Out & About with Frost Science: Anne Kolb Nature Center

Visitors make flowers to learn about plant structures.

Visitors make flowers to learn about plant structures.

Last weekend, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science ventured north to Broward County’s Anne Kolb Nature Center with our “Science Treehouse” family day event.

Anne Kolb Nature Center comprises a 1,500 acre coastal mangrove/wetland ecosystem in the heart of suburbia, surrounded by the Cities of Dania Beach and Hollywood. In addition to three different types of mangrove species, the park also hosts a variety of threatened and endangered animals. Guests from around the world learn about these plants and animals through a series of indoor exhibits, touch tanks, boat rides, canoe trips, and wildlife treks.

Finished flower created by a visitor.

Finished flower created by a visitor.

On Saturday, January 17, Frost Science celebrated wildlife and wild places by providing hands-on activities for local South Florida residents at the nature center. We created paper flowers that taught guests about the different parts which make up plants (i.e. the roots which carry water, the leaves that gather sunlight, etc.).  Each visitor then planted take-home garden seeds with individual soil-filled cups, learning about all the environmental factors crucial to botany-based survival. It was truly inspiring to see patrons get so excited about local ecology; many taught us some new techniques as well!

Garden cups filled with soil ready to be planted.

Garden cups filled with soil ready to be planted.

In addition to the above activities, the museum’s Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MuVE) program also joined our efforts. Anne Kolb Nature Center’s mangrove ecosystems provided the perfect foundation for MuVe to share their work with various mangrove restoration projects throughout Miami-Dade County, including their most recent successful efforts on Virginia Key. MuVE provided an interactive game that focused on wildlife ecology as well as the opportunity to place mangrove seedlings in their latest Reclamation Project eco-art installation at Anne Kolb Nature Center.

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Thank you to Park Naturalists Joanne Howe and Dustin Gerber for co-coordinating this fantastic opportunity with Frost Science to bridge in-situ and ex-situ conservation efforts across the entire South Florida region.  If you would like to learn more about Anne Kolb Nature Center and how you can volunteer to help the planet, please click here.

Next up? From coastal ecosystems and on to the cosmos, come visit Frost Science with the City of Doral at our “Camping Under the Stars” event on January 30.  See you there!

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A Cuban Research Expedition Begins

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As told by Fernando BretosCurator of Ecology and Field Conservation at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science:

Was this my 80th trip to Cuba? Or my 90th? Tough to tell after so many visits to this island located only 200 miles away from my office at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. As a marine biologist, I have worked for 16 years to study marine and coastal resources shard between Florida and Cuba. The Gulf Stream is a fast moving oceanic current that delivers eight billion gallons of water per second from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, up past Florida on its way to the North Atlantic. Because of this ocean highway, marine organisms such as fish and lobster larvae, coral spawn, and migratory species such as sea turtles, can hitch a free ride from places downstream such as Cuba where healthy, diverse reefs, mangroves and seagrasses abound.

Specifically, I study coral reefs and how their health is affected by human activity. I also study a population of green sea turtles that nest off the western tip of Cuba. Working in Cuba is professional but also personal. My parents left Cuba as Peter Pan migrants in 1961, settling in Miami after their adolescent years were essentially lost. By working in Cuba, I serve as the connection between my family here and there. Of course, Cuba’s stunningly beautiful coasts bring me back every time.

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My two-day trip to Havana in early January was a busy one.  I met with my colleagues at the Center for Marine Research of the University of Havana to plan a coral reef research expedition to Jardines de la Reina, the largest marine protected area in the Caribbean. Jardines de la Reina, or Gardens of the Queen, was named so by Christopher Columbus and looks the same today as it did 500 years ago. Forty miles from land and closed to commercial fishing, it remains an underwater wilderness. I was also delivering a special instrument for my research, a drill with a two-foot long cylinder to take coral samples from Cuban reefs to determine their health over time. Next month I will join other coral scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to study Cuba’s reefs and see how well they compare to reefs in Florida.

What a time to be in Havana! Only two weeks earlier, the Obama administration had announced steps to normalize relations with the island after over 50 years of the economic embargo. Other US presidents had taken similar steps before, yet every time I spoke to Cubans on the island these openings were met with cynicism. But this time was different. Cubans from all stripes were generally excited to see that our two countries were taking steps to talk to each other. It is my hope that by expanding dialogue with Cuban marine scientists and policymakers we can learn lessons from each other and create policies that protect turtles, reefs and fish on both sides of the Florida Straits.

