On Saturday, November 3rd, the 2018 Volunteer Beach Ambassador Team celebrated the end of season at their traditional Breakfast Meeting held Bud & Alley's Restaurant and sponsored by owner and community supporter, Dave Rauschkolb. It was a beautiful venue and a very generous sponsorship by Dave. Thank you Dave for all that you do for us.
I also want to thank Allison Benton Costa Sunglasses for donating reusable water bottles and shopping bags. Costa is all about limiting single use plastic and wanted to thank our team for their efforts in caring for our beach environment. We were honored by your support In addition, we want to thank Jay Tusa Visit South Walton for another year of amazing support. Our New Shirts and Name Tags were key this year in attracting the attention of our guests on the beach. It opened doors for us and allowed us some great interaction opportunities. Thanks Jay for suiting up the team.
So what did this fabulous team accomplish during 2018... We suited up 224 VBA's. We added 18 trained and 52 parent listed Jr VBA's to the team. We Participated in a variety of opportunities which included the following, just to name a few; 1. International Coastal Clean Up September 15th, 2018 2. Vineyard Vines Sponsored Educational Event July 5th, 2018 3. 4 Oceans Beach Cleanup July 7th, 2018 4. TDC Public Relations Training: Amaze Every Customer-Every Time 5. We Share the Beaches Educational Series a. South Walton State Parks by Jeff Talbert b. Micro Plastics by Laura Tiu c. Bears in Our Backyard by Jordan Green d. Walton County Waterways and Beach Activities Ordinance by Brian Kellenberger
We had our very "first" Jr VBA become a VBA. Congratulations to Reese who logged 33 hours this season.
There were a number of high achievers this summer and I would like to recognize them here: Team Members who logged 50-100 hours... Leigh P 51.25 Lisa B 60 Sonja A 62.25 Diana C 65 Karen L 69.5 Donna B 93.5 Terry B 79.75 Tom H 87.75 Donna D 90 Desiree D 95.75
Team Members who logged 100+ hours... Christ H 131.75 Butch D 150 Marilyn L 163.5 Ed 184.5
The Shovel Award went to an amazing duo in Miramar Beach who were extraordinary in their efforts as Team Miramar. Di I 264.75 Susie F 280.5
And, for our first time ever, we honored the first VBA of the Year...Michele P with 1137.5 hours. Way to go Michele and thank you for taking on this volunteer job like full time employment. You are amazing beyond measure!
As a group, we logged 5,301.5 TEAM Hours for 2018. Whether you gave 15 minutes or hundreds of hours, each piece of trash collected, each hole filled, and each visitor greeted and educated is important and ALL members are equally valued. THANK YOU TEAM FOR A WONDERFUL 2018 SEASON. YOU ADDED GREAT VALUE IN WALTON COUNTY AND THE MILLIONS WHO VISITED US THIS YEAR. I’M GRATEFUL FOR ALL THAT YOU DID. ... See MoreSee Less
On Saturday, the 2018 Volunteer Beach Ambassador Team was treated to a wonderful end of the year Breakfast Meeting to celebrate the success of our year. Dave Rauschkolb, owner of Bud and Alleys restaurant and local community leader, graciously sponsored and hosted this big event. Dave has contributed his Resturaunt, staff, and a delicious meal to this team 3 years in a row and we want to thank him for his magnanimous support of our team. In addition, Allison Benton with Costa added to the day with their donation of reusable bags and canteens to those members in attendance. Costa’s active campaign to Kick Plastic lines up with our team mission so we were very honored to receive these wonderful gift bags. The contributions of these two sponsors is meaningful to our group. So if you live or visit in our our, please visit our sponsors and let them know they are appreciated. Costa Sunglasses Bud & Alley's Restaurant South Walton Life ... See MoreSee Less
Friends and Followers of Friends Of South Walton Sea Turtles, here is a long but very informative article on the history and current scientific research of Red Tide in the waters of our Florida Coastline. We strive to keep you informed on information that effects our coastal environment. We hope this will assist in your understanding of Red Tide. ... See MoreSee Less
Red Tide Science Update:
Here is a message from Gil McRae, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), the State’s marine research facility in St. Petersburg. His message is about red tide. FWRI is the preeminent authority on red tide ecology, bloom dynamics, taxonomy, etc. They also maintain the state’s weekly shoreline / beach monitoring and warning program: myfwc.com/redtidestatus.
Putting Red Tide in Context
By Gil McRae, FWRI Director
“The Florida red tide was caused by the appearance in nearby coastal waters of extraordinary numbers of a microscopic sea creature. Although individually so small as to be invisible to the human eye, the concentration of billions of Gymnodinium caused the sea water to take on a reddish or amber color…. Mass destruction of fish and certain other aquatic animals which was caused by a deadly toxin, the chemical composition of which is still unknown, which Gymnodinium liberated into the water…”
While this statement may seem to refer to the ongoing red tide that has impacted a large segment of Florida’s Coast this year, it was excerpted from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report completed in December 1947. The report on a study directed by the Service’s chief shellfish biologist, Dr. Paul S. Galtsoff, outlined the circumstances associated with a particularly severe red tide that began in November 1946 and persisted for 11 months causing massive fish kills and widespread respiratory irritation for beachgoers. The report also took great pains to debunk a commonly held theory at the time that the red tide was caused by munitions dumped into coastal waters at the end of World War II.
While our understanding of red tides has advanced tremendously since 1946, challenges with predicting the formation, severity and duration of the blooms remain. The red tide organism, first identified definitively in 1948 and now known by the scientific name Karenia brevis after the accomplished state of Florida scientist (and former Institute Director) Dr. Karen Steidinger, can produce a dozen or more types of toxins. Cutting edge work done by our colleagues from the USF College of Marine Science and Mote Marine Laboratory using satellite monitoring, oceanographic modelling and autonomous underwater gliders have bolstered the theory that red tides begin offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. This comports well with the observations of Dr. Galtsoff that the first indications of a red tide in 1946 were reported by fishermen who observed large fish kills 10-14 miles offshore in November of that year.
