Category Archives: Agency News

Agency News

MarineQuest 2018

This October 18-20th, FWRI opened our doors for the 24th annual MarineQuest. This award-winning event is an opportunity for the public and their families to learn about Florida’s fish and wildlife (and red tide), along with FWRI’s exciting research.

Students learn fish species identification at the Fisheries Dependent Monitoring Station during School Daze.

“School Daze” ran from October 18-19th and was exclusively for teachers and their students to understand and explore some of the extensive research that goes on at FWRI. October 20th was the main event, with our building and grounds open to the public. Visitors toured our main building, where staff was on-hand to discuss their research and answer questions. Select labs were open, and displays demonstrated some of the cutting-edge research going on at FWRI. On the grounds, hands-on displays included touch tanks showcasing Florida’s marine life, terrestrial animals like panthers, even archery.

Students learn about queen conch, spiny lobster, stone crab and horse conch from research biologists at the Florida Keys Fisheries Research station.

In addition to the lab displays and interactive stations, representatives from local and national conservation and science organizations were available to speak with the public and offer information. MarineQuest is an important event in helping the public understand the various programs and research FWC and FWRI are involved in, as some members of the public are unclear as to the reach and depth of our agency. Over all three days of MarineQuest 2018, we welcomed about 8,600 students, teachers and interested citizens to FWRI.

Agency News

FWC Biologist and Officer Win Awards from Florida Guides Association 

FWC biologist John Hunt has received the Capt. Phil Chapman Award, presented to him by the FGA for those who display a passionate commitment to the conservation of Florida’s marine fisheries. Congratulations, John!

John has been at the forefront of marine fisheries research efforts in the Florida Keys for nearly 30 years, and has been instrumental in numerous conservation and scientific efforts aimed at ensuring these fragile ecosystems endure for generations to come.

“To best conserve the Keys and other unique Florida ecosystems, we need sound science and a collective problem-solving approach that relies upon strong partnerships among government, industry, stakeholders and environmental groups,” said Gil McRae, director of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “John embodies that philosophy and has directly contributed to keeping the Keys a pristine ecological environment and recreational destination.”

John Hunt seen here with his Captain Phil Chapman Conservation Award.

John is a world-renowned lobster biologist. His contributions to conservation include research and monitoring work for the multimillion-dollar Caribbean spiny lobster fishery in Florida, additions to the body of science on reef fish ecology and conservation – particularly regarding the effectiveness of marine protected areas – and leadership for the establishment of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Tortugas Ecological Reserve and the recently established Tortugas Research Natural Area.

“Perhaps most importantly, John is a tireless advocate for his staff within the agency,” McRae said. “He has repeatedly shown admirable dedication and commitment to his staff, serving as a model for all of us with his leadership, compassion, and courage.”

The FGA also awarded FWC officer Michael Bibeau of Hillsborough County with the “Trained Eyes Coast Watchers” Officer of the Year Award.

Bibeau patrols his home county of Pinellas where he maintains strong working relationships with local partner agencies in enforcing conservation rules and regulations, promoting education and conservation stewardship among those enjoying Florida’s natural resources.

Officer Bibeau posing with his Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher Officer of the Year Award.

“We’re honored that Officer Bibeau, who is also our current FWC Officer of the Year, was chosen for this award,” said FWC Colonel Curtis Brown. “He is a fine example of our dedicated law enforcement officers who are out there every day protecting the public and conserving Florida’s natural resources.”

“This is such an honor for me to receive this award from the Florida Guides Association,” Bibeau said. “The hard work of my brothers and sisters in conservation law enforcement inspires me to do my job every day to the best of my ability.”

Officer Bibeau’s actions set an example whose reach is felt statewide through his leadership as a Field Training Officer and on FWC’s Special Operations Group and Advanced Conservation Training Academy as well as participating in the Great American Teach-In program. Congratulations, Michael!

We Celebrate our FWC Volunteers!

