Flatwoods Salamander

April 13, 2011

It seems as though any advancements in biodiversity conservation requires some charismatic mega fauna or an extremely charismatic flora. With this in mind, species can be noted for ‘cuteness’ and efforts can be made by those who would have otherwise looked the other way. This time I am focusing on an endangered amphibian in Florida. Not only are they nice to look at by amphibians by nature of their life cycle can tell much about water quality as well encroachments on terrestrial habitat. One such endangered amphibian is the Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma cingulatum) {see photo above}

The Flatwoods salamander is medium sized salamander with adults only reaching approximately 5 inches.  They can appear black or silver grey in color with some mottling.  These salamders enjoy the rich wet grounds of the longleaf pine systems that used to extend to over 100 million acres in the Southeastern Untied States; sadly these communities are already down to below 3 million acres, the vast majority of which is in Florida. {Photo of Longleaf Pine above}




These salamanders breed in ephemeral ponds that are shallow and small. Then as adults they live in self constructed burrows near wetlands where their food can be found. They feed on crayfish, very small mammals, and invertebrates. {picture of typical habitat above}

So by just being aware of the plight of this amphibian and taking steps to ensure its survival, it can affect all the aquatic and terrestrial species that inhabit the same systems and communities. By saving one species, so many more can benefit and some the loss of biodiversity can be averted.

The Flatwoods Salamander was listed as Federally Threatened by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999.

Brazilian Pepper

April 4, 2011

The Brazilian Pepper plant is one of the most aggressive and well established invasive exotic plants in Florida. The plant outcompetes the native flora that many species in Florida rely on for survival. The Brazilian Pepper has a statewide coverage of approximately 700,000 acres, many of which are linear along roadways and riparian corridors. Unfortunately many years ago this plant was brought as an ornamental for landscaping, as it grows very quickly and has no natural predators.
Below are two pictures of the plant so that you can identify and, if on your property, eradicate it.

Brazilian Pepper at residence

This photo shows the Brazilian Pepper being used as an ornamental and is the bane of native and xeroscape landscaping.

 The Brazilian Pepper is most damaging to mangroves and the fisheries, which the plants play a crucial role in establishing. One such species that is under threat of losing habitat is the Mangrove Snapper, which is important not only to the ecosystem but to sportsmen alike.

Brazilian Pepper in wetlands

Brazilian Pepper thrives in Florida's wetlands.

Furthermore, ecological damage caused by the pepper plant also includes its intrusion on terrestrial ecosystems, such as the Florida Scrub Habitat. The Florida Scrub Jay, which occupy the habitat, is endangered not only due to invasive plants but also because the lands are so “ripe for development.”

The Florida Scrub Jay looks nearly identical to its common namesake, the Blue Jay, but the bird resides in the sand scrub of Florida and has elongated tail feathers.  The Florida Audubon is partially charged to help save the jay’s habitat and inform the public of the rare bird plight.

Florida Scrub Jay

Florida's Scrub Jay is threatened by invasive plants, such as Brazilian Pepper.

These and a myriad other reasons are why every lawful effort should be taken to eradicate the Brazilian Pepper. Florida’s natural species and systems will certainly have a better chance with less interference by these invasive plants.

More info on these topics can be found at:



Baudin’s Black Cockatoo, 123 E, by Elizabeth Coule

February 25, 2010

Elizabeth Coule, who came to our January 31st workshop at Biscayne National Park, found a very direct way to help her animal.

Here is the email we received from Elizabeth:

“Finally received a response from Australia on how to donate money for a tree for the Baudini’s black cockatoo. I am sending you the email they sent me. My mom and I will be going to the bank this week to send this money overseas. I am excited that I got a response.”

Here is the email Elizabeth received:

“Nice to hear that people from other countries are taking an interest in our endangered cockatoos. Our organisation is the only organisation allowed to look after, rehabilitate and release black cockatoos.

We travel approximately 70,000kms every 18 months on black cockatoo related activities which are mainly black cockatoo rescues. We are all volunteers.

I have attached a photo of a Baudin and Carnaby Cockatoo so that you can look at the difference. Sadly there are only about 2000 Baudin cockatoos left in the wild. We are trying desperately to raise money to build aviaries so that we can breed these cockatoos for the future. We are on 40 acres of land that we lease from the government and would love to plant a tree in your honour to the Black cockatoos.

Kind Regards

Glenn Dewhurst

President Black Cockatoo Preservation Society

Of Australia Inc.”

Workshop at Biscayne National Park

February 22, 2010

These photographs are from a workshop held at Biscayne National Park on January 31st, 2010. We had lots of visitors and everyone had a great time.

