Eco-teers: Garden for Wildlife Habitats

Ecoteer’s participated with the City of Sunrise today in a “Garden for Wildlife Habitats” workshop with the hopes of getting the general public to certify their neighborhoods as “wildlife friendly habitats”. This event was held at Flamingo Park and lasted from 10 AM to 12PM. Part of encouraging the public to understand and create a wildlife friendly garden required informing them on how to initiate and maintain such an environment. They were educated on the importance of native plants (coontie, milkweed, salvia, etc.), how to grow them, and where to properly purchase natives as opposed to their look-alike invasive counterparts. This presentation also included the growth cycle and instructions on how to care for each of the many species. Much of the invitees, including EcoTeers, were lucky enough to take home a plant or two to grow in their own gardens and reintroduce wildlife back to formerly populated areas. It was estimated that we had 30-45 attendees and over 15 committed to certifying their neighborhoods online. We have also learned that our heat zone for Broward County has moved from a 10B to now an 11 so that directly correlates with the types of species that will thrive in our environment. This information will be a lead into our following projects toward the end of May and Early June. I’m looking forward to sharing all of those details with you as we grow the number of projects we practice monthly.

Eco-teers: April Adventures and Future Endeavors

Greetings, fellow eco-enthusiasts! It’s time for a peek behind the scenes of our EcoTeers initiatives. As we navigate through April and into May, our calendar has been bustling with activity and anticipation. Here’s a snapshot of what’s been happening and what lies ahead:

Earth Day Reflections:

While Earth Day events were not on our immediate agenda due to a flurry of other eco-engagements, the spirit of environmental stewardship thrives within our EcoTeers community. Instead, we channeled our energy into a special project, collaborating with Dominique on her pollinator garden. It’s an extra endeavor that aligns perfectly with the ethos of Earth Day – nurturing our precious pollinators and celebrating the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Outreach and Recruitment:

April 6th marked an exciting opportunity for outreach as we manned a booth alongside Beth Jarvis. Our mission? To recruit passionate volunteers for upcoming events, including the Orchid and Bonsai Festivals. Engaging with high school and college environmental groups opened doors for future collaborations, amplifying the impact of our projects and fostering a sense of community among environmental advocates.

Climate Conversations and Eco-Art:

Looking ahead, mark your calendars for Saturday, April 27th! We’re thrilled to be part of a Climate Conversation Seminar at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center. With the generous support of the Community Foundation of Broward and other donors, this event promises to ignite meaningful discussions and inspire action. Plus, we’ll have the opportunity to delve into the world of eco-art, exploring creative avenues for environmental advocacy.

Upcoming EcoTeer Project:

May holds even more excitement in store! On May 11th, join us at Flamingo Park Hall for an EcoTeer project dedicated to creating a wildlife-friendly habitat. Together, we’ll learn and lend a hand in attracting and reintroducing local butterflies, insects, and birds. Don’t miss out – registration is required, so reach out to Ashley Vieira at [email protected]g for more information.

Expressing Gratitude:

Last but certainly not least, a heartfelt thank you to the Community Foundation of Broward. Your support fuels our endeavors and amplifies our impact within the community. Look out for a revised “Thank you” in your inbox soon – it’s our small way of expressing immense gratitude for your partnership in our mission.

As we bid farewell to April and embrace the opportunities that May brings, let’s continue to tread lightly on this beautiful planet we call home. Together, as EcoTeers, we have the power to enact change, one project, one conversation, one step at a time.

Until next time, let’s keep the green spirit alive and thriving!

Eco-teers: Environmental Stewardship

In the spirit of environmental awareness and community engagement, Flamingo Gardens recently hosted a series of events aimed at promoting water conservation and combating invasive plant species. Here’s a brief recap of the activities that took place:

March 9th – “Water Matters Month” Event at Tree Tops Park:

The Flamingo Gardens EcoTeers, alongside representatives from the Horticulture/Education department, set up separate booths at Tree Tops Park. The EcoTeers were on a mission to educate the public about water conservation while also recruiting volunteers for various outreach programs. It was a collaborative effort to spread awareness and inspire action towards preserving our precious water resources.

