July 31, 2013

2013 Energy Symposium hosted by Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project

This FREE 3 hour symposium will feature a keynote address by Dr. Jennifer Languell, award-winning green building engineer with 15 years experience. 
Expert panel discussions will focus on water and energy efficiencies and improvements inside and outside the home.  From irrigation to PV panels, appliances to native plants, you'll get information first-hand from Duke Energy, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, Tampa Bay Water, and much more!
Each registered participant will receive an insulated tote bag with manual powered LED flashlight, solar calculator, and educational information from UF/IFAS and our partners.
Please arrive early for check-in.  Refreshments will be provided.
Saturday September 14, 9a.m.–Noon. Pinellas County Extension, 12520 Ulmerton Rd., Largo
Seating is limited and pre-registration is required at

Call 727-582-2097 for more information.
Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age. Disability, religion or national origin.

July 18, 2013

Florida’s Balance

Mary Campbell, Extension Director
and Community Resource Agent

Florida is still on track to break the 20 million mark by the end of 2015, becoming the third most populous state sometime before then—surpassing New York. Florida’s population has grown rapidly in recent decades, but growth rates have fluctuated considerably from one year to the next. For example, the state’s population grew by more than 400,000 between 2004 and 2005 but by less than 100,000 between 2008 and 2009.

Availability of jobs and economic opportunities play a big role in population growth. The last few years have seen a bit of a recovery. Florida’s population grew by 169,000 between 2011 and 2012, well below its historical average but more than twice the increase occurring between 2008 and 2009. With promising signs in the housing market and improving employment opportunities, growth will continue to accelerate over the next few years. Although it is unlikely that the state will return to the large annual increases seen in the middle of the last decade, it is expected that population growth will average around 278,000 per year by the end of the current decade (UF- Bureau of Economic and Business Research).

Between 1970 and 1990 Florida's urban areas sprawled over one million acres of formerly rural land. Natural habitats, farmland, and scenic open spaces were often converted to strip malls, housing developments, and low-density commercial development. Uncontrolled growth created environmental, social, and economic problems that threaten to destroy the very attractions that made many move to the state.

Water resources provide a good example. Florida has the highest domestic per capita water use in the country and ranks second nationally in water use for mining, fourth in use for public supply, and eleventh in use for irrigation. Due mostly to population growth, projections show that water supplies will not meet projected demands by 2020. Restrictions on water use are frequently implemented in urban areas for irrigating lawns. In addition, urban storm water contributes to water pollution and fertilizer ordinances have been implemented in several areas of the state. In Pinellas County, a fertilizer ban from June through September was implemented to decrease pollutants flowing into surrounding waters.

Sustainable communities recognize that their economic and social structures and the health of the local environment are intertwined. They understand that programs and policies that foster only one aspect of development, be it economic growth, social gain, or environmental protection, to the exclusion of the other two aspects will not promote sustained progress for the community. Each community must develop its own vision and plan of action. There is no single definition of sustainable community development because every community has its own unique characteristics and challenges. Yet sustainable communities share common themes and concerns: economic security, environmental protection, social justice, and a commitment to the welfare of future generations.

Imagine a community where the air and water are clean, water supplies fully meet demand and everyone enjoys access to locally supplied safe and healthy foods, wildlife flourishes and the landscape is pleasing to the eye. Within this community, full participation and a spirit of cooperation pervade decision-making. People have an impact over their community's future. The community revitalizes the city center, reduces sprawl and promotes regional identity and pride. Public transportation effectively reduces congestion and pollution from cars, reduces transportation costs, and improves access to jobs and services. A strong emphasis on education and training for all promotes an improved quality of life today and fosters future opportunities for the community's youth.

If you are interested in learning more about sustainable practices and becoming involved in local action, join us for the next Sustainable Floridian Training Program. For more information:

UF EDIS Sustainable Community Development

July 15, 2013

Savor the Flavor…Enjoying the fruits of summer

Nan Jensen,
UF/IFAS Pinellas County
Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent

Whether it’s cantaloupes, peaches, mangos or watermelons you are craving, summer brings an abundance of choices for you to enjoy. Not only does it taste good but eating fruit provides some real health benefits. People who eat healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases, like certain types of cancer, and heart disease. Fruits are a great source of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Most are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories and none of them have cholesterol. Fruits are also a great way to keep us hydrated during hot summer months since they contain 80% or more water.

Before preparing or eating, rub fruits briskly under clean running water to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Then dry with a clean towel.