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Please follow Fernando starting in February as he composes an online journal of this historic research expedition. 

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Frost Science Receives Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation Grant

Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science today received a philanthropic grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation as part of a $4.5 million Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation program supporting technology advancements for a clean energy future.

“We are excited to be a recipient of this highly competitive Wells Fargo environmental grant program,” said Gillian Thomas, Frost Science President and CEO. “We truly appreciate being recognized and will use this grant to provide funding for advancing clean technology and STEM outreach initiatives.”

Frost Science was named as a recipient of a Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant. The grant program began in 2012 as part of Wells Fargo’s commitment to provide $100 million to environmentally-focused nonprofits, colleges and universities by 2020. It is funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and is strategically aligned with the company’s vision and values to foster economic development, especially in underserved communities, to accelerate the global “green” economy. The goal of the program is to inspire innovation from entrepreneurs and fund research entities working on critical environmental issues.

On October 28, 2014, Wells Fargo also launched the Innovation Incubator (IN2) program, a $10 million environmental grant for clean technology startups funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to foster the development of early stage clean technologies for commercial buildings.

“Wells Fargo recognizes that the health of our environment is critical to fostering more sustainable communities today and for years to come,” said Ashley Grosh, head of Wells Fargo Environmental Affairs Clean Technology program. “We’re pleased to announce the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science as a recipient of Wells Fargo’s environmental grant program to help provide long-term solutions to the world’s greatest environmental challenges.”

The full list of 2014 grant recipients can be found at blog.wellsfargo.com/environment/. Details of the program and a link to the 2015 application can be found at wellsfargo.com/about/csr/ea/environmental-giving.

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New Wildlife Center Exhibits: Green Garden & Burrowing Owls

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The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science recently unveiled two new, exciting exhibits in our outdoor Batchelor Wildlife Center.

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The new energy playground garden is a small sneak peek of some of the possible vegetation that will be in the new museum. In the far east corner we have dwarf papayas and pineapples. We’ve relocated our mangroves here to acclimate them for more hours under the sun; these mangroves will then be planted in the new museum. We have a butterfly garden with brightly colored nectar plants to attract our native butterflies. There is also a variety of wild coffee, lantanas, milkweed, dill, parsley, golden shrimp, necklace pod, beautyberry, firebush, thryallis, passion fruit and wild lime. In our main area we are experimenting with green grids in which the plants are growing in; there’s an assortment of aromatic and beach native plants such as lemon balm, mint, cinnamon basil, blanket flowers, sea purslane, dune sunflower and sand cordgrass. The green wall has granadilla and passion fruit vines that will creep up our trellis and cover the wall with luscious green leaves. Our wheelchair accessible beds makes edible gardening fun with a few lettuces, swiss chard and tomatoes. Above the bench hangs the living wall planters with an abundance of succulents, bromeliads, ferns and other color annuals and perennials.

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The other new exhibit in the Batchelor Wildlife Center features our four resident Burrowing Owls along with native plants. True to their name, these guys live in burrows underground and mainly feed on insects, amphibians, and small mammals. In order to recreate a realistic home for the little owls, we have an underground burrow and partially covered wooden hutch to mimic the natural home of the Burrowing Owl and give guests an opportunity to see the owls interacting with a burrow-like structure that is slightly above ground. Native plants in and around the exhibit include coonti, saw palmetto and wild coffee which we hope will attract some of Florida’s native butterfly species such as the beautiful Atala butterfly.

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“South Florida Birds and Gardens” Photography Exhibit Now on Display

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Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is proud to host “South Florida Birds and Gardens,” an exhibit of images from photographer, author and conservation biologist Kirsten Hines. The photographs are taken from her two books, Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens and Birds of Fairchild. The exhibit is sponsored by Audubon Florida, which hopes to bring new light to bird conservation in South Florida.

The 27 images will be on display in the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science’s Space Gallery Jan. 12 – Feb. 15.

Filled with brilliant photographs and gardening insight uniquely applicable to South Florida, Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens fills a conspicuous void in the literature on two of America’s most popular activities, gardening and birding. Acclaimed ornithologist and author James A. Kushlan and photographer Kirsten Hines draw on their years of experience to provide practical, ecologically sound advice for creating landscapes that will benefit bird conservation and contribute to the re-greening of South Florida.

Birds of Fairchild celebrates the birds and bird-friendly plants of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Kirsten Hines has captured beautifully the birds of Fairchild, bringing to life the wildlife that everyone can see in their own backyard. This exciting new book takes the reader on a journey through the garden, its birds, its plants, their interactions and their conservation seeking to inspire the birder, gardener and others who care about the South Florida environment.

