University of Florida IFAS Extension Needs You!

The University of Florida IFAS Extension works towards agricultural, environmental, and economic sustainability in our rapidly growing state and communities. We accomplish this through research-based educational programs, publications, and opportunities provided to you locally.

Please consider donating to the UF IFAS County Extension office in your county. Your monetary gift is greatly appreciated, and will be used to continue our efforts at providing information and education you want and need. To find out more about making donations and endowments to University of Florida IFAS Extension, please contact your County Extension office, or

Joe Mandernach, IFAS Development Office at 352-392-5457 or . Thank you!

NW Florida Regional Boating and Waterways Management Workshop

Chris Verlinde
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
Santa Rosa County

The NW Florida Regional Workshop on boating and waterways management will be held in Milton, Florida, August 16 and 17, 2011. The workshop will examine innovative strategies that will assist managers, planners, policy-makers, and other marine interests as they attempt to balance economic vitality with ecologically sound management practices along Northwest Florida’s waterways.

Boat refueling at a recognized Florida Clean Marina. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

The first day of the workshop will consist of presentations by local and state experts.  The second day of the workshop will be half day facilitated planning session designed to allow participants to conduct strategic planning for boating and waterways in Northwest Florida. 

Boating and waterways management consists of many aspects including: mooring sites, identification and assessment of boat ramps, characterization of what boaters do when they go boating, endangered and threatened species management, natural resource protection, best management practices to maintain water quality, boating safety, sea level rise, derelict vessels and much more. Waterway and boating issues are important issues that need to be addressed in order to balance the economic impact from our water dependent uses and the health and safety of our water resources.

To make this workshop relevant to participants in NW Florida, please help us determine the topics for the workshop by taking this short survey:

Make plans now to attend this exciting workshop!! For more information, check out the Florida Sea Grant Website and click on the NW Boating Workshop icon.

Seagrass Awareness Festival

 Chris Verlinde
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
Santa Rosa County

What:      11th Annual Seagrass Awareness Celebration
You never know who you’ll meet at the Seagrass Awareness Festival! Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

When:      March 26, 2011
See and touch the animals that live in seagrass! Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

               10:00 am until 2:00 pm

Where:     Shoreline Park South, Gulf Breeze (Across from the Recreation center on Shoreline Drive)

Contact:   Chris Verlinde 850-623-3868

Visit and click on marine for more information!

Seagrass Awareness is an annual family event held at Shoreline Park South in Gulf Breeze, Florida. This year activities will include live marine life in touch tanks, “eat a seagrass bed,” make a shark tooth necklace, seining, games, fishing, marine creatures, arts and crafts, food, displays, explore a seagrass bed, boating safety, fishing, kayaking and more! In addition, we will have information on scallop and oyster gardening!

Bring your family and friends, water, sunscreen, hat, water shoes, lawn chairs and join us for a fun filled day!

Participating organizations include: The Environmental Education Coordination Team, University of Florida IFAS Extension: Florida Sea Grant Extension, Florida Master Naturalists, Florida Department of Environmental Protection: Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA), Ecosystem Restoration; Resource Rangers, the Wildlife Sanctuary of NW Florida, Mil Flores, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, the Pensacola Recreational Fishing Association and more!

Seagrass Awareness in Florida

Chris Verlinde
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
Santa Rosa County

Seagrasses are a valuable part of the marine environment and support a thriving million-dollar fishery. Most commercial and recreationally important fish, crabs and shrimp spend some time of their lives in seagrass beds. These grass beds help to filter toxins from the water, contribute to water clarity by trapping suspended sediments, provide food and shelter for juvenile fish, shrimp and crabs. In addition, endangered species such as manatees and green sea turtles depend on seagrass beds for food! Migratory birds depend on seagrass beds for foraging needs! Threats to these important resources include: degraded water quality, dredge and fill projects and physical impacts from boat propellers. 

Turtle grass and manatee grass. Photo Credits: Lauren M. Hall, SJRWMD

“Seagrass …’s alive” is the motto for this initiative. Get involved, and help spread the word about seagrasses! Be creative and provide educational opportunities for your friends, neighbors, fisher-people, boaters and those concerned about water quality.