Since most fruits have a short shelf life ( a week or less) plan your trip to the grocery store, produce stand or farmer's market accordingly so you're not throwing away food that's gone bad before you get a chance to use it. Consider freezing fruits if you want to keep it longer. Properly frozen fruits retain much of their fresh flavor and nutritive value. Their texture may be somewhat softer, however, than fresh fruit. If you are looking for information on freezing or any other method home food preservation, the National Center for Home Food Preservation is your source for current research-based recommendations. Check the site out at the link below.

July 9, 2013

Sustainable Floridians(SM) – A Unique Learning Opportunity

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, 
Urban Sustainability Agent 

Knowledge is power and the Sustainable FloridiansSM training program is a discussion-to-action program that aims to develop leaders for a sustainable future. Participants will learn about wise use of resources, household and community resiliency, and the impacts of lifestyle choices. The program educates participants about Florida specific actions for conserving energy, water, and vehicle miles travelled while creating and promoting opportunities for community leadership. 

The 2013 edition of Sustainable FloridiansSM will be offered September 11 through October 30 at the Pinellas County Extension office in Largo. Classes will be held on Wednesdays only from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. and the program fee of $65 includes registration, light meal and program materials. The 8-week program will include six core classes with specific focus on Energy, Water, and Food, and an elective class on Transportation and Land Use. Participants are eligible for a Certificate of Completion by attending five of the six core classes. 

The classroom style training utilizes multimedia presentations and discussion groups to provide a participatory structure that promotes networking and idea sharing. UF/IFAS Extension faculty teach all sessions and participants receive valuable sustainable living devices (e.g. energy devices) to promote behavior change. Although this is a non-credit adult education program, UF faculty provide opportunities for ongoing learning through the UF/IFAS Extension network and monthly mentoring meetings. 

Join us for this exciting program and become a part of the Sustainable FloridiansSM graduate network. 


Sustainable FloridiansSM

UF Sustainable Living 

UF Office of Sustainability 

From an Intern's Perspective

Alexis Black, a recent intern at Pinellas County Extension’s Satellite Extension Office at Brooker Creek Preserve reflects on her summer internship experience…

Photo of Alexis Black, Intern (left) and 
Lara Miller, Natural Resources Agent (right)
I discovered my passion for the environment after I read An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore and after studying environmentalism in an American History class. Every sentence I read in Gore’s book and every idea I studied in history class made something spark within me and drove me on a crusade to learn all that I can about the environment and to join the effort of improving it. While deciding where I wanted to intern, Brooker Creek Preserve became an option. I chose to intern there because I felt that I could learn about the environment. I was really excited to intern at the preserve because I would be engulfed by the Florida wilderness and meet others with the same passion as me.

Before I began my internship, I had no idea what expect except for the pretense that I would be learning about the environment. I visualized what I would learn about and what I would work on, and I thought of these scenarios where I would be outdoors all day hiking on trails and exploring the wilderness. In reality, I hiked with my sponsor and her co-workers almost every day I interned and they helped me learn the plants and animals of the preserve. I was also indoors a lot organizing and developing materials for the preserve’s Environmental Education Center, a center dedicated to educating the public about the environment and how to protect it. The reality I worked in was so much better than the visualizations I had prior to my internship. 

Over the course of my internship at Brooker Creek Preserve, I learned so much information regarding the preserve itself and the efforts to improve it. I researched the six ecosystems of the preserve along with the plants and animals that live in them. I developed a presentation about these ecosystems and their wildlife for my sponsor’s future use. I additionally completed and submitted two grant applications for a project my sponsor and I planned. I learned how to write responses for these applications and I learned what is necessary for a successful grant application. I also attend a meeting regarding stormwater with my sponsor and learned what stormwater is and what is being done to keep it free of pollutants. Along with the information I learned during my time at Brooker Creek Preserve, interning there has improved my responsibility, time-management skills and helped me grow more mature. These improvements make me feel more prepared for the stressful senior year ahead of me and make me feel more prepared for the workplace.

I am very grateful to have interned at Brooker Creek Preserve because it has taught me so many skills that will be useful to me in the future and it has made me feel more prepared for the adult world. Interning at Brooker Creek Preserve has been both a wonderful and extraordinary experience.

“These past few weeks have literally changed my life…You have changed me more than you could ever know.” –Alexis Black

July 2, 2013

Programs & Events in July

Presented by 
Pinellas County Extension, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. (727) 582-2108
Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. (727) 453-6800 
Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 453-6500

July 6
Brooker Book Club: Hosted by the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve, the Brooker Book Club meets the first Saturday of each month. The book selected for discussion in June is Star Island by Carl Hiaasen. 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Free; advance registration is required as seating is limited, Brooker Creek Preserve.

