of the canoes;
  • Will be supported by a vastly improved website that will feature a valuable assortment of original content written by WRT members and guest authors;
  • Will seek to offer actual credits, perhaps Continuing Education Units, for our classes, that students may use toward graduation or certification.

What kind of courses do you think could be taught in a Canoe View Classroom? Science in its many manifestations? Yes, as mentioned above, different aspects of biology, environmental/earth science are readily absorbed when you are paddling through a living laboratory. Oceanography? Perfect subject for CVU’s hands-on field studies. Canoes excel in respectful delivery of students into the most delicate of watery habitats for fish, plant and bird identification.

But why not geology, history, archeology, painting and drawing, photography, even yoga, tai chi, qi gong?  Why not the language arts? Literature? Poetry? Shakespeare? Music? Why not a course in Creativity for its own sake? Instead of daydreaming out the window in a dreary classroom, bring the class outside, launch our canoes, charge up our brains with oxygen, renew our muscles, strengthen our bones! Can you imagine paddling out to a sandbar in beautiful Biscayne Bay to stretch and watch the sun rise as you and your classmates gaze about in childlike wonder and joy? There’s some lifelong learning for you.

How about YOU? What subjects would you like to be taught in a Canoe View Classroom? Or would you like to teach them? Let me know!

Once again, I thank you most earnestly for your time. As I sit in front of my computer, I try to imagine the response of all of you very different people who are receiving these missives in your inboxes, shared with you because I believe you have an interest in the need to reconnect humans with our fast-disappearing natural world. I hope that I’ve been able to fire up your imagination, so that you can visualize yourself enjoying life from our Canoe View, helping us in our mission.

Remember, you can always check out our WordPress blog or our website (which is in the process of being overhauled) which you can access through the links below. And of course, WRT has a Facebook Page that you can also visit to “Like.”

As we say in WRT, hope to see YOU in a black canoe,

Your future Paddle Pal,

Donna

Tomorrow, please enjoy the sixth installment of our 7-day journey: Outcomes.

Photo Credit, Dr. Tom Kazo: It’s lunchtime on a small lake along Turner River deep in the Everglades, close to the Big Cypress National Preserve, for Dr. Bruce Sharfstein‘s class from Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That’s me, Donna Kazo, on the right, keeping our tethered canoes together and out of the mangroves by paddling backward. Bit of a breeze that day. Dr. Sharfstein is my bow paddler, wearing that jaunty hat. In his “other” job as a scientist for South Florida Water Management District, he has been Division Director, and Lead Environmental Scientist for Lake Okeechobee RECOVER among other important positions. An avid canoeist, Bruce served on WRT’s Board of Directors and remains a valued advisor to our Team.

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