GTMNERR - A Species-Rich Conference Field Trip You Won't Want to Miss

By Laurie Sheldon

The Ixia Chapter has taken several field trips to GTMNERR over the past few years. Why do we keep going back? Because it rocks! The Reserve is literally brimming with native flora and fauna (both resident and migratory, like our conference attendees) - the species list at the end of this blog is a testament to that. In short, GTMNERR is not a "been there, done that" kind of place.

What's in a Name?
GTMNERR is sort of a binomial acronym, in the most non-botanical way, though. The first part, GTM is a tribute to the three rivers that make up the site's estuary (Guana, Tolomato, and Matanzas). The Guana River was named by the Spanish explorers, the Tolomato after an Indian village in Darien Georgia, and Matanzas - also named by the Spanish - translates as massacre. The "massacre" it refers to took place near the river's inlet, where the Spanish forces executed several hundred shipwrecked Huguenots from Fort Caroline (a French colony located near the mouth of the St. Johns River).

The second part, NERR, refers to the site's designation by NOAA and the State of Florida as a National Estuarine Research Reserve. As a Research Reserve, GTMNERR is responsible for promoting coastal research, stewardship and environmental education programs. There are only 28 sites in the NERR System. GTMNERR is dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and cultural resources. Extending over 73,000 acres of land, it contains thirteen management areas, handled cooperatively by seven different agencies.

The Environmental Education Center makes learning fun
What's in it for you?
The field trip will begin at GTMNERR's 21,000 square foot Environmental Education Center, which opened in 2005. It contains unique exhibits detailing Florida's natural history, hands-on displays, aquariums, videos, and a Nature Store that's definitely worth checking out. Emily Montgomery (your field trip leader, member of the Sea Oats chapter and GTMNERR employee) will take you on a hike. The Reserve contains a wide variety of habitat types, including saltmarsh and mangrove estuaries, freshwater marsh, maritime hammock, coastal scrub, and pine flatwoods. Conference field trippers will wind through the last three of these on the site's extensive network of nature trails.

If you like well marked trails, informational resources, picturesque views,
and plenty of places to sit and take in the scene, you'll definitely enjoy this field trip

Post-hike opportunities
After the field trip, there will still be plenty of on-site exploring for interested attendees. Those seeking a place to unwind can take off their shoes and stroll along the site's pristine beaches - the coastal waters there are important calving grounds for the endangered Northern right whale.

Drives like this one make me wish I had a  convertible
Hike leave you feeling like a wilderness man/woman? Try catching your own dinner at the Guana River Dam, where the crabbing is good, redfish are jumping, and anglers are welcome until 11 pm.

Historic St. Augustine, just 13 miles south of GTMNERR, is another great option. The trip is worth taking for the drive alone, which runs on A1A's scenic and historic coastal byway, and presents lush vistas of the ocean and dunes.

What's my point?
Those who sign up for this field trip will not be disappointed. Period. End of story. What are you waiting for?

Note: this blog is about Sunday field trip S to GTMNERR. There is a day-long field trip on Thursday that includes the aforementioned AND a kayaking trip on the Guana River salt marshes... if kayaking "floats your boat," so to speak, check out field trip C.
The following flora and fauna lists represent a small portion of the species seen on site by our chapter members:
Sargassaceae (Sargassum Family): Sargassum fluitans (floating sargassum weed)
Sea oats foredune
Cirsium horridulum

Apiaceae (Carrot Family): Hydrocotyle bonariensis (pennyworts)
Arecaceae (Palm Family): Sabal palmetto (cabbage palm), Serenoa repens (saw palmetto)
Asteraceae (Aster Family): Cirsium horridulum (purple thistle), Gaillardia pulchella (blanket flower), Helianthus debilis (dune sunflower), Iva imbricata (beach elder), Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family): Opuntia stricta (erect pricklypear), Opuntia pusilla (cockspur pricklypear)
Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family): Atriplex pentandra (crested saltbush), Salsola kali (Russian thistle)
Commelinaceae (Spiderwort Family): Commelina erecta (whitemouth dayflower), Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio spiderwort)
Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family): Ipomoea pes-caprae (railroad vine), Ipomea imperati (beach morning glory)
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family): Camaesyce polygonifolia (seaside sandmat), Cnidoscolus stimulosus (tread-softly), Croton punctatus (beach tea), Croton glandulosus (vente comigo), Poinsettia cyathophora (painted leaf)
Fabaceae (Bean Family): Chamaecrista nictitans (wild sensitive plant), Erythrina herbacea (coralbean)
Lamiaceae (Mint Family): Monarda punctata (horsemint)
Poaceae (Grass Family): Spartina patens (saltmeadow cordgrass), Sporobolus virginicus (Virginia dropseed), Uniola paniculata (sea oats)
Polemoniaceae (Phlox Family): Ipomopsis rubra (standing cypress)
Oak forest backdune
Lyonia ferruginea

Anacardiaceae (Cashew Family): Rhus copallinum (winged sumac)
Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family): Ilex vomitoria (yaupon holly)
Arecaceae (Palm Family): Serenoa repens (saw palmetto)
Asteraceae (Aster Family): Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel tree, salt bush)
Cactaceae (Cactus Family): Opuntia pusilla (cockspur pricklypear)
Convolvulaceae (Morning Glory Family): Ipomea cairica (mile-a-minute vine)
Ericaceae (Heath Family): Lyonia ferruginea (rusty lyonia), Vaccinium arboreum (sparkleberry)
Fabaceae (Bean Family): Galactia elliottii (Elliott’s milk pea)
Fagaceae (Beech Family): Quercus virginiana (live oak)
Lauraceae (Avocado Family): Persea borbonia (red bay)
Magnoliaceae (Magnolia Family): Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia)
Myricaceae (Bayberry Family): Myrica cerifera (wax myrtle)
Onagraceae (Evening Family): Gaura angustifolia (southern beeblossom)
Passifloraceae (Passionflower Family): Passiflora incarnata (purple passionflower)
Sapotaceae (Sapodilla Family): Sideroxylon tenax (tough buckthorn)
Smilaceae (Greenbriar Family): Smilax auriculata (greenbriar)
Vitaceae (Grape Family): Vitis aestivalis (summer grape), Vitis rotundifolia (muscadine)
(seen on beach, dunes, and over Guana Impoundment)
Swallow-tailed Kite

Anhinga, Barn Swallow, Black-bellied Plover, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Brown Pelican, Carolina Wren, Caspian Tern, Chimney Swift, Common Yellowthroat, Fish Crow, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Osprey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Roseate Spoonbill, Royal Tern, Sanderling, Sandwich Tern, Swallow-tailed Kite, Turkey Vulture, Willet, Wood Stork, Yellow Warbler
loggerhead turtle nests
six-lined racerunner
    clearnose skate egg case (mermaid’s purse)
    Spiders: black-and-yellow garden spider, golden silk spider, Pregal jumping spider
    Bees: American bumble bee
    Butterflies: cloudless sulphur, eastern black swallowtail, gulf fritillary, palamedes swallowtail, zebra longwing
    Pen shell

    Marine Invertebrates/shells
    Gastropods: lettered olive, lightening whelk, tinted canthari
    Bivalves: angelwings, Atlantic giant cockle, donax clam, eastern oyster, minor jackknife clam, pen shell
    Crustaceans: Atlantic mole crab shell, ghost crab, spider crab
    Echinoderms: margined seastar
    Annelids: tube worm (dead tube only), worm reef particle (dead)


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