June 6, 13, 20, 27
Weedon Island Guided Hike: Learn about the ecosystems and the early residents of Weedon Island Preserve while hiking the coastal uplands and the boardwalks through mangrove forests. Best for ages 6 and older. 9 to 11 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

July 6, 20, 27

Brooker Creek Guided Hike: See how the land has changed over time and the ecological footprints left by those changes on this 0.75-mile walk. Closed-toe shoes, water and hat recommended. Best for ages 6 and older. 9 to 10:30 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 6
Weedon the Beautiful: Join the family fun at Weedon Island Preserve for a Photo Adventure Scavenger Hunt this holiday weekend. Bring digital cameras and pick up the list of clues at the front desk at the center. Complete the list and share photos with one of the volunteers to collect a prize. Remember to bring water, snacks and sunscreen for this outdoors event. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

July 11, 18, 25
Book Time at Brooker: Children ages 3 to 5 connect to the wonders of the natural world through a story and a craft, game or other hands-on activity. 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 11, 25
Wee-Time at Weedon: Every second and fourth Thursday of each month, children are treated to a variety of stories and hands-on activities that connect them to their environment. This activity is recommended for ages 3 to 5. 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. Free; advance registration requested. Weedon Island Preserve.

July 11
Green Invaders: Over 300 aliens live in Florida, from walking catfish, boa constrictors to Brazilian Pepper, all native species that are being pushed out of their homes. Why worry? Almost every species of animal, from butterflies to bears, evolve alongside the plants that grow here. For the public’s convenience, Pinellas County Extension Master Gardener Sandy Huff and community activist Joe Casse will present what to look for and how to make a difference in helping our natives survive in two programs, the first from 2 to 3:30 p.m. and the second from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. Free; advance registration required. Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave, Palm Harbor. (727) 582-2603;

July 12
Great Weedon Bird Quest: Learn the identifying marks and behaviors of our feathered year-round residents and seasonal visitors while assisting in compiling an annual checklist of the preserve’s birds. This hike is designed to take advantage of all levels of birding experience. Binoculars and bird guides are available. 8 to 10 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

July 12
Botany Hike: Join a Brooker Creek naturalist to explore the fascinating plants found on the preserve while identifying wildflowers, ferns, epiphytes, trees and more. The ecology of various plant communities will also be examined. Best suited for adults. Come prepared with your camera and questions. 9 to 11 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 13
Birds of Brooker Hike: Join this hike to identify common birds of Brooker Creek Preserve. Meander along the one-mile trail to gather information on the birds seen and heard. Binoculars will be helpful. Bring water. 8 to 10:30 a.m. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 13, 31
4-H Brooker Creek Explorers Club is a newly formed club seeking new members ages 5 to 18. Meetings are twice a month to learn about and explore a new environmental topic from trees to bees and everything in between. Members receive an age-specific booklet of their choice which enables them to continue their work outside of the meeting times. The club aims to teach them things they may not have learned in school and will get them outdoors as much as possible. 2 to 3:30 p.m. Advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center,

July 13
Archaeology Works - Pottery: Shells: Archaeologists study ancient shells to not only learn about the diets and tools of prehistoric Floridians, but also the environments in which they lived. Learn to identify different shell types from around the Tampa Bay area and the ways archaeologists use them to learn about the past. 10 a.m. to noon. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

July 18
Vegetable, Herb and Tropical Fruit Garden Tour: Explore the vegetable garden and compost demonstration areas at Pinellas County Extension/Florida Botanical Gardens to learn more about growing your own food. 9 to 11 a.m. Free; tours limited to group of 4 to 16 people; advance registration required. Pinellas County Extension,

July 19
Forestry Hike:  Join a local natural resources agent and hike along two miles of boardwalks and natural trails at Brooker Creek Preserve. Come prepared with binoculars, cameras and questions. Questions can also be researched in the resource room upon return to the education center. 9 to 11 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 20
Weedon Photography Hike: Hike the preserve in search of that perfect photo. This program provides great opportunities for photographers of all levels to hone their skills. After a brief classroom session, preserve volunteers highlight seasonal features of the preserve, as well as specific wildlife behaviors that help participants capture the natural beauty of Weedon Island Preserve. 8 to 10 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

July 20
Tree ID: Join your local natural resource agent as she discusses the basics on how to identify trees in your area. The presentation includes a guided tree identification walk. 10:30 to noon. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 20
Going Coastal–Discover the World of Plankton:  Discover the hidden world of the estuary with some of the smallest critters that live in Tampa Bay. Plankton is a diverse group of organisms suspended in the water of estuaries, oceans and all other bodies of water. Microscopes will help reveal these fascinating live creatures. Just stop by for this self guided activity for ages 8 and older. 1 to 3 p.m.. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

