December 19, 2012

Talking to Children about Terrorism

Nan Jensen,
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Many of us are reeling after seeing the news of the shooting in Connecticut. In today's world, parents and caregivers are faced with the challenge of explaining violence, terrorism and other traumatic events to children. While difficult, these conversations are extremely important and can provide an opportunity to help children feel more secure and understand the world in which they live. Dr. Heidi Radunovich, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist with the University of Florida offers some resources that might be helpful for you and your family on how to talk with your children about terrorism. 

General information on coping with terrorism:

December 4, 2012

Resources For Identifying Insects, Plants, & Diseases

Lara Miller    
Natural Resource Agent

Many Florida residents find unknown plants growing in their yard, unknown bugs in their houses or gardens, and apparent diseases on what were previously healthy plants. So what resources are out there to help you turn the unknown into known?

Extension Offices
Your local Extension office should be your first point of contact for helping you identify any mysterious problems or species in your home or yard. You can call, e-mail, or visit the office in person.

Lawn and Garden Help
We offer walk-in Lawn and Garden Help Desk services at the following locations:
  • Pinellas County Extension Office
    12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo, FL 33774
    Walk-In Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-5pm (excluding holidays)
  • Pinellas County Master Gardener Plant Clinic
    Palm Harbor Library
    2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor, FL 34683
    Wednesdays from 10am-2pm, January through mid-November
Lawn and Garden Help Line
Lawn & Garden assistance is also available by phone at (727)582-2100 and then Press 1.
Hours of Operation: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday
9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm

When you do, have or send the following:
  • Photographs (digital or snapshot) or a physical sample if you are making an in-person visit.
  • As detailed a description of the organism or disease symptom as possible (e.g., where and when you saw it, behavior, any others present, how long it has been occurring, the type of damage).
Even if your county Extension office cannot make the identification or disease diagnosis, the agents will be able to help you with forms and samples to send to UF/IFAS's diagnostic laboratories.

There are thousands of insects in Florida, and knowing whether the one you found is harmless, beneficial, or damaging is key for deciding on control measures. The Insect ID Lab can analyze insect samples sent by Florida residents. The Help Desk can provide answers or information on preparing a sample to send to the Insect ID Lab. The lab will charge $8 per sample sent.
Send samples in a crush-proof container with the accompanying submission form (205KB pdf). Sending samples in flat or padded envelopes is discouraged.

Collecting a Sample
  1. The more specimens included in a sample, the better.
  2. In most cases, you should kill and preserve the insects before sending them. 
  • Do this by placing them in the freezer or in a vial with rubbing alcohol.
    Caterpillars will not preserve well in an alcohol solution. Moths and butterflies should be kept dry.
  • Take special care if you believe the insect could be a new or exotic species.
Contact your Extension office or read the submission guide for more details.

You can either bring in a physical specimen of the plant (or blossom, leaf, etc.) or a photograph to the Help Desk. Multiple photographs are best, with pictures of leaves, bark or stem, blossoms, seed pods, as well as the whole plant itself.

In addition to the pictures or sample, pass along as much additional information as possible:
  • Size and shape of plant, leaves, blossoms, seeds.
  • Growth habit and location.
  • Conditions in location (e.g., sun, soil type and moisture, cultivated or forested area).
  • Colors of plant and blossoms.
If the Extension agent or Master Gardener cannot make an identification, they will send a sample to the UF Herbarium. All identification samples sent to the herbarium must first go through your county Extension agent, but the herbarium does offer an online database where Florida residents can look at images of plants in the collection.

UF/IFAS Extension offers multiple plant diagnostic clinics and labs, which make up the Florida Plant Diagnostic Network. These diagnostic clinics use living-plant samples to make disease diagnoses.
An important note: once a plant is dead, our Extension professionals are unable to make a disease diagnosis. Harmful fungi and bacteria are present in all Florida soils, and many secondary bacteria and fungi will start to grow on a dead plant. These two factors make it impossible to determine what, if any, disease killed a plant.
Contact your county's Extension office for help and information on preparing a plant or turf sample to send to a diagnostic lab. The lab will charge $40 per sample sent. (Certain disease tests are no charge.)
Send properly packaged samples with the accompanying submission form. Sometimes what you believe may be a disease is only a nutrient deficiency. Your local Extension agent can advise you if it would be worth testing your soil before doing a disease analysis. (Find more information from the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory.)

Collecting a Sample
General guidelines include:
  • Take samples before applying pesticides.
  • Make sure samples are living (green).
  • Include a large amount of plant material that covers the range of the symptoms.
  • Do not mix different samples in the same submission bag.
Contact your Extension office and read the submission guide for more details.

Other Identifications
UF/IFAS Extension offices are your source for answers to your questions and solutions for your life. Wildlife was not covered in this guide, but any identification questions or problems you have can be answered by our offices if you give them enough information.
An e-mail, telephone call, or visit to your local Extension office is your first step in identifying any plants, pests, animals, problems, or curiosities you encounter.

