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.

Plastic Recycling: What Those Little Numbers Tell Us

I’m often asked how best to reduce one’s carbon footprint. My answer is to just start somewhere- pick a project you feel comfortable with and start there. Regardless of your effect on carbon emissions and climate change, anything you do to help the environment is good for the planet. My comfort spot is recycling, but navigating plastic recycling can be tricky!

My parents were always environmentally conscious (some might even call them hippies) so my childhood in the 1970s involved weekly chores of gardening, composting, and recycling. Many weekends I was sent to the basement to wash out cans and bottles, peel off the paper labels, and smash down the aluminum. When I left for college, I swore to my parents that I would move to the city and pave my entire yard; so, it’s ironic that I now work at a botanical garden promoting gardening, composting, and recycling, as my mother pointed out to me a bit too gleefully.

It was very natural for me to start recycling in my own home when curbside recycling became available, but recycling has changed since the ‘70s. These days curbside recycling is available in most urban and suburban neighborhoods, and we don’t have to peel off the labels from glass jars or smash the aluminum cans. But one of the biggest changes is the amount of plastic that we recycle -or rather the amount of plastic we don’t recycle.

To me, plastics are one of the most egregious threats to the planet. Plastics started to become mainstream in the 1970s. The plastic bag was first introduced to the grocery industry as an alternative to the paper bag in 1977. Some estimates put plastic production today at 9 times higher than in 1973. It is estimated that 380 MILLION TONS of plastic is produced every year now, and just 9% of it is recycled!

It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our waterways annually. And unlike some other kinds of waste, plastics don’t decompose, which means they stick around indefinitely, disrupting marine ecosystems and creating havoc for marine life. Little microbeads of plastic can end up in our food supply and our drinking water.

But all plastic is recyclable, and we just need to be better about recycling, right? Wrong! Technically, most plastic is recyclable, but much of it is very difficult to recycle. Most recycling plants don’t have the equipment or capacity to recycle much of the plastic in production these days. The best solution is to minimize your use of single-use plastics and to recycle the plastic you do use responsibly.

I try to minimize my use of single-use plastics and recycle my plastics responsibly, but it’s hard to know what plastic is accepted by local municipality recycling programs. Recycling programs vary widely from city to city so it’s best to consult your local municipality to be certain.

Here’s a little cheat I depend on. You know those little triangles with numbers on the bottom? Those triangles are symbols created for recycling that indicate the type of plastic used in the product. The number is a resin identification code that specifies the type of resin used as well as the safety of that resin. It also indicates how that product might be recycled.

In general, number 1 and 2 plastics are widely accepted by most recycling centers. These plastics are made of Polyethylene and include almost any lightweight bottle whose neck is smaller than its body, such as water bottles, soda bottles, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, detergent bottles, and most bottles used for food, health, cleaning, or beauty products. These are easily recycled and there is demand for the product, so you can be fairly certain that your local recycle program (if you have one) accepts them. Usually, you can even recycle the screw-on caps. Caps are a #5 plastic which most municipalities accept now but check with your municipality first to be sure. Wash them out thoroughly before recycling, and screw on the cap so it doesn’t get mistakenly left on the ground.

Number 3 plastics are made with polyvinyl resin commonly called PVC. They are usually rigid and not as easily recycled. These include PVC pipes, plastic sheets like shower curtains and raincoats, and many children’s toys. More and more recycling programs accept #3 plastic, but there are still many that do not. Check with your municipality as #3 plastic may need to go into your trash. Avoid these if possible.

Number 4 plastics are of low-density polyethylene and are usually soft and flexible. These include grocery bags, dry cleaning bags, plastic food wrap, and squeezable bottles like ketchup or syrup bottles. The plastic bags and films are rarely recyclable, but the squeezable bottles may be.

Number 5 plastics are made of polypropylene and are a flexible hard plastic like “clamshell” food containers, screw-on caps, butter tubs, and food cups like yogurt containers. More municipalities have started to recycle number 4 and 5 plastics (except for plastic bags and film) but many still do not. Check with your local municipality. If you don’t know for certain, put them in with your trash- or better yet avoid them if you can.