July 22
Teacher Training Summer Camp:  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Extension Service are teaming up with St. Petersburg College to offer a fun and informative week-long workshop for pre-service elementary education students and elementary teachers with a focus on environmental education. Each day will feature different environmental subjects and professional speakers will provide background knowledge to participants. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 24
Fertilizer/Pesticide BMPs: Training to obtain limited certification for urban landscape commercial fertilizer (LCULCF). BMP certification awarded upon passing the exam. Four FDACS pesticide CEUs provided. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $15; free to employees of Pinellas County and the Pinellas County School Board and Pinellas County Master Gardener volunteers (must present ID on day of class). Advance registration required. Pinellas County Extension. Register at

July 24
Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project–at Dunedin Public Library: 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. 6 to 7 p.m. Free; advance registration at

July 24
Creatures of the Night: Pinellas County’s Natural Resource Extension Agent, Lara Miller, will discuss the creatures of the night. All of our nocturnal critters form a vital part of our natural environment but are largely ignored. Come learn more about these fascinating creatures. Recommended for adults. 2 to 3 p.m. Garden Club of St. Petersburg, 500 Sunset Dr., S, St. Petersburg. (727) 582-2109;

July 26
Wildlife Hike: Join an experienced naturalist as you hike along boardwalks and natural trails at Brooker Creek Preserve. This will be a learning experience for everyone! Come prepared with your binoculars, cameras, and questions! Any questions your hike guide cannot answer will be researched in the resource room upon return to the Education Center. 9 to 10:30 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

July 27
Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project–at County Extension: 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. 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Free; advance registration. Pinellas County Extension.

July 27
Wildflower Garden Club: Join the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve to get gardening hands dirty in the preserve’s wildflower garden. Bring garden gloves and hat. Morning snacks are usually provided. Free; advance registration required. 8 to 10 a.m. Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center.

Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion or national origin.

July 1, 2013

Vegetable Gardening Proves Beneficial for Youth and Their Families

Jean Rogalsky, Pinellas County 4-H Extension Agent 
Keri Hannekeinen, 4-H Youth Mentor

Interest in food safety and quality, couples with an increased interest in vegetable gardening has resulted in a wide range of gardening throughout Pinellas County. These projects range from community and school gardens to small home garden plots. Some gardens are traditional in the ground plots, while some gardeners are content with a few container grown vegetables. What these gardens have in common are fresh, delicious, and nutritious vegetables. Also, the gardener can control the use of pesticides used in the garden.

There are additional benefits for children and families who garden. Researchers from the American Dietetic Association, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the University of Florida, and the University of Colorado, all found similar results. Research has shown three main areas of these benefits: enhanced social skills, healthy habits, and academic progress.

Social Skills 
  • When third to fifth grade students, participating in a one-year gardening program filled out a survey of life skills, they showed a significant increase in self-understanding, interpersonal relationship skills, and ability to work in groups compared to nonparticipating students (Robinson & Zajicek, 2005)
  • Surveys of 52 second and third grade students working in a community garden classroom program in San Antonio revealed that participants were likely to have positive bonding experiences with their parents and other adults (Alexander, North, & Hendren , 1995).
  • Children who garden are more accepting of others who are different from themselves (Dyment & Bell, 2006 ) a finding consistent with research that shows community gardening projects “grow” community (Glover, 2004).

Healthy Habits 
  • Children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. Many children will say they do not like a vegetable because they have never tasted it. 
  • Students are more likely to try eating vegetables they have grown themselves and to ask for them at home. 
  • After participating in a school garden program, children were more likely to consume vegetables at home, more willing to ask a family member to purchase vegetables, and more willing to include vegetables as a snack. They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives. Higher fruit and vegetable consumption in adulthood can help prevent or delay chronic disease conditions over a lifetime.
  • According to the Green Institute in Minneapolis, eating locally produced food reduces asthma rates, because children are able to consume manageable amounts of local pollen and develop immunities. 
  • According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, access to places for physical activity with educational resources produced a 48.4 percent increase in frequency of physical activity in addition to a 5.1 percent median increase in aerobic capacity, reduced body fat, weight loss, improved flexibility and an increase in perceived energy. School gardens fit this description. 
Academic Progress 
  • Students who are actively engaged in garden projects tend to enjoy learning and show improved attitudes towards education. Third, fourth and fifth grade students who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests than students who did not experience any garden-based learning activities. Parent involvement, shown to enhance student achievement, increases at schools with garden programs 

Without a doubt, creating a vegetable garden at your home or at school is one of the best, long-lasting investments one can make for the children and adults in the community.

(For a complete list of sources, please contact