Adapted and excerpted from:
L. Buss, Insect Identification Service (RFSR010), Entomology and Nematology Department (rev. 3/2010).
N. Williams, Plant Identification and Information Service (RFSR013), Extension Administration Office (rev. 12/2011).
A. Palmateer, et al, Sample Submission Guide for Plant Diagnostic Clinics of the Florida Plant Diagnostic Network (RFSR007), Plant Pathology Department (rev. 9/2012).

November 28, 2012

Holiday Lights at the Florida Botanical Gardens

8,500 people attended this year’s opening weekend of the Holiday Lights at the Florida Botanical Gardens. With over 500,000 LED lights, this floral wonderland is aglow, and so are visitors’ faces, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. from November 23 until January 1.

Home-grown entertainers perform nightly and food and beverages are available for purchase. Kids can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus there each Friday, Saturday and Sunday (except December 8.) Parking is free. A $2 donation is suggested for adults.

The winding paths feature seasonal lighted fountains and laser displays framing the lush variety of plants that visitors enjoy year-round. Garden enthusiasts will enjoy seeing the full blooms of dogwood bushes and the Christmas Ornament tree with its unique fragrance. This year’s new dedication is a vinery garden.

The Florida Botanical Gardens is located at 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo. Visit for more information.

All of the ornamental lights have been converted to LED strings for greater energy efficiency. LEDs are considered environmentally friendly, since they contain no mercury. Larger LEDs are effective inside the home, as they produce very little heat and their lifetime is not affected by frequent on/off switching.

Visit the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP) booth for information about LED lighting and other ways to save energy at home. PEEP will be there giving out free hand-powered flashlights, while supplies last, on November 28 and December 1, 5, 7, 12, 15, 19, 21, and 29. PEEP offers free classes on how to reduce your home energy bill.


Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project web page

UF EDIS Factsheet: Introduction to LED Lighting

November 26, 2012

Want to become a Master Wildlifer?

New Master Wildlifer Program Begins January 29

Landowners, land managers and wildlife enthusiasts can learn how to manage wildlife on their land by participating in the 2013 Master Wildlifer Program.

The award-winning Master Wildlifer Program brings together a panel of renowned wildlife biologists, conservation experts and habitat managers for educational sessions on wildlife ecology and management and will include sessions on white-tailed deer, coyote, wild hog, non-game wildlife conservation and wild turkey.

This series of interactive seminars is delivered live to your computer   every Tuesday evening from January 29 through February 26, 2013, from 7 – 8:30 pm (EST).

Landowners without computer access or broadband internet may be able to view and participate in the 2013 Master Wildlifer Program at live sites available through select county extension offices.

Master Wildlifer is a continuing education program designed to provide the latest research-based information to landowners and managers to help in designing sound approaches to managing wildlife. The cost for the course is $100 and includes access to all five live sessions, recordings of each session, and program materials.

For more information about live site locations contact your local county extension office at: 727-453-6905 or 

November 19, 2012

Thankful for Volunteers

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector,  
Urban Sustainability Agent  

As I work on my annual report and reflect on the many accomplishments over the year, I am thankful for the volunteers in the Sustainable Floridian program. Sustainable Floridians is a pioneer program from the University of Florida that seeks to build sustainability awareness. Since its pilot launch in 2011, the program has been well received by our citizens, and in two years, we’ve trained 66 participants. Our volunteers have donated more than 1,800 hours to extending the reach of the Extension Service in our county. As Program Coordinator, I am indebted to the pioneer participants who remain committed to Extension and its mission.

Thanksgiving is a time to express thanks and gratitude and our volunteers have become part of our family here at Extension. One of our newest volunteers, Margot Hogan Glenos, reflected on her recent experiences with Sustainable Floridians and it illustrates what the University of Florida and its instructors hoped to achieve with the development of this program. I am thankful to Margot for sharing her reflections with us and I hope you enjoy reading her perspective.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Having retired from a long teaching career, I decided to heed my own advice given to my students- follow your heart and do what makes you happy. As a teacher, I was constantly involved in community projects that involved some type of environmental awareness or conservation. There was great excitement when the students planted trees or gardens on the school campus. They became downright vigilantes when people dropped litter around on “their playground”. It was rewarding to see the students look at the environment through new eyes and know that a seed of conservation and stewardship had been planted in their minds.

When I moved to Florida last April, I wanted to be a part of my new community and pondered where to start. I came across the Sustainable Floridians Program that is offered through the Pinellas County Extension Service and the University of Florida. The course description looked perfect for my needs–sustainable practices tailored to my new home.

The seven week course began with an awareness of the ecological problems facing all of us on a local and global scale. It was hard to visualize scarcity and carbon footprints while gazing out at the beauty of the Brooker Creek Preserve. I watched butterflies float lazily past the panoramic windows as Ramona or Mary presented distressing facts. Squirrels happily foraged for food among the palmettos and oak trees while my classmates and I discussed sustainability.