March 13th – Invasive Plant Removal with NSU:

Led by Professor Kevin Dibert, a group of 11 volunteers from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) joined forces with Flamingo Gardens to tackle the removal of “Wandering Dude” invasive plants along the tram trail and by the back lake. This hands-on approach to conservation not only helped in preserving the native ecosystem but also strengthened the bond between the community and nature.

March 22nd-24th – Rainwater Collection for a Cause:

In a proactive move to harness natural resources, two barrels were strategically placed within the gardens to collect rainwater during a thunderstorm. The collected water, totaling an impressive 35-40 gallons, will be repurposed and donated to Sue Chalmers, who leads a reconstruction project at Southgate Meadows. This initiative not only showcases Flamingo Gardens’ commitment to sustainability but also underscores the importance of resourcefulness in environmental stewardship.

If you would like to join the Eco-teers and help make an impact in our community against pollution and climate change, contact Ashley at [email protected] or call 954-473-2955 for more information. For more information about the Eco-teers go to:
https://flamingogardens.org/clubs-classes/eco-teers-club/

EcoAction at Central Broward Regional Park

Saturday February 24th 2023, EcoTeers participated in an EcoAction event day at one of our natural parks. Central Broward Regional Park held an invasives/waste removal from 9AM to 12PM. We were able to remove up to 100 pounds of Oyster Plant (Tradescantia Spathacea) also known for causing itching and irritating the skin of anyone who may touch the sap.

We also removed 150 pounds of plastic and other waste found at the park. Some objects to note (bottles, a bag full of dog toys stuck inside a bush, paper, straws, etc.). Volunteers were also educated on some of our native plants growing in the park such as our Smilax Vines and our Carolina Willow.

A total of 5 volunteers participated from Flamingo Gardens EcoTeers not including our Coordinator. As a whole 13 volunteers participated in making the park look safe and presentable for others walking through and for our wildlife. We look forward to participating in other EcoAction dates and to any prospective volunteers who wish to join.

For those looking forward to future events,

March is Water Matters Month in Broward County so we will be holding/.participating in events that align with water conservation purposes.

  • March 2nd will be a PUBLIC waterway cleanup, there will be a mass cleanup of our natural parks and waterways from 9AM to 12PM in honor of water matters month. We encourage all our EcoTeers to participate on their own if they are able. Anyone who wishes to participate in the public cleanup can find more information here: https://waterwaycleanup.org/
     
  • March 9th – Flamingo Gardens “EcoTeer” coordinator will be holding a booth for recruitment and education purposes at Tree Tops Park to celebrate “World Water Day” on March 22nd. Those who wish to apply as a volunteer or who have questions are welcome to visit. Our horticulture team will also be attendance at another booth during this event.
  • March 10th – EcoTeers will be hosting their very own waterway cleanup in honor of Broward County’s annual team cleanup. This event will be held at Dania Beach pier/marina from 9am-12pm. We’re looking forward to seeing our EcoTeers and any new faces who plan on attending. 

Eco-Teers: Southgate Meadow

Saturday January 27th from 3PM to 5PM EcoTeers participated in the Southgate Meadow reconstruction that has been going on for the last 2-3 years. We contributed by removing 3 plots of overrun weeds and invasive plants (such as Weedella and Richardia) in order for the meadow to be ready to plant new native species. We have seen incredible growth in some of the plants that were planted months ago and look forward to seeing how the newer ones develop over time as well. We had 3 volunteers participate in invasive removals and one other volunteer decided to stay late to do some identification work and log them into the app “INaturalist” that we use to keep track of all plant species we see develop in the area. We have also seen some improvement in bringing our wildlife back to this grassy area, there is now a family of burrowing owls nearby which are known to be a threatened species now as well as many different varieties of butterflies. February/March projects and events upcoming, stay tuned for more!