Numbers 6 plastics are made with polystyrene (Styrofoam) and are difficult to recycle. These include disposable cups and plates and meat trays and should usually be placed in the trash. Number 7 plastics include a broad range of acrylic, nylon, and other plastic resins difficult to recycle such as CDs, DVDs, sunglasses, and cellphone cases which should also be placed in the trash. Again, check with your municipality. Some recycling centers have started to take plastics 6 and 7, but very few take Styrofoam in any form whether plates, cups, or packing noodles. Avoid Styrofoam if possible.

In general, it is safe to assume that plastics 1 & 2 are recyclable in your municipality if you have recycling, while 3, 4, & 5 are probably accepted in your municipality (except for plastic bags and films), but check first. Plastics 6 and 7 are rarely recycled but check you curbside collection to be sure.

Remember to check with your municipality to see what they will recycle. I can’t stress this enough! Even while fact-checking this blog, I found conflicting information between reputable sites and even on my own municipality’s website! Municipalities vary greatly. Some municipalities accept plastics 1-7 except for plastic bags, plastic films, and Styrofoam of any kind. Other municipalities do not recycle at all but choose to convert trash into energy through incineration programs instead. Most municipalities fall somewhere in between.

Better yet, eliminate plastic use wherever possible so you are certain to keep it out of our landfills and waterways. If you can’t, here is a cheat sheet for you to print and save for easy reference.

As a final reminder, never place any of the following into your recyclable bins:

  • No plastic film or plastic bags of any kind (return to retailer where possible)
  • No Styrofoam (find a drop-off site at earth911.com)
  • No paper napkins, plates, cups, or tissues (these are probably compostable in the landfill)
  • No foods or liquids (compost instead)
  • No electronics (donate instead, schedule bulk pick up, or find a drop-off site at earth911.com)
  • No textiles, including clothes, bedding, rugs (donate them instead)
  • No hose, strings of lights, rope, hangers, or any objects that can tangle equipment
  • No tires, auto parts, or scrap metal (find a drop-off site at earth911.com)
  • No concrete, wood, or construction debris (schedule a bulk pick-up)
  • No yard waste or wood (compost or place in your yard waste container)
  • No non-recyclable plastic items without a recycling symbol

 

Keith Clark is the CEO of Flamingo Gardens. As a Baby Boomer he is inspired by the younger associates at Flamingo Gardens to make small changes in his own life to combat climate change and help the planet. Each month he blogs about the changes he’s making to reduce his own carbon footprint in an effort to inspire others.

Busy August for Eco-Teers: Promoting Sustainability and Protecting Beaches

As summer draws to a close, the dedicated members of the Eco-Teers have been busier than ever, working tirelessly to promote environmental awareness and take meaningful actions to preserve our natural world. From educational events to beach cleanups, August has been a month filled with impactful initiatives that highlight the organization’s commitment to sustainability.

Promoting Eco-Friendly Back to School with Flamingo Gardens

One of the highlights of August was the Eco-Teers’ involvement in the “back to school” event at Flamingo Gardens. Representing the organization, members took the opportunity to engage with visitors and spread the word about Eco-Teers’ mission. Ashley, our Eco-teer coordinator, accompanied by Beth Jarvis part of our Special Programs Department and Anita Sobaram our Education Manager, distributed informative pamphlets about the organization’s activities and the upcoming events at Flamingo Gardens. In an effort to captivate young minds and foster curiosity, Eco-Teers brought butterflies and a patch of fur from Josh the bear. The kids were encouraged to ask questions and interact with these tangible reminders of the natural world.

Taking Action: Beach Cleanup Collaboration

Eco-Teers demonstrated their commitment to the environment through their participation in a Beach Cleanup collaboration with MODS. On a Saturday, August 12th, morning the team gathered at Dania Beach at Dr. Von D. Mizell – Eula Johnson State Park, armed with determination and trash bags. From 8 AM to 12 PM, they meticulously combed the beach shore and surrounding pavilions, collecting an impressive 29.6 pounds of microplastics. Among the most common items were bottle caps and beer cans, which, if left unchecked, could wreak havoc on marine life and coastal vegetation.