During Florida Volunteer Month in April, the FWC is celebrating its many volunteers who contribute time and energy to help conserve fish, wildlife and habitats, and help improve public access and skills related to outdoor experiences such as hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing.

Last year, more than 5,000 volunteers assisted FWC staff with 85 projects around the state, including:

  • Collecting data to increase knowledge of Florida’s imperiled species.
  • Instructing youth, residents and visitors on how to become responsible outdoor recreators.
  • Rescuing marine mammals.
  • Monitoring and restoring oyster reef habitat.
  • Constructing, installing and monitoring nest boxes for southeastern American kestrels and wood ducks.
  • Helping construct and maintain a gravity-fed irrigation system for plants used in scrub habitat restoration.
  • Helping improve visitors’ experiences at many of the FWC’s wildlife management areas.
  • Helping organize scientific data.

Go to MyFWC.com/Get Involved, to see FWC volunteer opportunities available statewide and by region. Additionally, volunteers can sign-up for projects on the MyFWC.com/Calendar, where a wide range of volunteer opportunities are advertised.

SharePoint Help Center

You can make your life much easier by picking up some new skills in Microsoft programs – Outlook 2016, Excel 2016, PowerPoint 2016 and Word 2016.  Whether you are a novice or already skilled, the training consists of short videos so you can jump to the point where you’ll learn something new.  Find this training at GFC-Office 2016 or Microsoft-Office 365 Training Center.

You can also improve your skills using SharePoint!  Find many SharePoint resources at the Microsoft-SharePoint Help Center (notice the Featured Training links).

This kind of “just in time” training takes only a few minutes to help you learn a technique to make your online life much easier!

 

Catch a Florida Memory with 10-Year-Old Katlyn Paul

By Jill Christoferson

Summer may be coming to a close, but for 10-year-old Katlyn Paul, this summer was one she’ll never forget. Katlyn submitted 10 different species to the 71-species Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List, one of three of our Catch a Florida Memory Saltwater Recognition programs. This qualified her for the first tier of the Saltwater Fish Life List Club.

Katlyn Triggerfish

Katlyn with her Saltwater Reel Big Fish qualifying gray triggerfish.

Shortly after, she also submitted a gray triggerfish to the Saltwater Reel Big Fish program, becoming the first angler to qualify for this species. In recognition of her efforts, she received FWC Catch a Florida Memory prize packs including T-shirts and certificates for each achievement. She will also receive two entries into a quarterly raffle drawing for fishing gear such as rods, reels and landing nets.

Katlyn’s love of the water runs deep, and working on her life list is more about the experience than the recognition.

“It’s really cool to go out with friends and see what’s out there,” Katlyn said.  “It’s fun to see the water react,” referring to the varying sea conditions and changes in water coloration of nearby St. Andrews Bay and Gulf of Mexico.

Katlyn

Katlyn has crossed a number of fish off her life list including this ladyfish.

Katlyn caught her first fish, a gag grouper, when she was just three, and she was hooked. Today, she is still going strong, enjoying quality time with her dad, Devin, and getting to explore the marine environment around her. She’s even expressed an interest in pursuing a career in marine biology, following her passion to explore the unknown creatures of the deep.

The Saltwater Fish Life List was developed as one way to encourage anglers to target a diversity of species, and according to Devin, that’s exactly what the life list has done for his family.

“We’re chasing species that we wouldn’t go for otherwise; species that I haven’t fished for in years,” he said.

To date, Katlyn has crossed spotted seatrout, ladyfish, dolphinfish, black sea bass, gag grouper, gray snapper, red drum, red snapper, Spanish mackerel and hardhead catfish off of her life list. Since she submitted her 10-fish application to the Saltwater Angler Recognition Program, she has also added a lane snapper, greater amberjack and her Saltwater Reel Big Fish qualifying gray triggerfish to her list of accomplishments.