Anticipation

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Frost Science in ASTC Dimensions

Lindsay J. Bartholomew, science curator at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, was recently published in the November/December “Reconstructing STEM in Our Schools” issue of Dimensions, the bimonthly magazine of the The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC).

Read the article to learn more about her expedition to the Arctic!

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ASTC Dimensions - Lindsay Article 11

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The Story of Peregrine 686

Earlier this year, the Falcon Batchelor Bird of Prey Center hospital was full of baby birds from all over Miami-Dade County. Now that the seasons are changing, the babies are grown and our hospital is seeing birds from farther afield.

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October is the peak of migration for birds through South Florida. Miami is ideally placed in the Atlantic flyway, one of four major migratory paths used by North American birds to fly south for the winter. Think of the Atlantic flyway as the bird-equivalent of I-95. And like I-95, the Atlantic flyway has many dangers, mainly caused by people.

Birds use many different methods to find their way while they migrate: the Earth’s magnetic field, the stars, and landmarks. One of the most prominent landmarks to follow is the coastline. And what does Miami have on much of its coastline? High-rise buildings. Collisions with glass kill millions of birds each season and some birds get trapped in the balconies of upper-floor apartments.

That’s what happened to our 686th patient of 2014: a 6-month old Peregrine Falcon. We rescued her off the 57th floor of a Brickell high-rise the day before Halloween. She was not standing on her first day in the hospital, probably due to stress: stress from the thousands of miles she had flown, stress from being caught in the balcony, and stress from being handled by people.

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Finder’s photo that was texted to us on October 30. We require a photo of all birds we rescue so we know what we’re dealing with before we arrive. You can tell she is young because her cere (the skin above her beak) is blue; it will turn yellow next year.

We rescued four other Peregrines within the last two weeks of October and they were all released after only a few days, but we would get to know Peregrine 686 a little better. Though her X-rays and physical exam seemed normal, she could not maintain any lift when she flew. A closer look at her X-rays revealed a possible coracoid fracture, a bone deep in the shoulder crucial to flight. The only solution would be rest and supportive care.

Stress seemed to be a part of this bird’s personality. She never once ate on her own in captivity, requiring daily hand-feedings. She also broke all of her tail feathers in captivity. After several weeks of rest, she seemed to be flying stronger, but her broken tail was now the obstacle preventing her release. A bird’s tail is essential for flight and flight is essential for hunting and hunting is essential for surviving. Birds naturally grow a new tail once per year, but we couldn’t wait that long. So we performed a feather transplant, also called “imping.” Our Wildlife Coordinator, Marina Boucher, expertly attached intact feathers from a preserved specimen to the broken feather shafts of Peregrine 686.

Close-up of the imping process. The new feather is on the left and the broken feather is on the right. They are held together with epoxy.

Close-up of the imping process. The new feather is on the left and the broken feather is on the right. They are held together with epoxy.

The improvement in her flight was immediately apparent. She was successfully released the next day.

New Wildlife Keeper, Alex Harper, launching Peregrine 686 into her new life.

New Wildlife Keeper, Alex Harper, launching Peregrine 686 into her new life.

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The Curious Vault 011: Platypus

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The platypus is fascinating. It is both cute and magically bizarre in a fashion typically only reserved for fairy tales and myth. With so many different anatomical anomalies—the duckbilled, beaver tailed, otter footed, egg laying, and poison spur bearing mammal— it appears an unreal chimera, and indeed that’s what many of the smartest men in the world thought the first time they laid eyes on it.

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Platypus and nest

When word reached England in the 18th century about the animal, many thought it hogwash. Even when specimens began arriving at the doors of various posh and stuffy Victorian scientific institutions, it was labeled as a hoax, possibly a prank from the Australian colonies or the work of Asian taxidermists, known for their playful fusions of dead animals to make unknown beasts.

This whole global exchange is chronicled in Ann Moyal’s Platypus: The Extraordinary Story of How a Curious Creature Baffled the World. She writes, “no animal, indeed, was to rub more strenuously up against the prevailing taxonomic categories than the paradoxical platypus.”

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All of this is relevant because of the furry little guy we found in the shelves of taxidermy within the Curious Vault. Slightly rough with age to the touch, yet without odor, the platypus specimen from the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is undeniably cute despite his little beady eyes. It took the team here about 5 seconds to decide his name was “Harvard,” after the tag on his right foot showed he was purchased from there in 1974 along with several other specimen. But digging led us on an interesting mission.

