Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Updates, News, Workshops and Speaking Engagements

Atala Updates

Hello friends of the atala butterfly! We have had a slow season this year, although a few sites have irrupted as expected as the summer winds to an end. The atala has several irruption/crash cycles during the year, and This is one reason why they often seem to disappear for weeks or months at a time but then miraculously re-appear…the eggs and pupae have similar cycles, and sometimes we just don’t see these tiny moments waiting to happen. Many things affect the cycle, including temperatures, and hurricanes. I could not download the neat graph I have of the cycle, but will keep trying on future posts.

I’m still participating in the atala re-introduction program at Everglades National Park (ENP). Friend Ericka Helmick and I released 649 more atalas at ENP on August 5, 2006. When I scouted the area on September 19th, there was not a one to be seen---that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there, however! The park has over one million acres and that’s a lot of territory to scout…Most atalas don’t seem to wander too far from home, but with the vast area of coontie and nectar, they well may have fluttered off the ‘beaten’ paths where they were released.

In the meantime, Sue Perry, ENP’s Head Ecologist, and staff biologists and botanists planted many more coontie—not a simple matter in the limestone substrate in the pinelands! It required heavy equipment to “dig” (er, DRILL) a hole for the new plants, and a lot of heavy labor on the park’s staff. I know how hard that limestone is, having used a chisel and hammer to rescue a few plants from development sites! The coontie was grown from ENP’s own existing seed plants to keep the gene pool stable.


For those of you who don’t know, I am no longer at the Entomology/
Nematology Department at the University of Florida Davie campus; I have transferred to Nova Southeastern and have decided to switch back to my original major of Environmental Studies. I am working with a non-profit foundation called Wildspots (http://www.wildspotsfoundation.org) and looking forward to leading eco-tours in Ecuador and other places. If you are up for a wonderful week-long experience with Ecuador’s wildlife, please go to the link and sign up (and tell them that Sandy sent you.)

Speaking Engagements

I’ll be speaking at the Evening Garden Club of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, October 19th, 2006 on the atala and host plant. The program will be held at the Wilton Manors Women’s Club, at 7:30 pm and is free and open to the public.

I’ll also be presenting at Castellow Hammock in Miami-Dade County for the Miami Blue Chapter of NABA on November 4th, at 1 pm. The subject will be about endangered species, and how they get listed (who and what organizations decide the status). Of course, I’ll be talking about the Schaus’ Swallowtail, the Miami Blue, and the atala, too.

And while being semi-unemployed and thinking of things that I love to do, please remember that I give PowerPoint presentations about subjects such as: the atala and/or the host plant, the history of South Florida, butterflies in general, birds, endangered species, dragonflies…well, almost anything if it has to do with the environment and the precious wildlife that inhabits it. I’d love to visit your club, organization, or school and my fees are on a based on a sliding scale. If you’d like me speak about something, send me an email at Sandy@copper.net. (I have plenty of references and lots of subjects.)


I’ll be leading some exotic plants workshops for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department of the City of Hollywood four times in the coming twelve months. Mark your calendar to learn about invasive exotic plant species, and participate in a hands-on plant ID workshop. Volunteers are always needed to help teach (it’s open to the public), and it’s a great way to gain some hours for a school project, for your Master Gardener hours, or just for yourself. Members of the Broward County Native Plant Society and North American Butterfly Association will also be there to answer questions and help you identify butterflies and plants.

The dates are December 9th, 2006; February 10, 2007; April 21, 2007 (Earth Day) and June 16th, 2007 (what a thoughtful way to share Father’s Day!) We’ll meet at John Williams Park, on the northwest corner of State Road 7 (441) and Sheridan Street, at 9 AM and spend the morning learning and helping the Park. John Williams Park is home to two protected species, the gopher tortoise, and the atala. I look forward to seeing a lot of caring people like you on one or all of the dates.

For more information, go to the City of Hollywood Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts webpage (http://www.hollywoodfl.org/parks_rec/hlwd_par.htm) and click on the calendar of events, or email me, or Cynthia Hancock at chancock@hollywoodfl.org.