It was on a trip home that opened my eyes to the development in Pinellas County. Highway 19 stretched on for miles with one town blending into another. It seemed that there were endless shopping centers between Tarpon Springs and Seminole. The traffic was steady and fairly heavy. I realized at that moment how truly important sustainability is to everyone around me. Comprehension dawned in my mind of what a million people living and working together in a space called Pinellas County really looked like. I was momentarily intimidated by the immensity of it all.

The classes began to calm my concerns about sustainability in the world (and Pinellas County). We learned about solutions found in other communities. When our classes took us on an exploration of water and electricity conservation, I really took it personally. It was at this point that I accepted the challenge of reducing my power and water consumption.

I purchased an umbrella clothesline and stopped using the dryer. There is something strangely meditative about hanging laundry on a line in the sunshine. I can hear all sorts of birds calling to each other. The wind chimes around the neighborhood create a unique orchestra of tube melodies in the gentle breezes. My dogs enjoy sitting in the sunshine, watching me fuss with each article of clothing.

Besides using a solar clothes dryer, I have been setting up a rain barrel to help save water for my plants. This is another direct benefit from the Sustainable Floridians. They bring in resource people to teach us how to do things such as building rain barrels. All I need now is some rain to fill up the barrel.

Another area of sustainability that piqued my interest in this course was saving on driving. I have been keenly aware of my ‘car-bon’ tire track for a number of years now. When I was commuting 75 miles every day, I needed a car that would get optimum mileage. After much research, I chose a Prius. It not only gets about 50 miles to a gallon of gas but has nearly zero emissions. Since retiring, I do not drive as much as before. However, the Sustainable Floridians course made me start thinking about my driving habits. Just because I have a low mpg car does not mean that I do not have to be conservative. I plan trips based on needs rather than impulse. If I need to go to the store, I combine it with something else that needs to be done. I am becoming vividly conscious of my driving habits and gas consumption.

Part of the requirement for the Sustainable Floridian course is volunteerism. I am looking forward to getting involved in community events around Pinellas County. It is exciting for me to have the opportunity to work with others who have expertise and experience in the many areas for which I am interested in volunteering.

These are a few of the benefits I gained from Sustainable Floridians. However, the greatest benefit was in getting to know others with a passion for living sustainably. Our class was comprised of people from all ages, backgrounds, interests yet we found common ground in this course. Ideas were exchanged, support and encouragement was offered, and new friendships developed. Knowing that there are other people in the community who feel the same about preserving our world and living sustainably is a huge boost to my own efforts.

I am grateful to the Pinellas County Extension for providing such a valuable course to the public. It was just what I needed to help guide me along a more sustainable path.

November 16, 2012

One Fish, Two Fish, “Red” Fish, Dead Fish?

Credit: Florida Fish and
Wildlife Research Institute
Libby Carnahan,  
Pinellas County Sea Grant Extension Agent  

We all remember the Gulf of Mexico beaches of 2005 littered with decaying fish. The fish kill was caused by “red tide” and recent reports of a patchy bloom of Florida Red Tide in southwest Florida from southern Pinellas County through Lee County is causing concern. So what is red tide and what are the impacts to us? 

Red tide is the result of a harmful algal bloom (HAB) of a tiny single-celled dinoflagellate algae called Karenia brevis. Red tide in Florida is a natural phenomenon, originating offshore from algae lying dormant as cysts in the sediment. It is unclear what causes the cysts to awaken and multiply. HABs occur under a particular combination of biology, chemistry, and physics.

Many red tides produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine life and humans. The Florida red tide organism, K. brevis, produces brevetoxins that can affect the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates, causing these animals to die. Fish can acquire the toxins through direct uptake (planktivorous fish), or by bioaccumulation through the food chain. Often the animals themselves do not exhibit any visible sign of contamination. Predatory fish, birds, marine mammals and humans that eat this fish can become poisoned. Blooms of K. brevis can kill millions of fish and birds in a few days, and blooms can last for weeks.

The red tide toxins can also accumulate in molluscan filter-feeders such as oysters and clams, which can lead to Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning in people who consume contaminated shellfish. Red tide also causes respiratory irritation in humans as K. brevis cells release toxins into the air as they are broken down by wave action. For people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, red tide can cause serious illness.

Although the occurrence of a red tide cannot be predicted, scientists can forecast its movement using wind and water current data once a bloom is located. Scientists also monitor the concentration of the red tide organism by collecting water samples routinely and in response to blooms. The information provided by forecasting and monitoring allows citizens to make informed decisions regarding their beach-going activities.

Some precautions that can be taken to avoid disease and/or discomfort due to red tide HABs include:
  • Stay away from the water where HAB conditions have been identified or if water is foamy or discolored or contains dead fish. 
  • Do not eat, use or collect any fish, crabs, shellfish, other life or items from those waters. 
  • Do not let pets swim in or eat fish from those waters. 
  • If contact is made with the water, rinse as soon as possible with fresh water. 
  • If you suffer respiratory discomfort when near the water, moving a short distance away from the shore may alleviate the symptoms. In more severe cases, stay indoors in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible. 