While the first scientifically documented red tide occurred in the Florida panhandle in 1844, they have undoubtedly been a feature of Florida’s coasts for centuries. In the 16th century Spanish conquistadors documented oral histories from the Calusa native culture that speak of widespread fish kills and discolored water. More recent observations indicate that some level of red tide occurs nearly every year off Southwest Florida. The specific combination of circumstances that cause red tide remains elusive to scientists but the emerging consensus is that a combination of east winds and southwesterly currents in the Gulf of Mexico create upwelling conditions that provide nutrients and bring red tide cells from the bottom to the surface. Once established, the red tide organism is tremendously versatile at using nutrients from a variety of sources, including those released by decaying fish killed by the bloom. There is increasing evidence that another marine algal species, known as Trichodesmium, which is adept at turning atmospheric nitrogen into a nutrient form that Karenia brevis can use, plays a significant role in the maintenance and growth of red tides. In turn, Trichodesmium can be nourished by iron which enters the Gulf of Mexico in dust storms from the Saharan desert which is approximately as large as the continental United States. Each year over one hundred million tons of Saharan dust is blown across the Atlantic Ocean in spring, summer and fall. In June of 2018, NASA satellites documented a massive cloud of dust from Africa moving westward across the Atlantic Ocean which was said to be largest observed in 15 years.
The offshore origin of red tides, and the likelihood that red tide blooms initiate hundreds of feet below the ocean surface, make it extremely difficult to detect red tide blooms in the early stages. However, during the current red tide the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the USF College of Marine Science have used data from autonomous gliders to target water sampling at depth which has confirmed the presence of the red tide organism. Much like meteorologists have done for hurricanes, this work and related modelling and monitoring activities will lead to more accurate forecasting for future red tides.
Many of our FWRI colleagues, especially those in the harmful algal bloom, fish health, fisheries, marine turtles and manatee groups, have been working exceptionally hard responding to this event. We have thrown everything we have at it. Weary but committed staff continue to work in labs, on beaches, in trucks, boats and planes collecting important information that will improve our understanding of red tides and prepare us for future blooms. I am extremely proud of the work they have done responding to this event – working long hours often in very difficult conditions. They have handled contentious interactions with the public and local governments with professionalism and courtesy. Most importantly, they have prioritized safety and the integrity of the data and information collected.
Red tide has been with us for centuries and will be with us in the future. The red tide organism is particularly adept at using any nutrients that may be available. In the current red tide we have documented highly concentrated blooms in many areas with little to no man-made nutrient pollution.
However, when red tides move inshore they can use nutrients that are more abundant in our estuaries, including those that may stem from agricultural, domestic, municipal or stormwater sources. These man-made nutrients do not cause red tides but may contribute to their persistence inshore. It is important to note that, even in the absence of a connection to red tide, there are numerous reasons to manage the input of excess nutrients into our coastal waters which can be detrimental to seagrass meadows and the fisheries they support.
The site and stench of millions of dead fish on our beaches is disturbing and disconcerting but it is an experience we share with Floridians of 1946, when the state’s population was about a tenth of what it is today, and the native cultures that occupied our region for thousands of years. Our world-class fisheries have evolved and adapted to red tides and have shown tremendous resilience after previous severe events. There are situations, such as residential canals and waters near aquaculture operations, where treatment and control of red tides may be feasible. This is an active area of testing led by scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute involving clays, ozone and other techniques.
While the factors influencing red tide formation and severity are complex and large scale, our science is at a tipping point aided by state of the art technology that will result in improved forecasting abilities to inform Floridians and visitors to our state. Red tide blooms will persist, but we have an awesome team and we will be ready.
Friends of South Walton Sea Turtles would like to thank the Seaside Neighborhood School for inviting our team back for the 5th Annual Seaside Neighborhood School Mentoring Program on Wednesday, October 17th. It was wonderful to work with our 25 5th grade students as they learned about the Sea Turtles that nest on our beaches and participated in the turtle obstacle course, digging a nest, and beach clean up. The students were all eager to learn and a pleasure to work with. We also want to thank our Volunteer Beach Ambassadors who assisted in the program. It was a great classroom experience and a fun morning on the beach. See you all next year! ... See MoreSee Less
Walton County, International Coastal Cleanup was a success and the numbers prove it. We had 163 adults and 219 students participate at 5 different locations across our beaches. The trash collected was amazing. The International Coastal Cleanup provided forms for us that accounted for 38 categories of debris. The following are the top 5 items found in Walton County and the total collected for each: Cigarette Butts 5,207 Micro Plastics 3,459 Plastic Bottle Caps 2,062 Straws/Stirrers 924 Food Wrappers 908 GREAT job Volunteers!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank TDC Director, Jay Tusa and the Director of Beach Operations, Brian Kellenberger for sponsoring this event by providing Puffer T-shirts for all of the volunteers and staff support to manage the trash collected. In addition, I want to thank all of our volunteers and students who came out and gave time on a busy Saturday to serve their county. It was a positive and productive event and your time was greatly appreciated.
Mark your calendars now for Saturday, September 21st, 2019 and we’ll do it all over again. In the meantime, let’s all practice #cleandarkflat. You can do your part to preserve our beaches by picking up and carrying trash to beach side receptacles for disposal, turning off lights not needed and closing window shades in your condo/home if it can be seen from the beach, and filling in your holes and flattening your sand art before leaving the beach for the day. This helps preserve and care for our Sea Turtles, Marine Life, and Shore Birds who call this environment their home.