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09.26.13mailchimp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your interest in Wildlife Research Team!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizen Naturalists: The Missing Link

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

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

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

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

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

Can you help us? Can we help YOU?

Stay tuned!

With joyful anticipation,

Donna

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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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Hello and thanks again for your time and interest in Wildlife Research Team. Here we go!

When Dr. Tom Kazo and this writer, Donna McVicar Cannon (later Kazo) founded WRT in 1993, with a single refurbished canoe, a main reason was to help Dr. Tom control his diabetes. It worked: paddling burned off his excess blood sugar and literally saved his life. Although for the rest of his life he was plagued with foot ulcers and was wheelchair-bound at times, he’d wrap his foot well enough to keep it dry in the canoe. Awarded the Purple Heart for being wounded in battle in Vietnam, Dr. Tom was a long-term patient of Miami’s Veterans Administration Hospital, and epitomized the role of “wounded warrior.” So from our outset, WRT has welcomed people who must overcome physical challenges to their mobility.

Dr. Tom was that rare combination of a dreamer and a doer. Which is why our first canoe, a Mohawk Blazer, bought for just $20 because it had a hole in its side, was named Do-er. Our second canoe, purchased new for $300, was named Do-it. In 1994, a generous person donated another Mohawk, a 17-foot “guide” canoe which became Did-It. The fourth canoe, Dunnit, was purchased through a newspaper ad and was a fast racing type made by Sawyer Canoes. When a solo canoe found its way into our fleet, Dr. Tom named it Magnificent Deviation. As the fleet grew, the pattern of “Do” names persisted for the tandem canoes, while the solo canoes would have unique names. As an experiment, Dr. Tom also decided to paint WRT’s canoes black to see if manatees and dolphins would accept the dark shape as friendly, one of their own. He was right: these mammals frequently follow our black canoes on their excursions (see the photo accompanying Part 1 of this series.)

As my dear partner Tom sought to overcome his medical problems, I had my own fears to conquer, more typical of first-time canoeists: tipping, drowning, sharks, alligators… One of his favorite sayings, “Knowledge eliminates 99% of fear” empowered me, though, and I had grown up on a lake in Quebec that was part of the St. Lawrence River, so I did possess a child’s love of “messing around in boats.” We explored waterways throughout South and Southwest Florida inDo-er and shared many adventures as I learned how to be a canoe guide/naturalist. When Do-Itcame along, we were able to initiate our first program, You Point We Paddle. One of us was the “engine” of each canoe, so that the passenger(s) were not required to paddle, although they were always allowed to. YPWP allowed many people to enjoy an excursion with WRT who would not otherwise be able to get out in such a small vessel. This included residents from the VA nursing home, where Tom had spent so many long months. The response of these people was particularly gratifying.

Other programs we developed as the 90s passed were our Stress Relief excursions, our Canoe View Classroom for students and teachers, our trips scheduled for sunrise, sunset, and the rise of the full moon, Canoe Camp, research trips with scientists, and of, course, guided fishing trips, as Dr. Tom was an avid fisherman who “tyed” his own fishing flies.

Everything changed when Wildlife Research Team took on the momentous task of restoring Matheson Hammock’s Hurricane Andrew-devastated mangrove forest, however. Tom had grown up on Miami’s Biscayne Bay; he was a professional powerboat racer in his teens and a fearless sailor who’d captained a small sailboat from Miami to the Bahamas at age twelve. He was sickened to see what Andrew’s force had done to the mature mangrove trees of Matheson Hammock and R. Hardy Matheson Preserve when we paddled along the ravaged coast a few months after the storm. Despite the fact he had only his small disability pension, he vowed at that time to “fix it.”

Tom put the wheels in motion; WRT incorporated in June 1999, and we presently applied to the IRS to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As soon as we received that valuable designation, and with no experience in grant writing, we submitted a proposal to FishAmerica Foundation and the NOAA Restoration Center for a habitat restoration grant. This was 2001; we not only won that grant, for $10,500, but five more, each focusing on a particular area within Matheson’s devastated mangrove habitat. We matched these grants with 10,000+ volunteer hours, so that the total value of these six grants added up to $330,000. What a gift to the residents of Miami-Dade County!

NOAA funds grew our fleet to over thirty canoes. This number includes those first canoes, which were used hard during the first years of our grants; it may be that they are no longer seaworthy. Which is why we bought Florida-made Mohawks of various models, to replace them. As Tom put it, “canoes for every reason and every season.”