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Photo credit: Dogan Arslanoglu

Originally attached to the specimen was an aged and faded tag, which upon further inspection shows the taxidermy to be of the work J. Gaskell, Naturalist, from Melbourne Australia. The aged brown paper is hard to read and faded, but still legible under magnification.

gaskell lableScant information is available about Gaskell. Luckily, much of Australia’s newspaper archives are available online. The only viable trail that leads to him is from the August 7, 1868 edition of The Illustrated Sydney News:

“A remarkable natural curiosity is on view at the shop of Mr. J. Gaskell, birdstuffer and naturalist, Melbourne. It is a rosella parrot, which died very recently of old age, and has been stuffed for its owner, Mr. Upson, of Castlemaine. Its peculiarity is in its beak, the upper portion of which has grown into a long curled horn projecting downwards, and over a foot in length.”

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The mention is important because it gives us a timeframe for Mr. Gaskell in the 1860s, and shows that his shop was newsworthy. It seems Mr. Gaskell was also an opportunistic taxidermist, stuffing a pet bird.

But it also shows the attention being paid to the naturalist’s craft. Peter MacInnis is an author that focuses on men who not only ventured into the Australian brush to hunt trophies, but also to search for knowledge of the natural world. His book, Curious Minds: The Discoveries of Australian Naturalists, is an in depth study of the time period in which our little Harvard platypus was stuffed.

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Photo credit: Dogan Arslanoglu

“Australia was rich and prosperous,” in the 1860s Macinnis explains to us, “because while Britain had taken most of the gold Australia produced, the profits remained here and commerce was booming. Railways were spreading, the main colonies were linked by telegraph.” 

Because of this, “there were a number of men who supplied the Victorian (era, not place) taste for stuffed curiosities, and [Gaskell] must have been one of them. As far back as the 1830s, George Bennett had noted that lots of caged birds were on sale to travellers, but stuffed specimens required less care, both in transit and at home.”

The cottage industry initially started with groups of men searching for natural resource riches, but the business changed shape when the demand for specimens grew. Once that waned, some naturalists were sort of rebranded as men of science and were funded as research arms of expeditions (such as Charles Darwin).

Our Harvard platypus is a fascinating specimen because it can be linked to a particular moment in time of both scientific and colonial discovery. Australia in the 1860s was a fascinating wild west seen from a far, and the production of such a curious and bizarre taxidermy surely excited and fascinated its first owners. It still does today at the Museum.

But as you may be able to tell, Macinnis unfortunately, had never heard of J. Gaskell. He put us in touch with the great Ann Moyal, who also had no leads on the man. She then tapped us in to several other platypus and Australian history experts who were also unable to identify J. Gaskell. Each of the top monotreme authorities in Australia that we contacted gave us further contacts who may or may not know more, yet the trail went cold.

We will update you if anything changes as a result of this post, but for now the mystery of J. Gaskell lies just out of reach within the Curious Vault. Thankfully, our unofficial mascot, Harvard the Platypus remains.

The Curious Vault is an online cabinet of curiosities featuring objects from the collection of the Miami Science Museum, presented by writer Nathaniel Sandler and Kevin Arrow, Art & Collections Manager. For more information, email karrow@miamisci.org.

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Kevin Arrow Receives Knight Arts Challenge South Florida Grant

Kevin Arrow, Headshot, 2014/Photo credit: Mark Diamond

Kevin Arrow, Headshot, 2014/Photo credit: Mark Diamond

Congratulations to Kevin Arrow, the Museum’s Art & Collection Manager, one of 47 recipients of a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge South Florida! The $15,000 grant Kevin received will impact the community with the Science Art Cinema performance series. The Knight Arts Challenge is a South Florida-based initiative to draw the best and most innovative ideas out of local organizations and individuals seeking to transform the community through the arts. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Arts Challenge funds ideas that bring South Florida together through the arts.

All of the winners answered a question posed by Knight Foundation earlier this year: What’s your best idea for the arts?

Planetarium Krautrock, 2013. A collaborative mixed media installation between Kevin Arrow, Barron Sherer, Dylan Romer, Romulo del Castillo and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science Planetarium staff, Mark Bennett, Claudia Hernandez and Roberto Cruz, that utilized live mixing of analog and digital media sources with live laser and planetarium dome projections.