Red tides can last as little as a few weeks or longer than a year. The duration of a bloom in nearshore Florida waters depends on physical and biological conditions that influence its growth and persistence, including sunlight, nutrients and salinity, as well as the speed and direction of wind and water currents. HABs can have consequences on human health, the environment, local and regional economies, and can impact natural ecological communities directly and indirectly.

For more information on active red tide events, visit the FWC website and access the resources below. 


Rey, Jorge R. 2008. Red Tides. University of Florida, IFAS, EDIS ENY-851 (IN766),

Staugler, Betty. 2012. Red Tide 101. University of Florida IFAS/ Charlotte County Extension. EAS-010412-002.

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project at Science Center

Energy-saving kits
for class attendees

Don’t miss the free 60 minute class in advanced energy saving while attending the sustainability event at the Science Center of Pinellas County on Saturday,  November 17 at 6 p.m. Learn how much energy is wasted in the home every day, around the clock. Participants receive free equipment and materials (while supplies last) to help cut energy costs, and save money each month.

Located just west of the Tyrone Square Mall on 22nd Avenue North, the Science Center is now the Science + Technology Education Innovation Center (STEIC). This Saturday's activities include planetarium shows, a yard sale and an outdoor movie at 7:30 p.m. Visit the STEIC web site for more information, or call 727-384-0027.

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project is a grant-funded educational program of Pinellas County Extension. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.

October 10, 2012

Parents and Kids – An Educational Opportunity!

Parents and Kids – An Educational Opportunity!

Brooker Creek Preserve is proud to announce they are looking for youth members to join their 4-H Forest Ecology Team and Brooker Creek Explorers Club. Youth joining the Forest Ecology Team will work towards competing in an annual 4-H Forest Ecology Contest held in April. This contest quizzes students on their plant and animal identification skills, compass and map skills, and ecological knowledge. Both the Team and the Club are fun ways to learn, get outdoors, and be involved in your community. Activities for the forest ecology team will be led by Lara Miller, Natural Resource Extension Agent for Pinellas County, and the Brooker Creek Explorers club will be led by Brooker Creek Preserve volunteers. If you are interested in joining either opportunity or both please contact Lara Miller at You may also join us at the 4-H Open House hosted at Brooker Creek Preserve on Saturday, October 13th from 1:00-3:00pm. Families will have the opportunity to inquire more about the 4-H clubs and teams being offered as well as participate in a variety of fun, hands-on activities such as:

Activity 1:  Leaf and Bark rubbing

Activity 2:  Identification of the leaf that was rubbed

Activity 3:  Age of several Tree Cookies

Activity 4:  Drawing Your Own Life as a Tree Cookie

Free registration for the Open House is available here. We look forward to seeing you there!

October 5, 2012

Natural Resource Webinar Series for Landowners

Managing Your Land:Natural Resources Opportunities for Landowners
A Master Tree Farmer / Master Wildlifer Series
Thursdays, 7 to 8:30 PM Eastern Time
 October 11 - November 8, 2012an Internet Webinar Broadcast out of Clemson University

ABOUT THE PROGRAMThis webinar course will provide landowners with an awareness of options for managing their lands for a variety of natural resources. This is intended to be a pre-cursor to the Master Wildlifer, Master Tree Farmer, Master Naturalist, and the Natural Resources Enterprises program workshops planned in the future.  Live webinar schedule:
October 11:  Introduction to Natural Resource Conservation
October 18:  Natural Resource Enterprise Considerations for Your Land
October 25:  Wildlife Conservation on Your Land
November 1:  Forest Management on Your Land
November 8:  Natural Resources Appreciative Uses on Your Land

More details on regional web site:
Landowners and land managers interested in learning how to manage land to meet a variety of natural resource management objectives should attend this course.
1- Attend a host site.  For a reasonable fee, participate in the series at a host site with other landowners, your County Extension Agent, County Forester and other natural resource professionals that help can answer your questions.  See the list on the reverse side for participating Extension locations and contacts.  Contact the site host for details about locations, fees and schedule.

2- Access the webinars on your own computer.  Register for all 5 sessions or you can choose which sessions best meet your needs.  The cost for all 5 Sessions is $100.   Individual Sessions cost $25 per session.  Registration here:

Please contact Pinellas County's Natural Resource Agent, Lara Miller at (727) 453-6905 or if you are interested in attending.

October 1, 2012

Energy Action Month: From Cooling to Heating

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Urban Sustainability Agent  
Greg Plantamura, Energy Educator  

Isn’t Florida life great? Our out-of-state friends envy our beautiful beaches, parks and sunshine. But did you know that Florida burns more petroleum to produce electricity than any other state?

Since we depend so much on air conditioning in the summer, it’s not surprising that Florida’s residential electricity demand is so high. For residents who cool their homes by opening windows, electric heat is still needed in the winter. Even when your heating and cooling system is running at its most efficient, it can often amount to 40% of your electric bill. Floridians’ home power consumption makes up 6% of all electricity consumed in the USA and the average Florida home spends about $1593 per year.

