Thursday, February 27, 2014

Adventures in the Everglades Wilderness:

Botanical Illustration in one of North America's Last Frontiers
By Kathleen Konicek-Moran,
(The full article can be found in the December 2013 Issue of the Botanical Artist)

This is what I have encountered in the Everglades National Park of Florida: alligators (of course), chiggers, deerflies, pythons, sandflies, poisonwood, and hordes of mosquitoes that have been bitten me right through my bug jacket. I’ve trod on a water moccasin (who fortunately did not bite me), fallen into sinkholes and found myself entangled in pull-and-hold-back vines. I’ve helped push the botany airboat out of the weeds that had gotten it stuck while in water up to my armpits, had the bottom of my kayak walloped by a crocodile, and had a run-in with feral hogs. Sadly, I have only seen the fabled, endangered Florida panther from the air.

So, you might ask, why have I been a volunteer in the Everglades for the past 14 years? Because of the amazingly close interactions with nature that occur here - what Dick, my husband, and I call our “miracles of the day” - that by far surpass any aggravation that we experience.

When we retired from our jobs as college professors, Dick and I had a plan of traveling the country to volunteer in all of our national parks. Instead, our hearts were captured by the Everglades and we never went further.

I began as a volunteer nature interpreter, leading tours, but soon found my way to botany. My first job was to look for either rare or invasive plants. This meant that I had to trek through the marsh to get to a hammock and then to survey it - dividing it into quadrants and walking back and forth, identifying plants. Since I was doing this alone, I developed a lot of woods-walking skills – figuring out how to avoid aggressive alligators or how not to startle poisonous snakes. When I walked in the sawgrass, I would have the eerie feeling that it was possible no other human had ever stepped foot in that very place where I was standing. It is, after all, one of the last areas in North America to be explored or inhabited (except by native peoples who lived mostly in the hammocks) – no scientist hazarded the Everglades until the turn of the 20th century.

I began my artistic life when I ventured into the big city to take a course in botanical watercolor at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in 2007, and began drawing and painting Park plants. I work with a wonderful botanist, Jimi Sadle, who had begun focusing on endangered and threatened plants, which are, unfortunately, not uncommon in the Everglades because of the Park’s long history of water problems due to development and agricultural issues outside its boundaries. Jimi inspired me to embark on my goal of painting every endangered plant in the Park before they were lost to the world. We organized an exhibit of botanical art depicting some of these plants in 2011, collaborating with the Tropical Botanic Artists.

The Everglades have been the source of inspiration and adventure for me for many years now, and I hope that they will be for you. They are yet a wilderness, which is amazing in these days of rampant development. Although they have their share of discomforts and danger, the Everglades of Florida are also rife with miracles. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Lichen Publication

Rick and Jean in the Dry Lab

by NPS volunteers Rick and Jean Seavey.

Volunteers Rick and Jean Seavey published a significant component of their ongoing Lichen Inventory Project in The Lichenologist. The paper, titled “New additions to the lichen genus Enterographa (Roccellaceae) from Everglades National Park including an updated world key,” describes four species that were previously unknown to science. These new species include E. bradleyana commemorating Audubon warden Guy Bradley and E. murrayana, named for Mrs. Murray, an early settler in the Florida Bay area and namesake of Murray Key. To date, the Lichen Inventory Project has resulted in documentation of more than 500 species of lichen within Everglades National Park, many of which were new to North America and ten that were previously undescribed.

Seavey, F. and J. Seavey. 2014. New additions to the lichen
     genus Enterographa (Roccellaceae) from Everglades
     National Park including and updated world key. The
     Lichenologist 46:(1)83-93.

For more information, contact Jimi Sadle at 305-242-7806 or
Rick and other volunteers preparing specimens for storage.
Rick and Jean Seavey, due to the magnitude of their work, received one the most prestigious awards for volunteers in the National Park Service. In 2010, the Seavey's received the George & Helen Hartzog Award for Most Outsanding Volunteers. They traveled to Washington, DC, and received the award from Helen Hartzog.  The late George Hartzog was a former National Park Service Director, and established the Volunteers-in-Parks Program in the National Park Service in 1970.

