Sustainable Coastal Living

2017 Earth Day Mail Art Competition

UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County invites you to celebrate Earth Day by getting in touch with your artistic side! Pick up your colored pencil, paintbrush, or scissors and get creative! The 2017 Earth Day Mail Art Competition is currently accepting submissions of original, handmade artwork from all ages in 3 categories- Love Tampa Bay, To Earth With Love, and Plastic Aware. Residents of Tampa Bay counties may submit one distinct creative piece per category. Age groups are broken down into youth (<12 years old), teens (13-18 years), and adult (18+). There will be 3 prizes awarded in each category.  For full contest rules and prize details click here.


#LoveTampaBay – Show us why you love Tampa Bay’s waters and wildlife
#ToEarthWithLove – Show us how you give back to the earth, whether it is through recycling, composting, conserving water, educating, etc.
#PlasticAware – Show us how plastics are impacting the environment and/or communities (people)

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Microplastics – What’s the big deal?

Plastics in toothpaste seen through a microscope. Source: Florida Sea Grant

We’re a month into 2017. Who made New Year’s resolutions? And, who is still keeping them? I typically don’t make resolutions, but this year I did. And, I’m still onboard. My resolution is to reduce my use of plastics. And not just plastic bags and bottles. I’m also ridding my life of the toothpaste with scrubbing bubbles (plastic) and my exfoliating soap (more plastic).

Our world is surrounded by plastic. Since the mid-twentieth century, plastic has been an integral part of our lives. However, plastic debris is a major concern due to its wide spread use and its persistence in the environment.

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Salty Topics: Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Project


Do you know that Tampa Bay’s coastal ecosystems soak up and store carbon in a process called Coastal Blue Carbon? If not, come join us and Dr. David Tomasko for our Salty Topics speaker series!

Coastal Blue Carbon is a new term for carbon captured by living coastal and marine organisms and stored in coastal ecosystems. Mangroves, sea grass beds and salt marshes take up atmospheric carbon and store it in their systems throughout their life cycle. Also, these plants trap fine muddy sediments in their roots structures building thousands of years. Tampa Bay is a unique ecosystem as it is one of the few places in the U.S. to have three critical coastal habitats – mangroves, salt marsh, and seagrasses. Dr. David Tomasko, Principal Associate ESA, will share the results of the Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Project that was jointly funded by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America’s Estuaries.

The presentation will include:
• Carbon storage and sequestration rates for Tampa Bay habitats
• Impacts of land use change, including sea-level rise and management actions, on carbon in the estuary
• How blue carbon ecosystem services can inform management decisions and provide additional incentives to support conservation and restoration and adaptive management

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2016 Mangrove Symposium offered in Charlotte County

DSC_2445The University of Florida/IFAS Extension Charlotte County and Florida Sea Grant are pleased to announce their upcoming program, a 2016 Mangrove Symposium, which will be held on February 23rd, 2016 at the Charlotte County Eastport Environmental Campus, 25550 Harborview Road, Port Charlotte, FL  33980 from 8:30am – 3:30pm.  Symposium speakers will discuss the role and value of mangroves; rules and laws that govern mangrove trimming; and mangrove pruning techniques.  The cost to attend is $20 with lunch included.  4.25 ISA and 4 FNGLA CEUs are being offered for professional mangrove trimmers who attend the symposium.  For more information including our full agenda and instructions for registering, please see our Symposium flyer here.

What YOU need to know about Sea Level Rise

Southwest Florida is experiencing sea level rise. However, if we inform ourselves with the science and plan collectively as a community, we will be more resilient to any potential impacts. After a careful review of scientific research and associated literature, the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, an ad-hoc group of local scientific experts, has drafted a “Recommended Projection of Sea Level Rise in the Tampa Bay Region“.  Come learn about the report, ask questions, and discuss next steps for our region at 7pm November 5th Salty Topics at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702.‪

Beach ErosionThe recommendation provides guidance on what sea level rise projections should be incorporated into local planning efforts. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) has voted unanimously to accept the  Recommendation for distribution to local governments. The TBRPC One Bay Resilient Communities Working Group will continue to facilitate the discussion of adaptation planning with planners, emergency managers and government leaders to identify practical and incremental solutions to address sea level rise.

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Are you Vibrio Aware?