Planetarium Krautrock, 2013. A collaborative mixed media installation between Kevin Arrow, Barron Sherer, Dylan Romer, Romulo del Castillo and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science Planetarium staff, Mark Bennett, Claudia Hernandez and Roberto Cruz, that utilized live mixing of analog and digital media sources with live laser and planetarium dome projections.

Kevin answered the question with his Science Art Cinema, creating a performance series that mixes 20th-century science and science fiction films with musical improvisation and multimedia presentations.

To bring art and science enthusiasts together, the performance event series, Science Art Cinema, mixes 20th century science and science fiction films with performances and multimedia presentations. Science Art Cinema presents 16mm motion pictures and newly commissioned films, and enhances them with live music or theater, guest speakers and multimedia presentations, curated by Kevin, along with Barron Sherer, Media Archivist, and Jorge Perez-Gallego, Frost Science Astronomer and Exhibition Developer. The series will culminate in a call for newly created and locally made films, in addition to a book, to which the community will be asked to contribute.

In addition to his position at the Museum, Kevin is a multifaceted artist. His work has been widely exhibited in South Florida since the mid 1980s. He has exhibited his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, the Miami Art Museum, the de la Cruz contemporary art space, The Art & Cultural Center of Hollywood, Bas Fisher Invitational, TwentyTwenty, The Girl’s Club, Ft. Lauderdale, The Far Side Gallery and Carol Jazzar Contemporary, to name but a few.

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For more on Knight Foundation’s arts initiative and to view a full list of Knight Arts Challenge winners, visit www.KnightArts.org.

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Project Kickoff – Jamaica Visits Miami!

Day 1: November 6, 2014

Getting up at 4am to get to the airport is not a welcomed experience after less than 5 hours sleep, but after many overseas trips on our own, we were excited to be traveling together and about our visit to reconnect with our partners at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (Frost Science).  We were visiting Miami to kickoff our one-year grant project partnership, funded by the American Alliance of Museums’ Museums Connect program. The flight was smooth and short, and as Miami is not a strange destination for us, we were only apprehensive about how US Immigration and Customs would deal with us as we used our new J1 Visas to enter the USA. A short ride to the hotel and a quick lunch, and we were ready for the action to begin.

Finally we arrived at Frost Science. The welcome was great and we met several people working on our project. We reunited with our partners Lindsay Bartholomew and Fernando Bretos, and it was really good to finally meet Chelle King, as we had been corresponding with her for weeks and she was the last member of the team for us to see face to face. The tour of the museum was great. We saw the exhibit designed by one of our project partners, Lindsay Bartholomew, related to her research trip to the Arctic, the Museum’s iconic Kodiak bear, the Sea Lab, where we touched a starfish and the Wildlife Center, where a (friendly) owl spooked us a bit.

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The Pan Am Globe in the lobby of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science

Then we had an opportunity to put on our high heels and head over to the Green Drinks event, organized by the Museum’s MUVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment) program, which was a great end to a very eventful day. As tired as we were, we were captivated by the presentations on the history of Virginia Key, which is the location of the site that we will be helping to restore as part of our Museums Connect project. Panelists included: Dinizulu Gene Tinnie (artist and Chair of the Historical Virginia Key Beach Park Trust), Dr. Ed Proffitt (coastal ecologist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University), Sylvia Gurinsky (educator/tour guide at HistoryMiami) and Gary Milano (restoration biologist from the Department of Environmental Resources Management at Miami-Dade County). There is a beach on Virginia Key that was once the only beach dedicated to African Americans during the period of segregation in the United States. References were made to the teachings of Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero, of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Of course there had to be a Jamaican link (we’re in every corner of the Earth). Awesome!!! Of course, our Miami partners have challenges similar to ours in Jamaica, as related to the need to preserve natural sites in the midst of urban development and sprawl. We were also honored to have Dr. Wes Brooks from Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s office join us for the occasion. So, well done Chelle and colleagues, on hosting such a lovely affair with the backdrop of a full moon to compliment the presentations.

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The backdrop of an open sky and full moon at the Green Drinks event

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The Green Drinks event (from left: Dr. Wes Brooks, Dionne Newell, Tracy Commock, Chelle King, Fernando Bretos, and Lindsay Bartholomew)

Day 2: November 7, 2014

Day two was no less eventful than day one, to say the least. We got a chance to see our colleagues in Jamaica by way of the Skype orientation meeting we held for the scientists participating in the project from both Jamaica and Miami. We were thrilled to be meeting the scientists who will be joining the Miami team. We were also able to imagine how we in Jamaica have looked “from the other side” of the Skype call.  Then we finally got a chance to see our project site, Virginia Key. To get there, we crossed the highest elevation in Florida, the bridge of maybe 24 metres (78 feet) in height – WOW. We could swap some of these fantastic views of the city skyline with some of the mountains skylines in Jamaica… sounds reasonable right!?

