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