 

Flamingo Gardens Makes a Big Impact!

Flamingo Gardens made a big impact in 2023 with the most visitors and the most animals rescued in our 97-year history. The work of our Volunteers and the opening of our new Butterfly Conservatory helped expand our Environmental Conservation impact even more!

Environmental Education:

249,415 guests, almost a quarter million people, visited Flamingo Gardens in 2023. Of that total, 44,904 children and adult participants attended fieldtrips and other educational classes through our Education Department. 15,579 Title 1 school or special needs children received free or discounted educational programming through grant support. 5,979 Title 1 Pre-k or Kindergarten children received free educational classes at their schools and/or free fieldtrips to the Gardens through our On the Road program. 505 low income or special needs children and their family members received free entry and educational programming through 12 Community Access Days.

Wildlife Conservation:

Our Animal Care team cared for 1,605 rescued animals, representing over 90 species this year! This includes just over 300 permanently injured and/or non-releasable birds and animals that make Flamingo Gardens their permanent home now. 1,305 rescued birds and animals were brought to us for rehabilitation in 2023, and thus far over 350 of them have been released back to the wild.

Botanical Conservation:

341 plants were added to our collections in 2023, representing 198 species. This includes 147 orchids added and cared for by our Orchidteers volunteer group. Our Horticulture Department opened the new Butterfly Conservatory in March of 2023, and the Horticulture team, with assistance from Education staff and the Eco-teers volunteer group, raised and released 8,613 native butterflies into the Gardens.

Environmental Conservation:

487 volunteers donated over 26,000 hours of their time in 6,196 separate visits to help Flamingo Gardens provide environmental education to the public through their service, whether it be as a docent at the Wray Home Museum, greeting guests, helping at an event, or preparing meals for the animals. The Eco-teer volunteers helped to plant 1,030 trees to remove carbon from the air and 9,004 sea oats to protect our shores. They also removed 536 lbs. of trash from our beaches and waterways, and 443 lbs. of invasive plants from parks.

We couldn’t have done it without you! Flamingo Gardens appreciate all of you that donated time and money in support of our mission to preserve this beautiful property and educate the public about the South Florida environment. To see the full 2023 Annual Impact Report click below:

Eco-teers: Anne Kolb Nature Center Clean-Up

Saturday December 9th 2023, EcoTeers had a park cleanup event at Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood. We were tasked with removing palm fronds and other natural debris from a lakefront, butterfly garden, and park trail. The park Manager/ Naturalist gave us some history on the 1500-acre park and how/why the park was created in 1996. The park has a watch tower of 72 steps high that allows you to look out and read signage on our Florida natural history. For example, our Port Everglades Inlet, Intracoastal Waterway History, and Mangroves. We were able to see a somewhat rare Atala Butterfly that was brought back by the planting of Coontie plants. We also learned that they’ve been removing Australian pines in the area in order to help prevent those local shorelines. In our time there, we were able to collect two large industrial waste bins and four smaller receptacles of natural debris and other materials. Additionally, EcoTeers collected any plastic found about the gardens in order to stand behind our fight for proper recycling. The estimated total of natural plant matter removed is totaled to be around 300-400 pounds in (4 cubic yards). We filled one large gallon sized bag with plastic and other waste matter to be recycled as they were found scattered throughout the nature center (estimated to be around 5-10 pounds of waste). This project carried on from 9AM to 12PM with the assistance of two park managers and naturalists.

Eco-teers: Everglades Holiday Park Scientific Survey

November 10th, 2023 - Everglades Holiday Park

Eco-Teers had the opportunity to shadow a Park Naturalist to learn how scientists/ecologists use information to gain insight about a specific area. We learned about the different foliage and wildlife found at their organization such as Beauty Berry (Callicarpa) and how the leaves can also be used as insect repellant. We conducted a test using samples from two bodies of water and compared our results.