The team’s efforts extended beyond mere cleanup. Their collaboration with MODS took an innovative turn, as they provided bottle caps to contribute to the museum’s plastics project. This project is a testament to the power of collective efforts and creative initiatives aimed at turning waste into valuable resources.

The Eco-Teers’ dedication shows no sign of slowing down. With plans for more events on the horizon, their commitment to environmental conservation remains unwavering. As the end of August approaches, another event is in the works. Furthermore, September promises to be just as eventful, with two initiatives scheduled despite a brief absence during the first week and a half of the month

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.

Official NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors™

We’re excited to share some fantastic news: Flamingo Gardens has taken a significant step towards enhancing community resilience and preparedness against extreme weather, water, and climate events. Flamingo Gardens has been accepted as a NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™, joining a network of organizations dedicated to fostering a Weather-Ready Nation.

Flamingo Gardens’ was encouraged to apply after a recent visit to the NOAA facility in Miami, FL by our Eco-teers. The NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™ initiative is an endeavor that recognizes and celebrates partners of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who are actively contributing to the nation’s readiness for unpredictable weather challenges. Flamingo Gardens’ commitment to this initiative reflects our dedication to strengthening the nation’s capacity to withstand and respond to extreme weather events.

As a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, Flamingo Gardens is aligning itself with NOAA and other esteemed Ambassadors, forming a united front against the growing threats posed by extreme weather phenomena. This collaboration underscores the importance of preparedness, proactive response, and resilience-building at both local and national levels.

The NOAA Weather-Ready Nation logo, which Flamingo Gardens is now authorized to display, symbolizes our role as a key player in this initiative. This emblem will grace our digital platforms and print materials, serving as a visible reminder of our commitment to fostering awareness, education, and cooperation in the realm of weather and climate readiness.

Flamingo Gardens’ participation in the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™ initiative signifies more than just a title—it’s a pledge to contribute to the betterment of our communities. By incorporating the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation logo on our website and materials, Flamingo Gardens is not only demonstrating our partnership with NOAA but also providing a link to valuable resources available through the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation website. This creates an avenue for visitors to access information that can aid in their own preparedness efforts.


What’’s on the horizon? Flamingo Gardens will collaborate with a designated NOAA point of contact, who will offer insights, answer questions, and explore potential a variety of opportunities. This partnership is a two-way street, with both sides benefiting from the exchange of knowledge and expertise to further enhance our collective ability to tackle extreme weather challenges.

To learn more about the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™ initiative, and to explore the valuable resources available, please visit the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation website at http ://www.weather.gov/wrn/.

Eco-teers – National Weather Service Visit

On Saturday July 29th our Eco-Teers toured the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA) Miami hurricane center, also known as the National Weather Service (NWS). Eco-Teers were lucky enough to get a comprehensive tour into their facility and speeches from the majority of their staff detailing their daily responsibilities and how that affects us as civilians. Robert Molleda (Warning Coordination Meteorologist) spent the full two hours walking us through each department and ended each department with a Q&A. We were able to see their news/media room where they give full weather reports during times of crisis, we were escorted through the main weather prediction center where the employees detailed how they perform multiple operations and procedures during hurricane seasons and throughout the year.

We also got information from the coastal marine forecast department on how they track ships coming in and out of ports during fluctuating weather events and how that affects our commerce, (i.e. cargo, cruises, etc). We were able to speak to a few employees that enlightened us to different ways they have experienced tracking hurricanes outside of the everyday office-work. Two specific employees shared their experiences in flying into the eye of a hurricane in order to gather information on those storms and send it back to their respective organizations with NOAA and the U.S. Military. We were able to see some of the equipment that’s used for hurricane tracking for example; hydrogen balloons being sent into the hurricane and any information picked up being sent back via radio and then transmitted to a PC.

Additionally, Melissa Auld, our Director of Operational Systems and IT, and I were told about an opportunity to become Weather Ready Nation ambassadors (WRNA) which is useful for the everyday procedures taken at Flamingo Gardens to keep guests and employees safe. It’s also valuable for me to have for the purposes of outreach projects and educating the public. We are excited to participate in this opportunity.

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.