As winter approaches, it’s time to inspect your home heating system. If your system isn’t well maintained, it has to work harder and use more energy to keep you comfortable. The cost of a routine inspection is often less costly than repairs in the long run.

Would you like to learn more ways to consume less energy without sacrificing your level of comfort? In celebration of Energy Action Month, the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP) is offering FREE classes throughout October. You will learn how to reduce your home energy bill and receive free energy saving devices that will help you save money . The energy tote bag contains LED light bulbs, an indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer, and a “smart strip” surge protector.

Register at

If you can’t make it to one of these classes, invite PEEP to do a presentation at your civic group, clubhouse or church. For more information, call 727-582-2097.
Mark Your Calendars! The Bats are Coming!

Bats are a mysterious and peculiar group of animals that spend their days in dark and secluded roosts and nights flying and hunting. Perhaps partly because of their nocturnal habits and preference for “creepy” places, bats have long been feared and despised by humans. Much of this fear stems from certain myths and misconceptions about bats that have widely become accepted as facts. In reality, bats pose little threat to humans while playing an important role in our ecosystem and are more deserving of our gratitude than disgust.
The biggest misconception and probably the greatest source of fear of bats is the idea that most of them carry rabies. However, less than one half of one percent of bats carries the disease and rabies is not easily transmitted from an infected animal to a person. Also, unlike many other animals with rabies, bats rarely become aggressive when infected with the virus and will usually become paralyzed and die quietly. For this reason, you should never handle a bat that is found on the ground.
Other misunderstandings about bats include that they suck blood and are flying rodents. Only 3 of the 1,200 bats species found worldwide actually feed on blood, but they are only found in Central and South America and will typically only feed on livestock. These bats don’t actually suck the blood, but rather feed by lapping blood from small incisions made with their teeth, oftentimes without the livestock being aware of their presence.  Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly, but should not be mistaken for flying mice or rats. Scientists believe that bats are actually more closely related to monkeys than to rodents.
Unfortunately, many bat roosts are destroyed due to the belief that they are pests and spread rabies, when really bats are a hugely beneficial part of the wildlife community. Bat populations consume enormous numbers of insect pests that can be harmful to humans and crops. A single bat can eat thousands of insects each night and given that bats often roost in massive colonies, the role bats have in keeping pest populations in check across the globe is immeasurable. A general misunderstanding and under appreciation of bats is leading to habitat loss and declining numbers for these animals that are far more helpful to humans than harmful.
If you want to learn more about bats and the contributions they make to the ecosystem, sign up for the “Bats: Myth and Reality” program at Brooker Creek Preserve on October 20th from 10–11:30 a.m. Free registration is available here. You can also help with habitat loss by purchasing a bat house during this program! More information can be found on the program registration page.

Stay up to date on news and information affecting our environment by following your Pinellas County Natural Resource Extension Agent on Twitter.

Written by:
Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern


September 19, 2012

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project at Science Center on September 22

Free energy saving kit
for class attendees

Don’t miss the free 60 minute class in advanced energy saving while attending the sustainability night at the Science Center of Pinellas County. Learn how much energy is wasted in the home every day, around the clock. Participants receive free equipment and materials to help cut energy costs, and save money each month.

Located just west of the Tyrone Square Mall on 22nd Avenue North, the Science Center is now the Science + Technology Education Innovation Center (STEIC). The Saturday sustainability event will culminate at midnight to celebrate the start of National Plug-In Day. Visitors will see the STEIC’s new electric car charging station and a home charging station will be given away at midnight. Visit the STEIC web site for more information, or call 727-384-0027.

Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project is a grant-funded educational program of Pinellas County Extension. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.

September 4, 2012

Pinellas County Extension celebrates 150 years of Solutions for your Life

One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the land grant university system which set the stage for Extension outreach education to local communities. This law directed states to create institutions of higher learning for the study of agricultural science and engineering, providing 30,000 acres of public land to each state for that purpose. Land grant universities support outreach activities through their Extension Services. The University of Florida has 67 county Extension offices throughout the state; Pinellas County Extension is located at 12520 Ulmerton Road next to Heritage Village in Largo.

Saturday, Sept. 15, has been set aside for Pinellas County Extension to showcase the Lawn and Garden Help Desk, which has provided county residents with horticulture and commercial lawn care expertise since the 1970s. Residents are invited to enjoy the celebration from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Staff will be on hand to answer horticultural questions. Spin the wheel and test your knowledge about Extension for a chance to win an LED flashlight. Come early and enjoy an informative tour through the Natural Areas at 9 a.m., registration at , or a Rain Harvesting Workshop from 9 to 10:15 a.m. with rain barrels available for only $10. Advance registration required on-line at

Florida Botanical Gardens joins in the celebration by having their volunteers and Master Gardeners offering thirty-minute tours through the garden’s formal and Florida-friendly garden areas.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, Pinellas County Extension invites residents to enjoy a hike through the natural area of Brooker Creek Preserve. Certified interpretive guides will lead visitors through ecosystems that transform with the slightest changes in elevation. Along the way, guides will explain the ecological and historical variations they experience. The tour begins at 9 a.m. and registration is available online at Plan to stay after the hike and cool down inside the Education Center while exploring a variety of interactive and educational exhibits.