We took measurements on overall air temperature, water temperature, water depth and date/time of day. Eco-Teers took a more in depth look at scientific measurements such as pH, Turbidity, Nitrate, Phosphate, and dissolved Oxygen. We found that this was important to note as it gives an overall idea of how the activity in the area affects the water we use. Though our results from A and B samples were not far off they did tell us there was a difference immensely affecting our wildlife. Sample A and B differed in that A had a score of “4” in the dissolved oxygen category and sample B had a score of “2”. This may seem hollow as those are just numerical measurements but dissolved oxygen is required for aquatic animals to live. The scale in which we measure dissolved oxygen shows us that “3ppm” or lower are extremely stressful environments for our aquatic organisms to live. Anything below 2 or 1 will not support aquatic life. Levels 5 to 6 are typically required for the growth and development of these organisms.

This was further proven when we took samples of aquatic organisms out of these bodies of water and into bins filled with the same kind of water. Our pollution tolerance index came out to a score of 8 which is said to be “fair” though it’s not good or recommended for aquatic life to thrive. Most of what was found were dobsonflies and damselflies along with their larvae, though we found a few snails and glass shrimp. We also found much different organisms in Sample A’s body of water such as Pleco fish.

Overall, the census that we came to is that sample A had better water quality than sample B though it wasn’t too far in location or difference in quality.

If you would like to join the Eco-teers and help make an impact in our community against pollution and climate change, contact Ashley at [email protected] or call 954-473-2955 for more information.

EPIC Water Management

You may have noticed a lot of digging going on at Flamingo Gardens lately. That is because we have EPIC improvements underway! As part of our Master Plan adopted in 2020, and our Be EPIC (Everglades Preservation Involves Change) program, Flamingo Gardens is creating additional water retention areas to help control flooding while simultaneously beautifying the Gardens.

The Everglades and Florida are facing significant water management challenges due to growing populations and increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns coupled with rising sea levels leading to saltwater intrusion. Record-breaking floods in recent years bear witness to growing climate change-induced disruptions in the water cycle. This makes both better water management and climate adaptation planning key aspects for the Flamingo Gardens Master Plan.

Figure 1. 2019 Master planning session at Flamingo Gardens.

We must also help protect the Everglades by minimizing water runoff into the canal system. Flamingo Gardens already minimizes the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to help reduce chemical runoff into the Everglades, but retaining water on the property helps reduce extreme fluctuation and stress on the waterways of the Everglades as well. Plus, the additional bodies of water are opportunities to beautify the Gardens while providing new environments for plants and wildlife.

Figure 2. Stormwater drainage diagram.

The Master Plan calls for a series of Stormwater Gardens with native plants which will help retain runoff from the parking lots, Tram Trail, sidewalks, and other paved areas. These Stormwater Gardens are designed to be dry much of the year but will hold water during the rainy season and times of flooding to minimize overflow of the Flamingo Pond and Rookery and reduce runoff into the canal system. The native plants will filter the water as it slowly absorbs into the soil below.

Figure 3. Master Plan Water Management Plan

A long, narrow lake will be created in the middle of the Tram Trail area that will help mitigate the annual flooding of the wetlands in the far eastern end of the property. The lake will be the centerpiece of a new Palmetum, an arboretum of palm tree species from around the world. The Palmetum surrounding the lake will be raised, like the cactus and cycad gardens with a sidewalk allowing continuous access from the bear and otter habitats to the Butterfly Conservatory and back. This lake will also provide natural habitat for Everglades birds and wildlife.

Figure 4. Stormwater Garden example.
Currently we are trenching the Rookery to allow it to retain more water. This will be followed by beautification of the area with new native landscaping, new railings, fencing, and signage. Stormwater Gardens will be installed behind the Learning Center, Panther Habitat, and beside the Flamingo Pond to retain flood waters during rainy season.
Figure 5. Palmetum at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden.

