Watershed Alliance and Lowry Park Partner to Boost Frog Listening Network
Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey
The call of the Southern toad is a distinct musical trill.
The Hillsborough River Watershed Alliance and the Lowry Park Zoo have established an agreement to partner on Frog Listening Network activities and watershed outreach. The agreement gives the network a physical home at the zoo and additional education and research opportunities for both partners.
Using frogs as biological indicators, the network collects data from citizen-scientists to help track the health of the Hillsborough River and its tributaries. Frogs and toads are particularly appropriate as indicators in ecosystems like the river because their life cycle takes them from wetlands to uplands and they’re very susceptible to environmental change.
As part of the zoo, the network will conduct workshops to train additional “listeners” as well as expand opportunities for environmental education. For more information, visit www.lowryparkzoo.com.
Pavement Sealers Primary Source of PAHs
Coal tar-based pavement sealant is the largest source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in 40 urban lakes studied by the U.S. Geological Survey. PAHs are an environmental health concern because several are probable human carcinogens, they are toxic to fish and other aquatic life, and their concentrations have been increasing in urban lakes in recent decades. PAHs also are a “contaminant of concern” in McKay Bay.
Coal tar-based pavement sealant is the black, shiny substance sprayed or painted on many parking lots, driveways and playgrounds. USGS scientists collected sediment cores from 40 lakes, analyzed the cores for PAHs, and determined the contribution of PAHs from different sources. On average, coal tar-based sealcoat accounted for one-half of all PAHs in the lakes, while vehicle-related sources accounted for about one-quarter.
“These findings represent a significant advance in our understanding of the sources of these contaminants in streams and lakes,” said USGS scientist Peter Van Metre. “Identifying where contaminants are coming from is the first step in designing effective management strategies.”
Sealcoats can be made with either coal tar or asphalt emulsions and consumers can tell the difference by reading the label or asking the company hired to do the application. Coal tar products are more commonly used in the South than the West and PAH concentrations reflect that difference.
For more information, visit http://tx.usgs.gov/coring/allthingssealcoat.html.
Video Contest Aims at Students
As part of its 20th anniversary celebration, Tampa Bay Estuary Program is holding a student video PSA contest with a cash prize of $250. High school students in Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas county can enter their two-minute videos, either as an individual or in a team of three.
“The goal is to highlight Tampa Bay as an living ecosystem and to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy bay,” said Nanette O’Hara, public outreach coordinator.
Deadline for entry is April 1. Visit www.tbep.org for rules and online registration.
Seahorses Star in New Mote Show
Photo courtesy Mote Marine Aquarium
Lined seahorses are the stars of a new tour at Mote Marine Aquarium.
One of Tampa Bay’s most engaging creatures is staring in a new tour at Mote Marine Aquarium on Longboat Key. Seahorses (See Bay Soundings, Winter 2005) live in tropical waters around the world and are considered indicator species because they require stable ecosystems.
The new tour highlights the threats seahorses face in the wild along with an in-depth look at how Mote is breeding them for conservation. Tours are scheduled on most Thursdays and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Along with concerns about shrinking habitat, seahorses are harvested around the world for traditional medicines, the souvenir trade and for aquaria. More than 25 million seahorses are consumed annually, causing concern that wild populations are becoming depleted.
To reduce the pressure on these fascinating fish, Mote raises seahorses that are later displayed in more than 40 aquaria, zoos and science institutions around the country.
“Not only is it important to raise seahorses, but educating people about them is also key,” said Seahorse Conservation Laboratory Supervisor Shawn Garner, who leads the tours and is among the country’s most accomplished seahorse aquarists. “Only when you learn about seahorses can you fully comprehend their beauty, their uniqueness in the animal world and why we need to protect them.”
To purchase tickets, call 941-388-4441, ext. 536, or e-mail email@example.com.
USF Building Prototype Solar Power System
A new solar power system being built on University of South Florida’s Tampa campus targets the top issues facing solar power – the initial cost of the system and the need to have power available even when the sun isn’t shining.
The goal is to achieve price parity with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. If the cost is the same, “obviously most people would prefer solar because it doesn’t have the same environmental impact,” notes Dr. Yogi Goswami, co-director of USF’s Clean Energy Research Center.
The new plant will employ innovative technologies including a thermal collection system with special pellets that absorb heat which can be extracted as necessary to run turbines that provide electricity 24 hours a day. The system also will use antennas so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye to concentrate heat from the sun.
Researchers are hopeful that the prototype will lead to production of solar systems that are five times less expensive than current solar facilities. For more information, visit http://usfweb3.usf.edu/absoluteNM/templates/?a=3044&z=123.
"Skip a Week" of Irrigation in Cold Weather
With aquifer levels across most of the region even lower than they were at the same time last year, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is asking residents to “Skip a Week” of watering through the cooler months.
Irrigating a landscape typically costs about half of the average homeowner’s total water bill, so the cost savings can be significant, adds Jack Tichenor, Manatee County extension agent. Shorter winter days cause lawns to become dormant, plus evaporation rates are lower when temperatures drop. “All this results in the ground holding moisture longer reducing the need for irrigation, yet many lawn sprinkling systems are still watering as often as allowed,” he said.
Besides wasting water, overwatering in winter can encourage pests and disease. Lawns only need about one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days during cool winter months. Skipping a week is an easy “off” for residents with irrigation timers. “Turn the timer to ‘off’ for the week that you want to skip, and ‘on’ for the week that you want to water,” said Sylvia Durell, Florida-Friendly Landscaping project manager for SWFWMD.
SWFWMD estimates that if everyone skipped one week of irrigation this season, it could save an estimated 1.7 billion gallons of water. For additional information about water conservation, visit web site at www.WaterMatters.org/skipaweek/.
Photo: Nancy Murrah, Tampa Audubon Society
Wilson's or Common Snipe at Circle B Bar Reserve
Tampa Audubon Sets Photo Contest
Photographs that depict the best of nature in Florida can be entered in the Tampa Audubon Society’s photo contest, "All About Nature.” Images in five categories – birds, native flowers, native animals, insects and spiders, and landscapes – can be submitted by Feb. 25.
Winners, who will be announced at Tampa Audubon’s March meeting, will receive digital photo frames along with custom bookmarks depicting their photos. For more information, visit www.tampaaudubon.org.