The following Saturday, Sept. 29, Pinellas County Extension will add to the 150th Land Grant anniversary by recognizing National Public Lands Day and National Estuaries Day at Weedon Island Preserve. There will be a guided tour of the coastal mangrove hammocks as well as the opportunity to get down and dirty with the Pinellas Sea Grant on the canoe and kayak coastal cleanup. Both the hike and cleanup begin at 9 a.m. At 2 p.m. the interactive marine learning stations welcomes visitors and guests. Don’t forget to bring a plain t-shirt to make a fish-printing keepsake. Register for events online at

Pinellas County Extension is a partnership between Pinellas County government and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences as part of a nationwide network of land grant universities. The University of Florida is an equal access/equal opportunity institution.

The mission of Pinellas County Extension is to provide research-based knowledge and education programs enabling people to make practical decisions to improve their quality of life and the world around them. Education focuses on sustainable living, lawn and garden, families and consumers, and 4-H youth development.

Pinellas County Extension offers programming at the Extension office, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, (727) 582-2100; at the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs, (727) 453-6800 and at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg, (727) 453-6500. For information, visit and find Pinellas Extension on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are a person with a disability who needs any accommodation in order to participate in classes you are entitled, at no cost to you, to the provision of certain assistance. At least seven days prior to the class, please contact the Office of Human Rights, 400 S. Fort Harrison Ave., Suite 500, Clearwater, FL 33756, (727) 464-4062 (Voice/TDD).

August 24, 2012

Hurricane Preparedness

Libby Carnahan,
Pinellas County Sea Grant Extension Agent  

As Tropical Storm Isaac bears down on Haiti, there are still many unanswered questions. Where will it go next? What regions of Florida will be affected? How much damage will the storm surge and winds cause?

However, one thing is certain. It never hurts to be prepared! The University of Florida IFAS program offers a comprehensive online guide to help residents prepare for an impending disaster. The guide can be downloaded at

Highlights of the Disasters: Preparation and Recovery Guide include

  • Evacuation Checklist 
  • List of “On the Go Papers and Documents” 
  • Special considerations for Elderly 
  • Special considerations for infants and toddlers 
  • How to protect yourself and family post-disaster

Remember, mostly importantly, the safety of you and your family is much more important than that of property. Visit the National Hurricane Center’s website for the most up to date conditions, watches, and warnings associated with Tropical Storm Isaac and all other storms, . For additional resources to stay connected in Pinellas County, download our factsheet at

Sign up for The Water Column, Pinellas Sea Grant Extension Newsletter
Follow UF Pinellas SeaGrant on Twitter

August 13, 2012

Sustainable Floridians Master Volunteer Program

What is sustainability and why is it important? The University of Florida has a new training program to help citizens and local government staff learn about sustainability and connect with others who are already interested in local, sustainable community projects. Sustainable Floridians is a 7-week course that provides a forum for education and action to address Florida concerns about water, transportation, energy, and land use. The program uses instructor led sessions and participant discussion to create a lively classroom learning experience. Participants receive valuable sustainable living items like rain barrels and energy saving devices to promote behavior change. There are also opportunities for ongoing learning through the UF Extension network and monthly meetings and field trips for Sustainable Floridian graduates. This program is offered to residents of Pasco and Hillsborough counties also.

In order to be considered for the program, participants must submit an application to the program coordinator ( Applications are due September 7, 2012.

The next training program will be offered at Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center in Tarpon Springs. Orientation (open to anyone interested) is September 6, 2012 from 10 am to 12 noon at Brooker Creek Preserve.

Dates for Program: September 13 – October 25, 2012. Classes meet every Thursday during the 7 weeks from 9 am to 1 pm. Participants must complete the training and required volunteer hours to be considered a certified Sustainable Floridian graduate. Participants meet the 30 hour volunteer requirement and 15 hour ongoing training requirement by completing Extension approved projects. These may include working at community outreach events, writing articles, and working with schools to educate youth about sustainability. Since the launch of the program in 2011, Pinellas County has trained 47 volunteers who contributed more than 700 hours to extend the mission of Extension. Join us for this exciting program and become a part of the Sustainable Floridian network of graduates!

August 1, 2012

Back to School on a Budget

Nan Jensen,
Extension Agent,
Family and Consumer Sciences 

Parents can expect to pay as much as 6 percent more to send their children to grades K-12 this year, according to the 2012 Huntington Backpack Index issued by Huntington Bank (NASDAQ: HBAN; Much of the increase comes from the higher cost of school supplies and some common extracurricular activities. This increase can put a big squeeze on the family budget but there are some things you can do to help stretch your back to school dollars.