Back by the Butterfly Conservatory, we have commenced digging Phase 1 of a new lake and Palmetum to help control flooding around the cactus and cycad gardens. The dirt being dug for the lake will be used to create the new raised beds for the Palmetum on both sides of the lake. The Cactus Garden sidewalk will be extended into the Africa section of the Palmetum which will highlight our collection of Baobab trees, and large African Oil Palms which will be transplanted onto the new raised beds. It will take several years (and hundreds of thousands of dollars) to complete the lake, Palmetum, and the entire water management plan, a necessity to mitigate flooding in the coming years. The project will help protect the amazing collection of plants from flooding and create new habitats for Everglades birds and wildlife at the same time!

EcoTeers’ Environmental Adventures: Restoring Florida’s Ecosystems!

This October, EcoTeers embarked on a series of exciting and impactful projects aimed at restoring and preserving Florida’s natural beauty. From propagating mangroves to clearing invasive species, EcoTeers joined hands with local organizations to make a real difference in our environment. Let’s dive into the details of these remarkable initiatives.

October 7th – The MANGrove Project

On a bright morning, EcoTeers teamed up with MANG and VOLO for a special project dedicated to the restoration of Florida’s coastlines. The day began at 9 AM and continued until 1 PM, bringing together individuals with a shared passion for the environment. The team drove to MANG’s headquarters in West Palm Beach to learn about the crucial role that mangroves play in protecting our coastlines.

Mangroves, with their unique characteristics and ecological importance, were the center of attention. Participants were educated about the different types of mangroves, such as black, red, and white mangroves, and where they tend to grow along coastlines. This knowledge is vital for understanding the intricate web of life that these ecosystems support.

EcoTeers also worked alongside FXB, sharing their enthusiasm for environmental conservation with the younger generation. This experience was a great opportunity to inspire and educate the next wave of eco-warriors.

The project took place in honor of “Florida Climate Week,” emphasizing the significance of mangroves in mitigating climate change and safeguarding our coasts. Over the course of the day, EcoTeers were actively involved in propagating 1400 mangroves, which were later transferred to a pool/nursery, ensuring their continued growth and eventual planting along the coast. The promise of updates on the progress of these mangroves is something to look forward to as the team continues their environmental journey.

 

October 14th – Snake Warrior Island Natural Area

On the 14th of October, EcoTeers teamed up with Broward County Parks for a mission that involved removing invasive species and preserving the natural beauty of Snake Warrior Island Natural Area. Starting at 9 AM and continuing until noon, this project was a testament to the commitment of the EcoTeers in safeguarding the local ecosystem.

The goal of the day was to clear the natural areas of any garbage and remove invasive plants. EcoTeers were armed with determination and gloves, and they spent three hours meticulously removing invasive plants by hand. The team also ensured that the fencing surrounding the natural park was secure, providing protection to the area.

The results of their efforts were impressive. A total of three large garbage bags, weighing up to 75 pounds, were filled with invasive vines, weeds, and other unwanted plants. The removal of these invasive species helps restore the balance in the ecosystem, ensuring native plants and animals can thrive.

As an additional bonus, EcoTeers had the opportunity to explore the park’s trail, enhancing their knowledge of its natural history and observing the local wildlife. The sightings included snakes and aquatic birds, further connecting the team with the environment they were working to protect.

EcoTeers’ October initiatives exemplify the power of collaboration and dedication in the quest to preserve Florida’s precious ecosystems. Through partnerships with organizations like MANG, VOLO, and Broward County Parks, EcoTeers demonstrated their commitment to environmental conservation. Their work in propagating mangroves and removing invasive species is an investment in a greener and healthier future for Florida’s coastlines and natural areas. As EcoTeers continue their efforts, they serve as an inspiration to us all, reminding us of the importance of protecting the environment we cherish.