May 2020
Celebrating Species Conservation
May 15 is Endangered Species Day, a day to celebrate conservation successes and raise awareness about endangered species. On this day, we honor all of the conservation heroes working to protect and recover endangered species. There are about fifty endangered species in the Indian River Lagoon. This issue of the Marker will spotlight a couple of them and things you can do to help their recovery. 
Photograph by Sandy Koi, University of Florida
Spring into Life!
The weather has been great for working outside and it's the perfect time to create habitat in your yard. Birds are nesting and butterflies are looking for host plants that can feed their ravenous young. Plant coontie to attract the beautiful and rare Atala butterfly!

The Atala butterfly , (Eumaeus atala) , found only in SE Florida and the Caribbean, was thought to be extinct from 1937 until 1959 (Klots 1951, Rawson 1961). Its population decline was due to overharvesting of its host plant by early settlers who used the root to make starch ( Florida Arrowroot ) . That and land development nearly wiped out the butterflies entirely. However, the Atala butterfly is now making a comeback thanks to the expanded use of its host plant in butterfly gardens and ornamental landscapes!

The Atala butterfly's host plant, coontie ( Zamia pumila , Zamia floridana ), is an ancient Florida species that has existed since the age of dinosaurs. It looks like a small, (1-3 ft tall), fern, with feather-like leaves attached to a thick, short, underground stem. The Atala butterflies lay their eggs on this plant and the caterpillars feed on its leaves, which are poisonous to most other creatures. The ingested toxins make the Atala caterpillar unpalatable to predators, providing a perfect natural defense.

The coontie is an excellent plant for the coastal landscape because it is salt and drought tolerant and it can be planted in sun or shade. Grouping plants in beds propagates a whirlwind of butterflies in the spring! To find a native nursery with coontie plants near you, check out the Florida Association of Native Nurseries website .

This story of a beautiful butterfly recovering from the edge of extinction shows that the choices we make in our yards everyday, have a profound impact on the environment around us. Plant native habitat and your yard will spring into life!
Time Not to Fertilize?
May 2020 be the year of no lawn fertilizer! If you typically fertilize in the spring, don't! See what happens.

The nitrogen dissolved in rainfall could be all the fertilizer your yard needs this summer. Do not apply lawn fertilizer during the rainy season from June 1 - September 30. Its the law!

If in October, you are not happy with your lawn, fertilize with slow-release nitrogen. What do you have to lose?
#GivingTuesdayNow - Wrap Up
Thank you to all who helped make this May's Giving Tuesday Now a huge success!  We know that even in times of uncertainty, we can rely on the support of our community to help us through. Together we are  Turning Science into Action  to protect and restore our Indian River Lagoon. Thank you for for standing with us!

Endangered Sawfish in the Indian River Lagoon Captured on Video
The smalltooth sawfish ( Pristis pectinata ) is listed as critically endangered with a high risk of extinction. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates that the population has decreased more than 95% due to overfishing, bycatch, entanglement, exploitation and habitat loss.

Earlier this month, Michael Alvarez captured this video of three HUGE smalltooth sawfish in the Indian River Lagoon near Melbourne Beach. What a treat to see these beautiful creatures growing to such a large size again in the Lagoon! Spectacular!

There are several things that can be done to help the smalltooth sawfish recover from the edge of extinction.

1) Remove fishing line from the environment and recycle it. Entanglement is a major cause of sawfish death.

2) Do not contribute to the black market sale of poached wildlife skins, heads, or saws. Sawfish are still hunted for their magnificent saws.

3) Report sightings to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI). They are collecting species data to develop a conservation management strategy for this unique species. To report a sighting:

Telephone: 941-255-7403 or 844-472-9347 (1-844-4SAWFISH)

Please include the date and time of the encounter, the location, the estimated length of each sawfish, the water depth, and any other relevant details.
Living Shorelines - What They Can Do for YOU!
Do you have shoreline property that is either suffering from erosion or needs its seawall replaced? Have you ever heard about Living Shorelines?

Check out the video below, created by our Director of Science and Restoration, Caity Savoia, to learn more about this alternative that can protect your shoreline, decrease erosion, create habitat, and even improve water quality!
Breaking Through -photo credit: Jill Bazeley
The Indian River Lagoon Boater's Guide Update
In partnership with FWRI and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, MRC staff and volunteers have begun collecting field data to update the Indian River Lagoon Boaters Guide which was last updated in 1996. This resource guide is intended for locals and tourists to safely explore and recreate on the Lagoon. The Boaters Guide contains maps that detail recreational facilities like marinas, restaurants, fishing piers and boat ramps in all five counties of the Lagoon. It will cover safe boating practices, clean boating practices and clean marinas. The Boaters Guide will be available in 2021.
North Atlantic right whale Palmetto is spotted with her calf in Cape Cod Bay. Center for Coastal Studies, NOAA permit 19315-1.
North Atlantic Right Whale - Migration Update
While much of the country shut down for the Covid-19 pandemic (including right whale aerial and boat surveys for photo-ID and genetic sampling), tracking right whales has been difficult, but not impossible. At least three of the ten calves born during the 2020 right whale calving season (to Calvin, Harmonia, and Palmetto), have been spotted in the northeast feeding grounds of Cape Cod Bay. Right whales have also been seen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada, where a number of them have died during recent summers. Dragon, a female that has been documented since her birth and through motherhood, was spotted off Nantucket in February in poor health with a buoy lodged in her mouth. It is likely this whale will die as she enters what could be a very reproductive life. Derecha and her calf, who had a likely fatal head wound, have not been seen since January 15th when researchers administered antibiotics to the calf to help prevent infection. It is unknown if the calf is still alive.
North Atlantic right whale Harmonia is spotted with her calf in Cape Cod Bay. Center for Coastal Studies, NOAA permit 19315-1

June Brown Bag "Virtual" Seminar
Lagoon Legacy with Laurilee Thompson
June 2nd, 2020
12pm - 1pm
Held via Zoom Webinar
Registration required!!
Join us for our Virtual Brown Bag Seminar, "Indian River Legacy" with Ms. Laurilee Thompson! In the 1950s, the Indian River Lagoon was crystal clear and its bounty seemed limitless. Growth and development took its toll and now our nation's most biologically diverse estuary can no longer claim that distinction. Journey through the decades as Laurilee tells the story of her life on the Indian River, from the days of gin-clear waters, through its downfall and then to hope as a new generation works to bring our most precious natural resource back to its former splendor and productivity. Sign up today to hear this amazing personal account of the Indian River Lagoon!

The seminar will end with a live QA session, but we also recommend that participants email in advance to the MRC's Nicole Broquet at  [email protected]  by June 1st. 

The Brown Bag Seminar will be at the same time as always, from 12-1pm, but will be held through the virtual platform Zoom! To attend this webinar, you must pre-register as space is limited, but we will live stream the program on the MRC's Facebook page.
Upcoming Events (To Be Announced)
More events may be added/removed as we follow CDC guidelines.
May 27th: Commercial Crew SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 (CREWED) at 4:32pm
June 2nd: Brown Bag Seminar at 12pm to 1pm through Zoom
June 11th: MRC's 30th Birthday!
June 13th: Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway's 20th Birthday!
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