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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Withlacoochee River, Citrus County, Inverness, Florida, USA

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Withlacoochee River, Citrus County, Inverness, Florida, USA
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Registered: December 2012
City/Town/Province: Floral City
Posts: 1
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The scouting program teaches valuable character traits and offers many incredible opportunities. My journey to Eagle scout began a path of conservation that continues to this day. This month I completed my fifth leadership service project. Each one focused in a different category of environmental concern. My first project involved building a roost for 6,500 native colony bats and their young at Fort Cooper State Park in Inverness, Florida. Bats are important for maintaining balance of the ecosystems in which they live. A single bat will consume six times their body weight in insects every night providing outlying neighborhoods with a safe method of mosquito control.
At times a bat colony might establish a roost where people do not want them and they have to be eradicated. Other times a roost can be destroyed by natural causes, such as a cave collapse from abundant rainfall. Bat condos are important because when a roost is destroyed, an entire colony of bats can be wiped out; this then has the potential to cause a loss of species. A bat condo provides a safe home away from predators, dedicated to protecting threatened bat species.
My project provides opportunity to increase park attendance as well as benefits the community through an educational kiosk I created discussing the importance of bat conservation. This kiosk was displayed for Earth Day 2011 at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, and also used for interpretive discussions at Fort Cooper State Park.
I created an informative video about my project: and an article about my project appeared in our local paper:
Boys’ Life magazine featured me as a BL Headliner for winning the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) 2011 Earth Day Project of the year in March 2012. I also won the 2012 Gulf Ridge Council Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.
This project taught me, members of my troop, my classmates, and numerous others what it means to set a goal, work hard toward its completion, and leave a legacy. It required 836 hours of effort from thirty-three volunteers. The total cost of the project, which I raised in full, was $5,565.
My second and third projects were tied together. In order to keep fishing line from polluting our local lakes and coastal areas, I chose to establish 14 collection bins for ongoing recycling efforts in my tri-county area. Recycled line is used in other plastic products such as bins and spools. Monofilament is single-strand, high density, nylon fishing line that is used on fishing reels and in the manufacturing of fishing nets. Most is non-biodegradable and lasts hundreds of years.
Fisherman throwing their line on the ground or in the water rather than disposing it properly presents hazards of entanglement and ingestion for shore and sea animals, causing injury and even death. One example is a dead, sea turtle found with 560 feet of monofilament line in its gut.
Recycling bins make it easier on people who pick up trash in an effort to keep the environment clean. They also keep line out of the landfill. Birds and other animals scavenge the landfill for nesting material and food, bringing it and its hazards back into the environment.
During the course of this project I raised support, and led a collection bin assembly. Individuals were found for each collection site that agreed to volunteer to monitor bins and empty them as needed, and a new indoor collection facility was established in east Citrus County. A map was created of the tri-county area making it easier for people to locate both indoor and outdoor collection bins and given to the state program coordinator.
After forty days, I led the first collection. Together with friends and family, this first collection yielded 1,417 yards of monofilament line or roughly 8/10th of a mile of line. I’ll be leading a second collection over Christmas break, tallying the 2012 gross and sending this year’s collected line in for resource recovery.
The collection from the outdoor bins I established amounts to over 10 miles of line per year. This benefits the environment in that the line is kept out of the waters, out of the landfills, away from animals, and recycled for another use.
I have given two formal presentations in an attempt to educate the public in my local area and I addressed 4,000+ at the NSHSS annual scholar’s day event. Individuals nationwide have heard about the importance of this program through my efforts. The most rewarding was notification that the Michigan DNR is looking into starting a program like mine.
This project earned me the title of Two-time Winner of NSHSS Earth Day Challenge in 2012.
My fourth and fifth projects focused on testing a new herbicide product to target invasive skunk vine and restore native vegetation in Florida. The results of my work provide valuable information documenting the effects of this specialty herbicide on wildland plants with implications for future forest and range management in the southeastern United States and in Hawaii.
Resource managers are often tasked with maintaining or restoring specific areas of land to pre-cultural vegetative communities. Removal of exotic invasive plants can be key to the success of restoration efforts as these exotics can often out-compete native plants. Managers must decide how to weed out these invasive plants while not impacting the native flora. Herbicides are often used to accomplish this goal.
The safety of herbicide use is sometimes questioned. People are concerned about unknown health risks to humans, pets, animals raised for agricultural use, or what might happen if a product leeches into an aquatic system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency understands these concerns and requires extensive testing to determine a product safe enough for use. The E.P.A. has developed a program for reduced risk herbicides that demonstrate lower risk to humans and the environment. The herbicide I used, Milestone™, qualified for this program based on its relative safety (Dow AgroSciences 2012). The Material Safety Data Sheet and the Milestone™ label describe the relative toxicity to humans and animals as well as safe handling procedures.
When utilizing a herbicide it is just as important to know which plants the product will not harm as to know which plants it will effectively control. This is especially true in restoration projects in natural areas. Skunk vine was brought to the Brooksville, FL area from Asia prior to 1897 as a potential fiber crop and is now found in many areas of the southeastern United States. Large areas of forest are currently infested with this species. It is found creeping across the ground, covering small shrubs and climbing the bases of large trees to effectively cover the forest canopy, and rob native vegetation of sunlight and rain.
I evaluated Milestone™ product effectiveness in field applications on seven species of invasive plants within Fort Cooper State Park and worked to irradicate skunk vine from the park. I sought out areas of skunk vine infestation especially where it was intermingling with other invasive species. As a result I found that the product is not only highly effective on skunk vine, but also on other invasive plants.
One plot had five invasive species growing throughout it. This plot consisted mostly of air potato. Like skunk vine, it too covers large areas of ground and grows straight up into the tree canopy. Air potato showed tremendous effect from the Milestone™ herbicide treatment. The herbicide did not stop at only the area of vine sprayed within the plot, but actually ran up through the vines into the tree canopy. This is valuable information because in the past other herbicide treatments required the applicator to lop off vines at the level in which they could not safely spray, usually around chest height, causing the job to irradicate this species to be extremely labor intensive. I would suggest to a land manager fighting this invasive species to return as I did to the treated area after forty days to collect any fruit specimens to help keep new plants from sprouting come spring.
I was pleased to find that Milestone™ herbicide was effective on four other invasive species. Four-o-clock, Lantana and young camphor trees were effectively controlled, as well as the Chinaberry tree.
In all I tested Milestone™ herbicide on 75 plant species only three of which are listed on the product label. Thirty-seven species were susceptible to the herbicide, 17 species experienced temporary control, and 21 species showed no effect at all. Aside from eliminating several of these invasive plants from Fort Cooper State Park, the results of my work serve to educate and help land managers plan future restoration projects. Through my communications with DowAgroSciences, South West Florida Water Management District, and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences my results are slated for 2013 publication in the South Eastern Pest Plant Council’s semiannual magazine, -Wildland Weeds.
Date: December 12, 2012 Views: 6667 File size: 19.4kb, 2783.0kb : 2736 x 3648
Hours Volunteered: 1325
Volunteers: 54
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 6 to 81
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