DSCN0881Summer is here, which means in addition to higher temperatures, there’s a good chance you’ll hear reports of “flesh eating bacteria” in the news. While this phrase may be fear-provoking, some common sense and basic prevention steps can help minimize the likelihood of infection. The first step in this process is educating yourself about this potential culprit. “Flesh eating bacteria” or Vibrio vulnificus as it is better known to the scientific and health community, is a naturally occurring bacterium that is present in the warm marine and estuarine waters of southwest Florida. Vunificus, like other members of Vibrio family are called halophilic because they require salt. While the highest concentration of Vibrio in the U.S. occurs in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it has been found in lower concentrations in every coastal region of the United States including Alaska. It should also be noted that Vibrio can occur in the cleanest of waters and is not related to pollution levels.

Infection from V. vulnificus occurs in two primary ways. Roughly 50% of U.S. cases comes from the consumption of raw seafood, particularly oysters. (Oysters and other molluscan shellfish are filter feeders who actively filter the bacteria out of water and concentrate it in their tissues.) The other 50% of cases are the result of wounds exposed to saltwater. Ingestion of V. vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. While healthier people might experience milder symptoms, those at high risk can develop more life-threatening illnesses. The bacteria enters the bloodstream and can cause gastrointestinal illness, fever, chills, and decreased blood pressure or septic shock. Infected wounds can also develop blistering skin lesions and ulcers. If left untreated, infections can lead to the breakdown of skin tissue (hence the name “flesh eating bacteria”) and surgery and even amputation may be required for recovery.

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Salty Topics: Seahorses- searching for small, cryptic fish in a vast ocean world

seahorse.rlingSeahorses and pipefish (syngnathid fishes) inhabit shallow coastlines around the world, congregating in some of the most “at-risk” marine habitats on the planet – seagrasses, mangroves, and coral reefs.  Even in places where syngnathids are locally abundant their distribution is patchy, with highly variable group sizes on both small and large scales.

Join Dr. Heather Masonjones, of University of Tampa, at Salty Topics, Thursday April 2nd. Refreshments served at 6:30pm followed by the Salty Topics lecture at 7:00 p.m. at Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702. Register online at

The small body size, cryptic nature, and sparse distribution of seahorse and pipefish make studying their habitat use, ecology and natural mating systems difficult. The work demands creative innovations to track individuals, monitor populations, and develop predictive habitat models for effective conservation.  Our current understanding of the habitat use and population ecology of the dwarf seahorse in Tampa Bay will be discussed, linking key aspects of changing coastal environments to their demographic variability over time.  In addition, new work with a larger species of seahorse in the Bahamas will also be presented, to help illustrate how different environmental contexts can shape both the evolution of and risks to species on a broader geographic scale.

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New Publications from Florida Sea Grant

Seafood perceptions cover


New in print and online – take a look at the latest offerings from Florida Sea Grant including our new shark catch and release corner on our Catch and Release website, publications on fin fish aquaculture, seafood consumption perceptions and knowledge, and sponge restoration in the Florida Keys. Take a look


Florida Remains a Top U.S. Aquaculture Producer

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent survey on farm production,  Florida aquaculture ranked 6th amongst U.S. states with 619 farms reporting $95.6fish million in sales. Florida’s top aquaculture sector continues to be ornamental fish (freshwater and marine tropical, koi, and goldfish) with 155 farms reporting farm-gate income of $42.9 million. In fact, Florida is the number one U.S. producer of ornamental fish followed by California at $5.3 million.

Shellfish production, specifically hard clams, is Florida’s second largest aquaculture segment. According to the USDA report Florida has 154 farms reporting $15.7 million in sales in 2012.  Florida ranks 6th in the nation behind other states that culture shellfish (clams, oysters or mussels) such as Washington, Virginia, Louisiana, California, and Connecticut.

The USDA report also found 126 Florida farms are producing a wide variety of “other species” with a sales value of $12.9 million.  Florida crustacean production such as shrimp, crawfish, and prawn ranked 4th in the United States with 22 farms selling $10.6 million worth of product after Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii.

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Sharks, Friend or Foe?

Duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum, …Shark Week! Well friends, it is that time of year again. Sharks take center stage this week on cable television. With all the hype, it can be hard to separate the fact from the fiction. Are sharks friends or foe? Perhaps they are not either. Perhaps we should look at them as oft-misunderstood, ecologically-important predatory ocean fish. So what are sharks?

Sharks ARE ancient. Sharks are sometimes referred to as “living fossils”. Ancient sharks lived in the oceans long before animals colonized the land. Sharks have lived on earth for at least 400 million years! Most fossil evidence of early sharks exists as fossil teeth along with a few skin impressions. Ancestry of sharks dates back before the earliest known dinosaur. Although the dinosaurs are long gone, sharks still live on.

Copy of IMG_1916

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