Florida Master Naturalist Program

Kayak with a Florida Master Naturalist guide and learn about the coastal environment

[column col=”1/2″]Paddling with a Florida Master Naturalist is one of the best ways to learn about the coastal environment. Paddle boarding and kayaking in Sarasota Bay is like paddling on top of a giant aquarium. Schools of fish can be seen swimming under the board. Florida Master Naturalist found a Sea Hare on a guided paddle board tour in Sarasota BaySea stars and urchins try to conceal themselves around the barrier islands but can still be spotted from a board. In addition, Hermit crabs, mangrove jellyfish and various conchs are scattered in the shallow seagrass flats. One of the best ways to explore the wildlife that surrounds our local barrier islands is by paddling.

Moreover, touring local waterways with a tour guide can make your experience even more enjoyable. Understanding local ecology, the study of interactions between organisms and their environment, enhances your awareness of our coastal waterways. For example organisms, such as sea stars do not just occur randomly in nature they prefer certain water depths and will be found close to food sources. Our coastal ecosystem refers to a larger community of organisms interacting with each other. This includes mammals such as dolphins and manatees. Boarders in local waterways are likely to see dolphins swimming close by their board. It’s important to understand our coastal ecosystem and the ways that we can preserve it.

Paddling eco tours provide a fun experience for all members of the family. Trips provide education on our coastal waterways while learning a new watersport. The Florida Master Naturalist Program provides environmental education on the various ecosystems in Florida. Coastal, freshwater, and upland ecosystem modules are offered throughout the year. Nicole Miers-Pandolfi is certified in all three modules. Nicole is the areas only level 3 PaddleFit instructor and affiliate with the Florida Master Naturalist certifications.[/column] [column col=”1/2″ last=”true”]Kayak Tours with certified guides in Florida’s coastal environment ensure fun facts along a paddling trip. For instance, a sea star has two stomachs and the size of a sea star is dependent on their food sources. Paddling in every season offers a different view of nature on the water. In the spring, Eco Tour Guides find more lightening whelk egg casings. Lightening whelks are a live shell and type of conch found in the seagrass flats. They reproduce by laying an egg casing after ten years of age. Sea hares resemble slugs in the water they are also discovered more in the spring and summer. They are likely to produce purple ink when frightened. In summer paddlers typically see more sightings of baby manatees and dolphins staying by their mothers. The bird migration begins on August 15th and continues through Fall and Winter.

Florida Master Naturalist Program LogoFlorida Master Naturalist graduates are educated in native species, as well as migrating ones. Learning coastal fish and birds is only part of the curriculum. Tour guides are filled with fun facts and silly stories from paddling trips. Ospreys are a common bird, but there are a lot of facts that many do not realize. Males carry all the branches to make the nests and if the female doesn’t approve of the branch he’ll throw it out of the nest into the water. Unlike other birds, they use their nest all year, to perch, sleep and eat. Once their eggs hatch they spend a large amount of time hunting to feed their babies. Before the babies fledge the nest they are larger than the parents. Therefore it’s common to mistake the young osprey for an adult osprey.

Paddling our local waterways builds an appreciation of the environment. When traveling with a guide, participants develop a deeper understanding of all creatures. Our guides strive to motivate, and educate the public in an effort to preserve the ecology that surrounds the area. Paddling is an eco friendly way to explore our waterways and standing on a board provides the best view of the sea floor. Hop on a board today and learn about our local coastal environment. [/column]

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About the Author

I am a Florida native and avid paddler. Certifications include PaddleFit, WPA, American Red Cross Lifeguarding, First Aid, CPR, and RYT 200. I love the water and have been working as a guide for years. I have been writing for www.supenglewood.com and WaterLine Weekly since June 2013.