In 2000, he fell in love with the North Fork of the New River in Fort Lauderdale, as this “undiscovered” urban waterway still possessed areas along its banks that were remnants of the Everglades. WRT has attained some valuable partnerships as we’ve worked alongside many other concerned people to clean and restore it to full health. WRT was named a Keeper of the River, and we continue to take that role very seriously.

In 2003, our Dr. Tom was chosen to be a NOAA Environmental Hero of the Year, “for his unique vision” which restored the tidal creeks, key to the restoration of Matheson Preserve as an Essential Fish Habitat. His methodology was simple: using only hand tools, canoes, and volunteers, we unclogged the corridors full of giant mangrove trees, and let Mother Nature do the rest with renewed tidal cleansing. It worked. There’s much more to this story, but I am really trying to keep this brief!

The year 2006 was a tough one for all of us in WRT; in early May, Tom succumbed to liver cancer after a long heroic battle; in September, our Matheson grants were successfully closed out. There was no reason to apply for more grants; we’d accomplished what he had wanted us to do. The restoration of Matheson’s mangrove habitat was the best possible testimony to Dr. Tom Kazo’s love and perseverance, and to our amazing and dedicated volunteers who found such inspiration in his courage.

Even as I dealt with deep grief in the loss of my partner and husband, as WRT’s new President and Executive Director, I had my work cut out for me. With the NOAA/FAF grants over, so began our public fundraising phase. I spent countless hours composing letters and emails to friends of Dr. Tom and anyone else who might be a potential donor. Several thousand dollars in donations received by people who wanted to honor Dr. Tom paid our monthly bills for a time.

But we had to do something to benefit the public which would spur them to support our mission. So, in early 2007, I chose to focus on something for which we were already renowned: waterway and coastal cleanups. These would provide volunteer opportunities, community service hours, and would keep our name and reputation in the public eye. For the next two years I created, coordinated and led sixty cleanups, with about 700 volunteers participating. Many tons of harmful marine debris were removed from South Florida’s shorelines.

Our regular cleanups at “our” Matheson Hammock, (and one at Oleta River) paid off when the environmentally aware Miami-Dade County Commissioners Katy Sorenson and Sally Heymantook notice and awarded us some of their “discretionary funds” for our hard work (Commissioner Heyman also donated $500 of her own money!). We also received funding from South Florida Water Management District for our North Fork cleanups, in partnership with Florida Atlantic University, Broward Urban River Trails, Broward’s Department of Environmental Protection, and several community groups.

In October 2008, a trusted mentor told me, “It’s all coming together, you don’t see it because you are too close to it, but it’s coming together.” But it was not to be. December 2008, during the rapid downturn of the global economy, WRT’s 2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac unexpectedly suffered catastrophic engine failure. The horrific timing of this breakdown meant that donations to replace the engine were not forthcoming. This vehicle, purchased new by Dr. Tom in 2005 to tow our canoe trailers, was well maintained but just out of warranty. Any other time, donations would have poured in. Without a dedicated tow vehicle, WRT’s operations trickled to almost nil.

I am sure you are aware of the sad stories, that so many wonderful nonprofits had to shut their doors during the dark days of this Great Recession. At least canoes don’t need to be fed! I have to admit that by summer of 2009 I was suffering from emotional exhaustion. I’d done all I could to raise the funds to fix our Sport Trac but the economy was against me. Fortunately, in 2007, I had taken on a contract for a monthly cleanup which earns us enough to pay the rent on our canoe storage facility. WRT Director Tom Brown took on this task in 2009 and that’s what has kept us alive; on life support, but alive. Yes, another Tom, and he’s an Environmental Hero as far as I am concerned!

There’s something about an anniversary with a zero in the number; so in this, our twentieth year, I’ve determined to get Wildlife Research Team’s black canoes back to work. I’ve regained my strength and my zeal, and it’s darn obvious: the people and wildlife of Florida need us now more than ever before.

Once again, all of us on Wildlife Research Team are grateful for your interest in our small but dynamic group. You are invited to learn more about WRT before tomorrow (or at any time!), by looking back through our WordPress blog and our website.

(You may have guessed; the photo at the top is of Tom and Do-er at the Crandon Park Marina on Key Biscayne.)

Hope today the tide is with you!

Donna

Tomorrow: How many good things can a canoe do for you if a canoe is named for doing good?

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