Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vote for the Cover!

The 2011 Florida Forever Calendar with cover image by David Moynahan

The Legacy Institute of Nature and Culture (LINC) in coordination with Florida Forever is closing in on finalizing the design of next year's calendar. If you don't remember, the Florida Forever Conservation Photography Calendar is an annual project that involves 12 of the state's top nature photographers that use their images to promote conservation. We are trying to decide on the cover image for next year's calendar and we could use your help. Your vote counts, so please help us and let us know which one you would like to see on the cover of the 2012 calendar. Thanks!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Restore Florida Bay

It's finally here. The website RestoreFloridaBay.com is live! 

Since October of last year I have been working on compiling photography and videos to help promote Everglades restoration efforts and raise awareness about our fragile gem, Florida Bay. The entire crew at Tavernier Science Center put in their efforts as well with providing informative text, posing for photos, and of course the wonderful narration you hear on all of the EcoLab videos. 

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund provided the grant money to make this website possible and we are eternally grateful for their support. As scientists, our office constantly struggles to come up with new and creative ways to get our message out to the public without all the dry graphs and charts that our data compiles. Instead, we wanted to show you the basis of our research and the importance of Florida Bay and the southern Everglades through a mix of photography and video on an engaging website. While doing so, I learned some interesting things about conservation, Florida Bay, and myself.

For example: I make to-do lists. I guess I'm a list-maker. And I realized that it's all a ridiculous dance solely for the satisfaction of crossing completed tasks and projects off that list. I noticed sometimes I will even add benign activities that I already fulfilled earlier that day, just to watch as my pseudo-productivity meter grows. "Pick up clothes and books off the floor." Check.

But I have two lists. One for the every day grind and another dedicated to more long-term project. For the last 9 months sitting at the top of my whiteboard in bold black letters read "Restore Florida Bay." Late last month I was finally able to strike through those menacing words and appease my inner demons of productivity.

There was a point in the process, however, where I couldn't see it ending. I ran into so many bumps along the way from poor weather, to drowned cameras, to computer crashes, to copyrighted music, which proved to be the biggest headache of all. Giving up on calling music labels I eventually found myself scouring the internet for days on end to find the right royalty-free tunes to align with our tempo and mood. It's unbelievable what some people name their songs: "Sick to the Back Teeth," "Plastic Energy Man," "Countenance of Limitless Light," and my favorite (but didn't make the cut) "No Pants Friday." Not to mention every time I thought I was finished with a video I would see something new in the Everglades and come back to my studio to replace old footage. That's the beauty of this place though; it's ever-changing and always inspiring. 

I would like to thank everyone at the Tavernier Science Center for their constant support. Megan Tinsley was the brains behind the website and provided all of the text you read in the links. Michelle Robinson, Adam Chasey, Erin Woods, Heather Schorge, and April Geisler make up the field biologist fish crew and put up with my camera constantly in their faces as they tried to work in the Florida heat. To Terry Jones, our trusty helicopter pilot who never seemed to mind me darting back and forth in the cockpit to capture the aerials you see in the EcoLabs. An additional thank you to Heather Schorge for her amazing narrative voice and to Karen Dyer, former head of spoonbill research who patiently endured mosquitoes and mud while I photographed her with the hatchlings. Of course Jerry Lorrenz, the state director of research, for continuing to run this important study and trusting us with such a big undertaking. And to you, for helping spread the word, and for caring. 

I hope these videos will grow legs and make their way around the south Florida community, especially the policy makers who help determine the fate of our natural places. Here are quick links to the videos but please do take the time to browse the site if you find time. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Moonlit Stage

Drum circle at Coconut Cove on the full moon

One of the best shows to see down here in the Keys is the full moon rising over the ocean. Yesterday, however, was the first time I saw it accompanied by a soundtrack. Rob Clift from EcoMariner, in coordination with KeystoPeace, hosted a drum circle of talented percussionists and musicians at Coconut Cove. If you've seen Swamp Stomp, then you know how much I love to make music outside. We all brought our favorite instruments and played for two hours on the best stage in the Keys. I can't wait for next month!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Returning the Favor

The pile of derelict crabs traps at Card Sound piled high by the end of the day

It's easy to enjoy Florida Bay and Everglades. The large expanses of shallow water and open space make this area critical for fisheries and the livelihoods of countless people. There's always a challenge, however, with managing such vast landscapes and protecting them from misuse. The Fish and Wildlife Commission as well as park officials, do a great job enforcing laws and holding citizens accountable for their actions. However, there are far too many boat ramps and backcountry hideouts to stay vigilant all the time.  Often times, the burden falls upon the shoulders of individuals to step up and do their part in protecting what they have come to love. When people pool their efforts together, there's so much you can accomplish.

Last Sunday 35 people from the Keys to Homestead met at the Card Sound boat ramp to clean up the basin. This area is particularly abundant with stone crabs, blue crabs, and lobsters which attract trappers in the open season. When the season closes, however, the unmarked crab traps are often forgotten about or left to harvest illegally throughout the year. Derelict crab traps are a huge problem in the area as they pose major threats to terrapin, fish, and crabs that continue to enter the traps. After four hours, with the help of the airboat community, concerned boaters, and volunteers from Audubon we managed to pull out 230 traps. Not to mention various articles of trash including 8 tires, a TV, buckets, PVC pipes, a machete, and other items. It was a good day for the Everglades and a proud day for everyone that got to pitch in and protect something they love.  

A stone crab in Florida Bay

Monday, July 11, 2011


I've been obsessing over mangroves lately. They are the unyielding force of the Everglades. Each of them with a unique footprint and a character all their own. Constantly bending and stretching to reach fertile ground, they posses a certain ingenuity, an intelligence, even.

Mangroves are tricky subjects to photograph, though. Their waxy leaves reflect harsh light in the afternoons and around sunset, even the slightest wind will move their outstretched branches during long exposures.

I've found that the best time to see them is in the mornings because the wind is much calmer. For the most distinct subjects, however, I have to boat out into Florida Bay an hour before sunrise to catch the first light. Luckily, they're right on my way to work.   

One of the more bizarre landscapes I've seen was right at the end of the dry season at the top of Florida Bay. For a week, North winds pushed water into the mangrove swamps along Taylor River. The ground, still parched from the months without water, stayed defiantly cracked and broken regardless of the water that now filled the area. I'd been to this place dozens of times and never seen it this way.


My next goal is to get underwater and see what they look like from below. Stay tuned...