Watch this series of short videos focusing on wildlife and other interesting features of our Southwest Florida ecosystems.

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Head outside to observe your own surroundings in a new light! Follow this 15-minute sensory activity to notice new sights, smells, and sounds in nature near you; then record your findings.

Record your findings here.

Observation plays a very important role in science and allows us to collect data or make new hypotheses. Scientists observe their environment in many ways and sometimes use tools like microscopes, transmitters, and cameras to extend their vision or hearing.

Today, we are just going to use four of our five senses to discover something new in our own backyards.




Backyard Scavenger Hunt

Explore the nature in your own backyard or local park and see how many of the items you can find on this list! Use a camera to snap a picture of each item on the list or record your findings in a nature journal.

If you get some pictures you like, we'd love to see them! Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.




Black mangroves

Black mangrove trees have established themselves as a niche species, able to survive the harsh tidal conditions along coastlands and estuaries. And this water is salty! Salt prevents most plants from taking up necessary nutrients at the root, but black mangroves have found a way around this: they rid themselves of excess salt by excreting it through their leathery leaves.

And perhaps most unique to the black mangrove are its aerial roots, or pneumatophores. Stay tuned as we check out these unique adaptations!




Red mangroves

Red mangrove trees thrive where most other trees cannot: the salty, flooded coastal estuaries of Florida. The pointed green leaves and reddish prop roots make this tree instantly recognizable, but the red mangrove is more than a saltwater specialist.

Discover the vital ecosystem services provided to us by this tree and why each one is worth protecting.




Sabal Palm

Florida’s state tree: the sabal palm. Also called the cabbage palm, this familiar tree has been providing ecosystem services to humans for centuries. Here we will learn about just a few of the ways settlers and native peoples of Florida have utilized this swiss army palm.




Backyard Quadrats

How many plants and insects live in your backyard? This may seem like an impossible question at first. There are probably thousands! We cannot count them all, but using scientific field methods, we can get an estimate of abundance – that is, the relative representation of a species in your backyard ecosystem.

Biologists usually measure abundance with either transect lines or quadrats. In the video below, we will be conducting a simplified abundance survey using hula-hoops as quadrats and your backyard as our study site!

Click here to see the lesson plan and example tally sheet we have for you.




Bird Boxes

In highly-developed areas, where natural habitat is disappearing, many species struggle to protect their young or find and safe place to live. Artificial nesting areas can be installed to add shelter for animals like owls, song birds, woodpeckers, bats, etc.

Check out this link to make your own!





Epiphytes are plants that attach onto and grow on other plants. A common one you may find is an air plant and they can mostly be found up in trees. These kinds of plants use their roots to stay attached to trees, and get their nutrients from the air passing by.

Go out into your backyard or a nearby nature trail to try and find some air plants on your own!

Click here to document your findings.




Saw Palmetto

Saw palmettos may be the oldest living plants in Florida and have survived for so long thanks to some amazing adaptations. In this video, we look at how a plant that lies mostly on its side is one of the best suited to survive extreme weather.




Cormorant Spotting

Don’t startle him! We spotted this double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritis) near the Conservancy’s filter marsh. The Conservancy constructed this marsh to mediate a local canal to the Gordon River, and many of the river’s residents soon moved in to make the marsh their new home. In turn, all of these fish and invertebrates have attracted quite a few predators looking for a tasty meal - such as this cormorant.

Check out the video below to learn more about what makes this aquatic bird unique!




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