F.N.P.S. 2014 Conference - Thursday Field Trips

Posted by Laurie Sheldon

The F.N.P.S. Annual Conference is less than a month away, and I'm sure that everyone is starting to get excited about the fabulous lineup of speakers. There's so much more to this event than listening to brilliant lecturers and attending the evening social events. In fact, some of the biggest draws to the Conference are the field trips! Scheduled the Thursday before the Conference begins and the Sunday after it ends, these excursions vary widely in length, difficulty, and setting and are an excellent resource for those hoping to familiarize themselves with regional flora and fauna. If you're having a hard time deciding which trip(s) you'd most enjoy, let the following blog be your guide. This year's Thursday field trips include…

Observation tower at CREW
Field Trip A:
CREW Marsh
Roger Hammer, noted author, and Deb Hanson, CREW Education Specialist, will lead you through CREW - the largest intact watershed in southwest Florida - which straddles Lee and Collier County. CREW’s majestic 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh is the headwaters for the entire watershed (which includes the National Audubon Society’s famous Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary).

Mound House Director Theresa Schober inspects
shell layers of a Calusa Indian mound
Field Trip B:
Mound House, Ft Myers Beach
Experience old Florida at Mound House where Estero Island's oldest standing structure sits on an ancient Calusa Indian Mound. Parke Lewis and Penny Jarrett will be your guides at this incredible site, where 2,000 years of island life are revealed through archaeology and history. The William H. Case House, also on the property, is currently being restored to its 1921 grandeur. 

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) at Six Mile Slough
Field Trip C:
Six Mile Cypress Slough
Mick Curtis and other park experts will take you through the Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced “slew”), which covers over 3,400 acres of wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, and measures approximately 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. This linear ecosystem is home to a diverse population of plants and animals, including a few considered to be endangered. A natural drainage-way, the Slough collects runoff water from a 33-square-mile watershed area during periods of heavy or prolonged rainfall. During the wet season (June through October), a depth of 2 to 3 feet of water transforms the Slough into a wide, shallow stream which empties into the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.

HCMP - Gorgeous!
Field Trip D:
Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park
At the Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park (HCMP), a mosaic of pine flatwoods, hydric hammocks, cypress swamps, freshwater marshes, temperate hardwood hammocks, riparian wetlands, inland ponds, mixed wetland forests, xeric oak, and scrubby pine flatwoods awaits you, with Annisa Karim, Senior Supervisor, Lee County Parks and Recreation, and noted author Walter Kingsley Taylor as your guides. HCMP encompasses 862 acres and is co-managed by the Lee County Department of Parks and Recreation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Park contains both human altered and natural land forms. Hickey’s Creek, a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River, meanders through the site and provides it with both permanent aquatic habitat and scenic beauty. The area has been identified by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, Lee County, and the FWC as a “riverine corridor” on wildlife habitat protection planning maps. Listed species it offers refuge for include the Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corals couperi), and gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). See this blog for more about what you may discover on this trip.

Field Trip E:
Canoe trip with Native Species
Dr. Douglass, Dr. Bovard and Dana Moller will lead you as you explore the estuarine ecology of Southwest Florida’s mangrove forests and seagrasses by snorkeling* and canoeing Fish Trap Bay. Your journey will begin at Vester Field Station, just 12 miles from the Florida Gulf Coast University campus. Located on Little Hickory Island, where the Imperial River empties into Estero Bay, the property was once a commercial fish house, then an old Florida-style resort. Today, the space holds the Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station where researchers, students and other organizations come to learn from extremely diverse and interconnected coastal plant species and animals.
*Snorkeling equipment not provided

Mangroves & signage at Matanzas Pass
Field Trip F:
Barrier Island Tour
Dr. Tonya Clayton, noted author of How to Read a Gulf Coast Beach, Terry Cain, Lee County Land Steward, and Jim Rodwell, Master Naturalist, will lead you on a tour of Matanzas Pass Preserve and Lovers Key Beach (a.k.a. Carl E. Johnson State Park). The first part of the trip will take place at the Preserve, where you will pass through a classic maritime forest, into a mangrove swamp, out to Estero Bay, then return to your starting point through black and white mangrove swamps. This will give you the opportunity to see what the bay sides of the tropical gulf coast barrier islands were like prior to development. You will also learn about the importance of barrier islands and their different ecosystems.