Rick Seavey is standing behind Helen Hartzog, Jean is accepting the award.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

February Artist Explores Greater Everglades Watershed

For the month of February, photographer Adam Nadel will be working at the intersections of journalism, art, science, and human rights.

Nadel explains, “I have sought ways to inspire viewers visually, introducing them to worlds and realities they might not have otherwise considered. My belief is that aesthetics are a powerful and successful entry point for educating people; beauty no just for beauty’s sake, but as a tool to excite and inform.”

The residency will be the final stage in Mr. Nadel’s project titled Getting the Water Right, a museum exhibition that documents the people and landscape of the Greater Everglades Watershed. Nadel has already crisscrossed the Greater Everglades Watershed to document how politics, culture, economy, and ecology have dynamically interacted, and often collided, to push the Everglades ecosystem to the edge of collapse.

“I have not yet spent any time in Everglades National Park as I wanted to leave the reason behind my project, the preservation [and] what remains of the Everglades eco-system, to last.”

“The Artist in Residence in Everglades will allow me to document the natural splendor of the Everglades landscape, the beauty of its native species, and the invasive animals and plants that threaten the ecosystem.”


Other AIRIE Information

1. Save the Date: Everglades Day Trip April 5th
Miami, Florida- A tour in which all proceeds will benefit the Artist-in-Residence-in-Everglades (AIRIE)Program. Miami-based artist and AIRIE Board Member Christy Gast will host a day trip to the Hole-in-the-Donut region of the Everglades in conjunction with her solo exhibition at Locust Projects entitled Inholdings. The tour begins at Locust Projects with a private chat about the work in the show. From there we will board an exclusive motor coach with artists and scientists and tour the sites that inspired the work--slash pine forests, tomato fields, an ecological restoration project and a nuclear missile base. The tour will include a picnic lunch, and will last about 6 hours round trip.  RSVP to

2. AIRIE in the News

Click here to read Bill Maxwell's essay in the Tampa Bay Times about his experience living and working in the River of Grass.
January AIRIE Fellow Rodney Dickson at the Windows@Walgreens event

Click here to see fellow Rodney Dickson's work at ArtCenter South Florida's Windows@Walgreens in North Miami Beach. The exhibition will be on display from Feb.1- March 16.

Click here for a link to Irreversible magazine's AIRIE profile and profile on AIRIE Fellow Gustavo Matamoros.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Volunteers Help Protect Endangered Birds, part 2

In the beginning of January, a high school group from Iowa on an Alternative Winter Break (AWB), traveled to Everglades National Park for service learning.  They spent one day immersing themselves in the resources by participated on a Ranger guided canoe tour, and a wilderness walk in the Cypress habitat.  For their service project, the 9 students and two teachers created 250 sandbags.  Weighing 50lbs, they dumped the sand from its "paper bag" shipping container into acrylic military grade mesh sandbags. Do to their organization, and the students’ hard work - they accomplished this task extremely quickly!

(This group also re-organized the hydrology pipe-rack to clean out old material, weed, and sort the materials. Now the pipe rack is looking neater and will be easier to maintain.)

The sand bags were transported to Shark Valley by staff in preparation for another AWB group. In mid-January, a college group from University of Wisconsin met hydrologist Damon Rondeau at the Shark Valley Loop road off of Tamiami trail. Their job was to use the 250 sandbags created by the Iowa group to plug culverts along the western half of the tram road. This basically involved loading sandbags onto a trailer, then unloading them from the trailer and putting them in the culverts. This included either fully plugging or adding reinforcement bags to some 56 culverts along the road.

These two groups helped the SFNRC Physical Resource group maintain the necessary mitigation measures to help ensure possible operation changes in the water control features along Tamiami do not interfere with Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow nesting season. Just to point it out - the 250 sandbags equal 6.25 tons.