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Tracy & Dionne viewing the freshwater body at the Virginia Key site with the Miami skyline in the background

The restoration site was looking great!  Fernando gave a great overview of the area as an introduction. Lots of work has been done by the MUVE team and citizen volunteers, planting sea oats and removing several of the invasive plants, particularly Casuarina. We toured the restoration site and could not help but to put our botanical and entomological skills to work. We recognized several plant species, and over the small freshwater area hovered several species of dragonflies – interestingly we share similar dragonfly species in Jamaica.

Lunch was next: we really worked up an appetite in the hot sun, so the Miami team treated us to Cuban food. Interesting – tasty – filling!!! That held us for our next excursion: the tour of the Frost Science’s new location in downtown Miami. We were treated to a detailed tour of the construction site by Gillian Thomas, President and CEO, who, by the way, we could hardly keep up with while going up the many flights of stairs. (Some of us have even been heading to the gym several times a week! Really? We wouldn’t have guessed it would be so difficult.)  We also had Jamaica’s Consul General, Franz Hall, among the fine group of persons joining us for the tour, and we think he was wowed as well. We wonder if we can get the diaspora to build us something like this in Jamaica! We’re insanely jealous but really happy for our project partners and we look forward to the grand opening in 2016.

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The group at the site of the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (from left: Thamiah Tutt (Director of Development at Frost Science), Jamaica’s Consul General Franz Hall, Gillian Thomas, Tracy Commock, Dionne Newell, Lindsay Bartholomew, Chelle King, Fernando Bretos)

Later on, dinner at The Peacock Café was fantastic! We are joined by Dean Phelus from the American Alliance of Museums, and during dinner we got a chance to share more of our plans and our excitement about the project with our guests – a great end to a really hectic and enjoyable day.

Day 3: November 8, 2014

It feels like our heads had just touched the pillow when we see the sun peeping through the curtains.  It’s morning and we need to have breakfast and get ready for Lindsay to pick us up for the day’s restoration activities. Dean also accompanied us to the site, where the MUVE team was holding a habitat restoration and monitoring event with local volunteers. We were impressed to see all the activity on Virginia Key even from the parking area – there were persons enjoying all kinds of workout routines and many, many bicyclists. We proceeded on to the site, where volunteers were removing the invasive plants, cleaning up garbage, and replanting the sea oats.

We decided to give a hand in replanting sea oats (Uniola paniculata). Work, work, work… the sun was shining brightly and we were totally blazed, but this was a very fulfilling experience and we were happy to make a contribution and see all the enthusiasm displayed at this important activity. It gave us hope and some more enthusiasm for what we will need to do in Jamaica.

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Tracy planting sea oats on Virginia Key…

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…and Dionne planting sea oats on Virginia Key!

Our Miami colleagues were dead set on giving us an unforgettable trip, and after the event, debated over what to get as a suitable lunch.  Fernando disappeared and we were whisked back to Frost Science for a meeting with the student participants in the Upward Bound Program. These students will be our youth participants in our project, and will help us restore the Virginia Key environment – and a few will even get to travel to help us with our environment in Greater Portmore, Jamaica! But we got there with some time to spare before the meeting, and Fernando reappeared with burritos, guacamole, salsa and chips. So it’s Mexican today!

Following lunch we meet with the students in the Upward Bound Program where they were given a few minutes to complete the project’s pre-survey. The project teams were introduced and we gave an overview of the project and got them excited them about the wonders of Jamaica.  Many participants were thrilled to hear about the possibility of a trip to Jamaica.

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Project orientation session with Upward Bound students in Frost Science’s Best Buy Teen Tech Center

Day 4: November 9, 2014

We can’t believe it’s time to leave already.  Time really flies when you’re having fun.  This is the only chance to get in some last minute shopping and sightseeing and Lindsay made sure it happened. Thanks Lindsay!!!

This visit to Miami really brought the project to life and brought home the real meaning of this connection. At every step we are learning more from each other and the project goals are getting clearer. We are all looking forward to implementing this project and meeting its objectives!

- Tracy Commock and Dionne Newell, Natural History Museum of Jamaica, Institute of Jamaica

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