Many different types of animals live in seagrass beds. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

What can you do to protect seagrasses?

While boating:

  • If you run aground in a seagrass bed, turn off your engine, tilt up the engine and walk or pole your boat out of the shallow water.
  • Know water depths and locations of seagrass beds by studying navigational charts.
  • Seagrasses are usually found in shallow water and appear as dark spots on the water.  Wear polarized sunglasses (to reduce glare) to help to locate these areas.
  • Always use a pump-out station.
  • Stay in marked channels.

At home:

  • To reduce toxins and sediment from entering our waterways, keep a buffer of natural vegetation along your shoreline. This will also reduce erosion and slow flood waters during storm events, which will help protect your property!
  • To reduce excess nutrients, plant native plants that don’t require high amounts of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Avoid seagrass beds when planning for dredging activities or pier construction.
  • Maintain septic tanks.

In the community:

  • Get out and snorkel these incredibly diverse areas!  Many sites are easy to access from public parks.
  • Get involved with local organizations that promote water quality.
  • Tell others what you have learned.
  • Don’t litter!

Gulf Islands National Seashore: A historical and natural treasure

Andrew Diller
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
Escambia County

Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS) is located along the northern Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi and Florida.  The Florida properties surround Pensacola, the site of the first European settlement in the United States in 1559.  An ideal deep-water harbor protected by a barrier island, a system of coastal defense fortifications dating from early Spanish exploration through World War II guards Pensacola Bay.

Arches support the weight of Fort Pickens Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

When Florida seceded in 1861, Union troops refused to surrender Fort Pickens, the largest of these fortifications that controlled entrance to the harbor.  The Civil War could have begun at Fort Pickens, but weather delayed a Confederate attack and South Carolina troops fired on Fort Sumter first.   After several unsuccessful battles to take Fort Pickens, Confederate troops abandoned the region and the Union remained in control of Pensacola throughout the war.

The counterscarp wall protected the landward side of Fort Pickens. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

Located along shipping routes to New Orleans, Mississippi’s Ship Island also played a notable role in the Civil War.  An uncompleted fort on the island was taken by Confederate troops early in the war, but was abandoned soon after.  Union forces moved in, continued construction of the fort, and staged the successful attack of New Orleans from the island.  The Louisiana Native Guard, one of the first black regiments in the U.S. Army, was stationed at this fort known as Fort Massachusetts. Their successful raid on Pascagoula in 1863 was a first for black soldiers in the war.

Sunrise over the dunes at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller

As coastal defenses evolved, reinforced concrete batteries were constructed on many of the islands.  By the end of World War II, improved warfare technology rendered coastal artillery guns obsolete and the forts and batteries were closed.  Preservation of the forts and undeveloped barrier islands were the only battles to follow. 

Pensacola News Journal editor Jesse Earle Bowden, Mississippi historian M. James Stevens, and Edwin C. Bearss of the National Park Service championed the creation of a National Seashore to protect these historical resources.  After convincing municipalities in both states to donate land, Congressmen Robert Sikes of Florida and William M. Colmer of Mississippi presented the bill that was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1971.  The National Seashore would also preserve pristine barrier island, coastal, and aquatic ecosystems.  With adjacent waters included, more than eighty percent of the park is under water. 

Additionally, President John Quincy Adams authorized the first and only federal tree farm in 1828.  Live oak trees were cultivated for shipbuilding.  The advent of iron and steel warships diminished demand for live oak timber, but this historical forest is preserved at the Naval Live Oaks area of GINS. 

Increased coastal development has made the park a sanctuary for a variety of threatened and endangered species including nesting shore birds, beach mice, and sea turtles.  Urban stormwater runoff and increased boating activity threaten water quality and seagrass beds.  Seagrass beds are nursery grounds for a majority of the commercially valued fish species in the Gulf.  Gulf Islands National Seashore continues to work to protect these limited resources while providing public access to the beaches and waterways.