Can you catch up with Katlyn? Join her in participating not only in the Saltwater Fish Life List Club program, but also the FWC’s two other Saltwater Angler Recognition programs: Saltwater Reel Big Fish, which celebrates memorable-sized catches, and Saltwater Grand Slams, which awards anglers for catching three different specified species within a 24-hour period.

You can also keep track of Katlyn’s pursuits on the Catch a Florida Memory Facebook page, External Website

Katlyn -snapper

Katlyn holding up a red snapper she caught.

Expand Participation in Conservation

Expanding partnerships and FWC programs to encourage diverse youth and families to be more involved in the future of conservation.

Today’s children are increasingly disconnected from nature, devoting nearly eight hours a day to digital media. This is a problem! Kids who don’t experience the outdoors now are less likely to become our next generation of natural resource stewards. Overcoming this challenge is mission critical, which is why the FWC launched a public-private partnership initiative called the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN). This statewide network provides opportunities for youth and their families to safely engage in traditional outdoor activities and develop an understanding about fish and wildlife conservation.

By leveraging the FWC’s passionate staff, successful programs and existing partnerships, the FYCCN will continue to increase the number and diversity of youth and families and the partners who serve them. Through our outreach to these many diverse partners, we are Creating the Next Generation that Cares.

 

Celebrating Florida’s Wildlife Management Areas

by Peter Kleinhenz

This year, Florida’s Wildlife Management Areas turn 75. The fact that Florida has more conservation land now than it had in 1941 is remarkable, and a just cause for celebration.

Florida was a much different state when the seeds of today’s WMA system started to grow. Just under two million people lived in the state and, in the face of widespread logging and development, few land parcels were safe. This changed with a forward-thinking move by Florida Governor Spessard Holland.

In late 1941, Governor Holland successfully persuaded the Florida Legislature to enable Florida to accept federal funds for conservation land acquisition.

Governor Holland

The state purchased a huge tract of land just north of Fort Myers, and the wildlife management area system was born with what is now known as Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb WMA. Governor Holland tasked the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, today’s FWC, with the management of this new property. Little did they know how much their workload would grow over the ensuing 75 years.

What began as one 19,200-acre property in south Florida evolved into an almost six-million-acre, statewide assemblage of natural habitat. The areas play a critical role in helping FWC accomplish their mission: managing fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. Carrying out this mission requires foresight and creativity as Florida continues to change. Today, over 20 million people call Florida home with about 1,000 new arrivals each day.

The pressures on our remaining natural heritage grow in step with that of the population. Increasingly, wildlife management areas exist as islands surrounded by a sea of urbanization. Their size and the complexity of the natural ecosystems they preserve maintain important populations of many imperiled species. Without them, several species would likely cease to exist.

But it isn’t just species that would go away. Many of the opportunities to hunt, fish and have a true Florida adventure would vanish if WMAs ceased to exist. In some parts of Florida, where nature must be sought out, wildlife management areas serve as an oasis for outdoor enthusiasts.

“Our philosophy with wildlife management areas is that we provide a more wild experience,” states David Johnson, section leader for FWC’s Wildlife and Habitat Management Section. “It’s just nature, in all its wildness.”

Due to the wisdom of past generations, millions of Florida residents have been able to experience this “wildness” over the past 75 years and will continue to do so into the future.

“Most people just don’t realize that there is likely a WMA close to them,” David says emphatically. “We want to reach out to the public of today and let them know what opportunities we have. And if they are interested in nature, we probably have something that they might enjoy.”

Whether you want to view wildlife in natural surroundings, experience premier hunting and fishing opportunities or simply escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, a WMA probably exists within an hour of you.

If the founders of the WMA system could look forward 75 years, they’d surely be celebrating right along side us.

Help Us Celebrate!
The 75th anniversary celebration will feature a number of events throughout the year. These include citizen science bioblitzes, a statewide geocaching challenge and many other events that cater to all ages and interests.