Start your shopping early. Retail stores begin sales early in the hopes of gaining customers. Most will have school supplies like pens, paper, crayons and notebooks at low prices, often below wholesale, just to get you in the door.

Coupons and coupon codes can provide you with considerable savings. Many brand name manufacturers, as well as department stores, resort to deep discounts on some of their items in the hopes you will purchase additional items while shopping. The key to success it to use the coupon or coupon code for the sale items only. Combining the coupon with existing sales prices may double your savings.

Shop for bargains at discount and dollar stores. Often you can find the same item for less if you take the time to shop at discount stores. Look for in-store specials. Check clearance bins and sale aisles for items that you may need.

Swap items with other families. Kids that have moved on to middle or high school may have usable items that are still in good shape, but no longer needed. If you have items like book bags, calculators or school uniforms, see if you can find a family who may be willing to trade so your child gets what he or she needs.

Find deals online. Avoid the malls and do your back-to-school shopping online to save money on school supplies and clothes. Search for deals like online coupons, free shipping offers and stores with buy one, get one free deals. or are cash back sites that put money in your pocket with every purchase at your favorite store and will save you even more.

Take advantage of tax free holidays. Florida's tax free weekend has been reinstated for 2012 and is scheduled to take place from August 3-5, 2012. This is a perfect time to pick up school supplies, clothing, shoes, and other back-to-school shopping items without having to pay sales tax. Get free school supplies. With the cost of school supplies increasing each year, back-to-school events that offer free stuff can help lighten the load on the family budget. Some opportunities are restricted to families with low household incomes. But there are also plenty of media events and festivals that hand out school supplies to everyone, regardless of income. Here is listing of some in Pinellas County. 

Take advantage of programs that provide financial assistance for families. Several programs and resources are available to ease the financial burden of going back to school. These include low cost lunches and affordable health insurance. If you think your child may qualify for free or reduced-price meals pick up an application from the school your child will be attending. One family application must be submitted each year listing every child in the family. Questions regarding free and reduced-priced meals should be directed to the food service department at (727) 547-7151 or (727) 547-7161 here in Pinellas County.

For information on health insurance contact the Florida Kid Care Program at

July 10, 2012

Friend or Foe? – The Armadillo Story

Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern

Although it is commonly seen foraging in forests, woodlands and backyards, the Nine-banded Armadillo is not a native species to Florida. During the past century, armadillos have migrated from Texas to the Florida panhandle. Just as there are two sides to every story, the armadillo can be perceived as your friend or foe.

Have you noticed that your flower-beds were upturned overnight? Armadillos have poor eyesight and hearing, but a keen sense of smell that they use to find food.  Armadillos feed primarily on insects and their larvae, but will also eat earthworms, scorpions, spiders, snails, and small vertebrates and their eggs. Their ability to eat large amounts of insects harmful to humans such as ants, wasps, flies, and cockroaches can make armadillos beneficial to humans. Unfortunately, their eating habits have been known to cause damage to a wide range of locations including lawns, flower beds, and vegetable gardens.

What happened to my yard? The armadillo searches for food by digging and rooting around in the ground litter and upper soil. They prefer to dig in moist soil and will seek out well kept lawns and gardens, exactly the places where they are least wanted. Armadillos can dig dozens of shallow holes during the night, leading to ruined lawns and upturned flowerbeds. Their deep burrows can also cause damage to foundations, driveways, and other structures.

What can you do about pesky armadillos? There are not many known and effective solutions for armadillos. Most of the methods used to deal with other nuisance wildlife are not effective against armadillos. Trap rates are extremely low and there are no successful repellents, toxicants, or fumigants against armadillos. Development of effective and efficient armadillo control methods is still underway.
While destruction of property can be a problem, the armadillo does not pose a serious threat to the health of humans. They have relatively few parasites compared to other common animals and there have been no armadillos diagnosed with rabies in Florida. Although they are the only other species besides humans capable of hosting the bacteria that causes leprosy, no infected armadillos have been found in Florida and their ability to transmit the disease is not well understood.

Florida is home to diverse habitats and an abundance of wildlife. Living in close proximity with wildlife will sometimes lead to unpleasant situations. Understanding the behavior of armadillos and other nuisance animals is important in designing effective management solutions.

Find out more about critters in your backyard at Unveiling our Urban Wildlife, an educational program offered at Brooker Creek Preserve on July 28th. Free registration is available here. For more information on natural resources in Pinellas County, follow your local extension agent on Twitter.


July 9, 2012

Celebrating 150 Years: Tough Times Demand Courage and Vision

Jack Payne, UF Senior Vice President
for Agriculture and Natural Resources

On July 2, 1862, the Civil War had been raging for more than a year. What is now known as the National Mall was a muddy, makeshift campground for Union troops and a holding area for cattle. The Washington Monument wasn’t finished yet, so it became known as the "Washington Beef Depot.” Confederate troops were close to the Capitol. Times were tough.