Part two of the trip will be located at Lovers Key Park, which contains two of Florida’s younger islands. There you’ll see specialized plants adapted to life at the ocean’s edge and consider how these unique plants shape the landscape. You’ll discover how barrier islands and beaches formed and evolved, study features such as sand dunes and overwash terraces, and discuss issues including coastal change and conservation, ecological succession and restoration.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a haven for
birders and native plant enthusiasts alike.
Field Trip G:
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Maureen Bonness, Botanist and Corkscrew Swamp Volunteer and Sally Stein, Director of Public Programs for Corkscrew Swamp will lead you through this fabulous Sanctuary, a 13,000 acre preserve in northern Collier County that is owned and managed by the National Audubon Society and contains the largest stand of old growth bald cypress forest left in the world. It is a designated National Natural Landmark, an Important Bird Area, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, and the gateway to the South Florida Birding Trail. On this field trip you will hike into the heart of the ancient forest and learn about this rare habitat, its ancient trees, and some of the other plants and wildlife that depend on this ecosystem. You’ll begin in upland pine flatwoods and follow a fire-break road “downhill” into the cypress where the trail becomes an infrequently traveled narrow foot path amongst wide-bodied centuries-old cypress.

Field Trip H:
Royal Palm Hammock
Dr. George Wilder, Botanist and Herbarium Curator at the Naples Botanical Garden and his assistant will guide you through Royal Palm Hammock, which is situated within Collier-Seminole State Park – one of the finest remaining natural areas of Collier County. One of the Hammock’s most notable features is its abundant native royal palm population. You will explore, in considerable botanical detail, the plant species inhabiting this hammock and associated mangrove vegetation. Emphasis will be placed on woody plants and on the morphological feature utilized for species identification.

Above: Randell Research Center trail
Below: Sunset view at the Tarpon Lodge
Field Trip I:
Little Pine, Research Ctr. & more
With Kevin Erwin, Kris Bowman, Dick Anderson of Mariner Properties, and Dick Workman as your guides and trusty drivers, this day-long field trip can’t be beat. Sit back and enjoy your coffee as you’re chauffeured to Little Pine Island Wetland Restoration and Mitigation Bank for a morning-long tour, including a two-mile hike through high marsh and salt flats. The property, managed by a public-private partnership between the State of Florida and Mariner Properties Development, Inc., of Fort Myers, is situated within the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve on the southwest coast of Florida. It represents over 4,700 acres of unique wetland ecosystem. Take a virtual tour of the site here.

Following a lunch break, you’ll be whisked away to Randell Research Center in Pineland, where you’ll tour the Calusa shell-midden native plants and introduced species associated with aboriginal mound upland habitats. Your return trip will include a stop for some “old world charm” - a cold glass of iced tea or lemonade (cocktails on your own) while taking in the panoramic waterfront views at the historic Tarpon Lodge (est’d 1926) on Pine Island Florida. Finally, you’ll be shuttled back to campus, exhausted from a long day, but diy with excitement about all you learned and saw.

Skyblue lupine (Lupinus diffusus) is one of the species
you may come across in scrubby flatwoods.
Field Trip J:
Rookery Bay/Conservancy Scrubby Flatwoods
Glen Stacell, co-author of A Guide to Native Wildflowers of Southwest Florida, and Dr. Jim Burch, Botanist at Big Cypress National Preserve and local expert will lead you on a two-hour exploration of a remnant scrub community left over from the Wisconsin Ice Age (when most of South Florida was an Oak Scrub Savanna). Although Florida’s endemic Scrub Jay no longer lives here, Florida Panthers  frequent the area due to a healthy deer population - exciting! Further, you will definitely see evidence of active Gopher Tortoise activity.

These trips fill up quickly! Register today to ensure that you make the most of your conference experience. Check back with our blog next week, when we'll give you the run-down of Sunday field trips.


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