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Tom Bayles in 2019.JPG

Tom Bayles

WGCU Environmental Reporter

Email: tbayles@wgcu.org

  • Shorebird counts on Sanibel and Captiva islands in November were the highest they've been in five years, despite devastation to the region caused by Hurricane Ian in September.
  • This is the Water Quality Report that will be updated weekly to highlight harmful algae blooms such as red tide, blue-green algae, and other fresh water and saltwater blooms. Some are caused by stormwater runoff or leaky septic systems, and cause fish kills and acrid smells that can be harmful to humans and pets and deadly to wildlife. Nutrient pollution is a cause, whether from Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River, or the Gulf of Mexico. Karenina brevis, hydrogen sulfide, enterococcus, bacteria, microalgae, and phosphate and nitrogen are often to blame when algae blooms occur commonly in places like the Alva boat ramp and Davis boat ramp, Matlacha Pass, and Charlotte Harbor. The Water Quality Report is created by WGCU Public Media, NPR & PBS for Southwest Florida and Tom Bayles, senior environmental reporter #EnviroManWGCU
  • Bird watchers in Southwest Florida are a passionate group and two months after Hurricane Ian, when they don’t see as many of their favorites, birders are worrying that such a huge storm has simply blown birds aside, killing or maiming them on a species-wide scale.The survival capabilities of shorebirds are extraordinary. Whether due to the changes in barometric pressure, storm clouds causing darkness during daylight hours, or other reasons ornithologists don’t understand research shows many birds species jump into literal flight or fight mode when a hurricane is coming.Many birds sense impending doom when a big storm rolls in and they either tuck in somewhere safe, or fly away. Other avian species are strong enough to best even hurricane-force winds, fly right through them, and live to squawk about it.
  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will add to its boater safety course questions about the rules designed to protect manatees, sea turtles and other marine life at risk of injury from watercraft.
  • Florida Gulf Coast University’s most prestigious building to open in its 25-year history — The Water School — has had its grand opening and is now helping students learn and experiment in marine science labs with state-of-the-art equipment that rival much larger universities.
  • Fifteen years ago, there was no noticeable problem with the Carolina willows at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Slowly, the native plant species grew to the extent of being considered invasive.This particular willow, almost by itself, has expanded the definition of “invasive species” to include particularly aggressive plants that are native to Florida, not just faraway exotics.
  • The power of Google's cloud computing is helping the South Florida Water Management District with collection, analysis and processing of data linked to water quality improvement efforts.
  • Red tide is everywhere.From Tampa Bay south to Ten Thousand Islands, local groups and state agencies that test for and track red tide are warning that the harmful algae bloom that kills fish and sickens dogs, and whose acrid air chases people off the beach, is here.And there. And there. And there.Red tide was detected at every beach in Sarasota County soon after Hurricane Ian made landfall near Fort Myers in late September. Earlier this month, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, in nearly 100 samples throughout Southwest Florida.Florida Department of Health officials in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties are issuing health alerts daily warning of the real and present danger to human and animals.The red tide is so prevalent, so pungent, and so potentially poisonous that the authors of the health advisories ignored the long-established practice of softening the language to avoid scaring away tourists.
  • Hurricane Ian sunk, stranded, or swamped so many vessels that the deadline to have them up and out of the waterways, mangroves, or backyards has been extended.If you are lucky enough to have a boat, car, motorcycle, all-terrain and vehicle and a trailer to haul it all, but hapless enough to have the 150-mph winds blow it all over the place you just got lucky again. Sort of.Hurricane Ian displaced more than 4,000 vessels, vehicles, and trailers – anything with a registration counts - and more than 500 of them are judged abandoned. The number of vessels thrown about by Ian is expected to grow as more are discovered, some totaled and removed by their owners’ insurance companies, and some not.Rob Beaton, a major with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in charge of boating and waterways, said owners are still encouraged to hire a salvage company themselves to recover their vessel, but if they cannot afford it, and hand over the title, his agency will coordinate the removal and destruction of the vessel, and owners will not be charged.
  • A fund-raising fishing tournament for Hurricane Ian recovery and rebuilding efforts raised funds in the tens of thousands of dollars even though nobody’s gone fishing in the tournament yet.The recent kick-off party for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s “RedSnook” Catch & Release Charity Fishing Tournament raised more than $70,000 to benefit Isle of Capri hurricane victims.The party brought in more than $45,000 in less than 10 minutes. The Community Foundation of Collier County added $25,000,