One hundred fifty years later, I stood at a podium on the National Mall, speaking at the opening ceremony of the
Sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act. It was difficult to imagine the gloomy scene so many years earlier against the colorful backdrop of people glued to smartphones, tented displays, food vendors and the Washington Monument. It struck me that during one of America’s darkest times, the 37th Congress and President Abraham Lincoln continued working on legislation that would revolutionize American education. In fact, the logs show that July 2, 1862, was a busy day for President Lincoln: he had to inform General George B. McClellan that he wasn’t able to send him more troops; he ruled that former slaves couldn’t be allowed to starve; and he signed the Morrill Act.
Upon signing the Morrill Act, President Lincoln stated, “The land-grant university system is being built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support, and their confidence.” Lincoln and the act’s author, Justin Smith Morrill, both undereducated, even by the standards of their day, understood that education was the key to America’s economic development. And even though there were monumental and immediate threats to the nation, they had the courage to act upon their vision for the country’s future.
As it turned out, their vision for equal opportunity and educating the masses has been the driving force in our prosperity for the last 150 years. Let’s hope our current leaders will have the courage to continue that legacy. As Frederick Douglass advised back in Morrill’s day: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Learn more about UF's land-grant anniversary events: 
UF to celebrate land-grant university system’s 150th anniversary with outreach, events

The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university that supports the local County Extension offices.

July 5, 2012

Celebrating 150 Years: The University of Florida

Today’s land grant fact: 
The University of Florida. A Grand Example of the Land-Grant University
1895 “Picnic on the Suwannee” 
Students from the Florida Agricultural College in Lake City 
relax at a picnic at Florida’s iconic Suwannee River.

The Morrill Act in 1862 was designed to donate federal land (30,000 acres) to each state and territory as an endowment to support the “land grant universities”. The intent of the bill was to provide a broad segment of the population with a practical education that had direct relevance to their daily lives. Florida Agricultural College became the first land grant college in the state, and the small college emphasized the scientific training of agricultural and mechanical specialists. In 1903, the Florida Legislature changed the name of Florida Agricultural College to the "University of Florida", in recognition of the legislature's desire to expand the curriculum beyond the college's original agricultural and engineering educational missions.

The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university that supports the local County Extension offices.

July 3, 2012

How to Avoid Post Storm Repair Rip Offs

Nan Jensen,
Extension Agent,
Family and Consumer Sciences

If Debby left you with a list of repairs to take care of, Pinellas County Justice and Consumer Services has some helpful tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of a home improvement scams.

  • Watch out for “fly-by-night” contractors who take deposits and do little or no work. Avoid dealing with anyone soliciting work door-to-door. Take the opportunity to check them out first. 
  • Be wary of contractors who ask for advance payment in full. Pay upon completion or as the work progresses. 
  • Beware of any contractor who claims that extensive or structural repairs do not require a permit. The contractor should pull the required building permits, not the homeowner.

Keep the following tips in mind to ensure that your repairs are completed satisfactory: 

  • Deal only with licensed and insured contractors. Verify that the license is current and active by contacting the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board at (727) 582-3100 or
  • Be sure that you have a written contract that details the work to be completed. Also, retain proof of payment for the work in case you need it later. 
  • Require the contractor to supply a final affidavit indicating that all subcontractors and suppliers used on the job are paid in full. 
  • Ensure that the contractor has had the work inspected by the building department before you make final payment. 

To check the complaint history of a business or if you need assistance with a consumer problem, contact Justice & Consumer Services at (727) 464-6200 or visit

For more information check out the University of Florida publication on Avoiding Frauds and Deceptions at

July 2, 2012

Celebrating 150 Years: Sweet Corn

Female part of corn is silk and husk
Today’s land grant fact: 
UF/IFAS researchers developed some of the first commercially released sweet corn varieties with higher sugar content. In the 1980s, these so-called supersweet varieties were an industry game-changer.

Learn more about growing sweet corn here: 
Sweet Corn - Gardening in a Minute 

One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act, which created the land‐grant university system, made higher education more accessible to more people, and promoted agricultural science and the mechanical arts. The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university that supports the local County Extension offices.

June 28, 2012

150 Years of Solutions for Your Life

One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act, which created the land‐grant university system, made higher education more accessible to more people, and promoted agricultural science and the mechanical arts. The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university which supports the local Extension offices in all 67 counties of Florida. Extension and the land grant universities support education, research, and outreach. Today, the land‐grant system includes 107 institutions in all 50 states and several U.S. territories.

Today’s land grant fact:

Tired of watering, fertilizing, and mowing your lawn?

Photo by Tyler Jones,
University of Florida, IFAS
In 2010, UF/IFAS formally announced the release of perennial peanut as an attractive groundcover.

Used also to feed livestock, its dense green foliage and small yellow-orange flowers are popular in neighborhoods.

After IFAS researchers collected wild specimens in South America in the 1950s, they created two types of the new perennial peanut and gave the plants away to ensure genetic diversity.

Full article at