Madison Patterson’s Christmas Island Frigatebird (80 E) in progress

Elizabeth Coule’s Baudin’s Black Cockatoo (123 E) in progress

The scene: We also had the members of the Homestead Seventh-Day Adventist Church Pathfinder Club with us to work on the flag for the Orca, 31 W.

Park Employee Rick Jacobson and his wife Lisa Jacobson hold up their flags for the Smalltooth Sawfish, 51 W, and the Wood Turtle 66 W.

Youth Leadership Miami

February 22, 2010

Youth Leadership Miami was an event that took place January 23, 2010. Xavier Cortada and Arielle Angel were on hand to work on the Endangered World Project with almost 90 high-school students from schools all over Dade County. To see all of the pictures from that day, please click here. For more information on Youth Leadership Miami, please click here.

Here are some highlights from our three flag-making sessions:

Project Manager Arielle Angel gives a little pep talk

All the flags drying on the floor

Each of the students chose an eco-action. Remember, you can see all of the eco-actions for all of the participants here, through the Endangered World site: http://www.endangeredworld.org. You can also keep up with us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/endangered360.

Here are some of my favorites from this session:

Checkered Elephant Shrew, 34 E, by Gabriel Duarte

Soemmerring’s Gazelle, 36 E, by Brandi Gant

Silky Sifaka Lemur, 49 E, by Brontie Herrera

Smooth Coated Otter, 68 E, by Belli Sung

Sumatran Orangutan, 99 E, by Jaime Ortega

Dwarf Pygmy Goby, 104 E, by Fabiola de Armas

Sei Whale, 162 W, by Marcus-Allen Screen

Coral Reef Montessori School

February 22, 2010

The students at Coral Reef Montessori School participated in the Endangered World Project and had a blast. Art teacher Sarah Bein helped the children research their animals and paint beautiful flags. This project dovetails an earlier lesson, where Ms. Bein taught the children the difference between native and non-native species, why non-native species are bad news for ecosystems, and what they can do to help.

Here are some photos of the students working on the flags:

Here are some of the beautiful flags that were created:

Giant Freshwater Crayfish, 126 E

Steller’s Eider, 144 E

Illidge’s Ant-Blue, 149 E

Eleutherodactylus chlorophenax, 77 W

The children’s eco-actions reflected their newfound understanding of the dangers of invasive species. They also pledged only to eat sustainably harvested fish, and to use less of the products that harm the natural environment of these animals, and the resources they depend on.

African Penguin, 18 E, by Joanne Kantor and the Long-Fingered Bat, 37 E, by Katie Keightley Smith

February 22, 2010

Joanne and Jill Kantor adopted the African Penguin from their native South Africa. They brought the project to South Africa and even got their cousin, Katie Keightley-Smith, involved.

African Penguin

Long-fingered Bat

Their eco-action was to recycle in two households in South Africa that did not previously recycle during an extended visit there. In this way, their eco-actions directly affected the habitat of the animal they chose.

Loading the car to take the recyclables to the center.

They also visited a rehab center for the African Penguin, in order to better connect to their endangered species:

Red-Bellied Monkey, 2 E, by Toshambia Williams

February 22, 2010

Toshambia came to us by way of the Family Resource Center which facilitates adoptions and foster care arrangements for children in South Florida. (Click here for more information about them.) We were very honored to have three children from the center participate, and we were grateful that the case managers could take some time out of their busy schedules to work on the projects with the children. Here is one flag by Toshambia Williams:

Toshambia worked hard on his flag, and used a variety of materials:

He pledged to conserve energy at home.

Leatherback Turtle, 120 E by Magdalena Goudie

February 22, 2010

Magdalena Goudie made this flag for the Leatherback Turtle:

Her eco-action: My pledge for the project was to plant a native tree and I planted a sea lavender in my patio. I am also growing mangrove seedlings, which I will plant when they are tall enough.  For my eco action, I committed to pick up trash whenever I went to the beach, which I do a minimum of twice a week.  On average I collect at least one grocery bag of trash each day, walking a distance of approximately 2 miles.  This morning there was an awful lot of trash, almost as if someone had dumped a boatload out at sea.  I found another shopping bag in the sand and 2 bags were filled.  The overwhelming majority of trash consists of bottle caps and straws.  I also find regularly soles of shoes, toothbrushes and other combs, bits of fishing lines and other synthetic lines, and bits of all types of plastics and bags.  The weirdest things I’ve found years ago were a dead baby hammerhead shark and part of a turtle’s fin, both very sad.  The good thing about picking up trash apart from the act itself is that other people watch me and perhaps they will either pick up trash themselves or think before dumping it.

Red Mangrove Seedlings

Sea Lavender