Saturday, December 8, 2018

Reading the Room: A Professors' Guide

As the academic semester winds down, I have had some time to reflect on the joys and challenges of teaching. I have assembled these pedagogical insights into the guide below. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Different views about Black Lives Matter and racial tensions / violence

I get into arguments on social media. It's a waste of time, mostly, but occasionally I learn things and get new perspectives. For example, I have learned that conservative and liberal people have very different ideas about what Black Lives Matter is, including where it came from and what its objectives and impacts are. I created this graphic to illustrate these dichotomous views, as I see them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

SW Florida has become an Epic Shit Hole

SW Florida projects an image of perfectly manicured upscale developments in a clean and green tropical paradise. But the truth is that we are a super fucked up toxic death zone from decades of relentless development and neglect of our fragile environment. We thought we could run roughshod over the landscape, replacing all the forests and wetlands with malls and gated communities, but still somehow have perfectly clean water and beaches. We were WRONG.

36 dolphins have washed up dead in the Fort Myers - Naples area in just the last week, along with untold numbers of fish, seabirds, and sea turtles, adding to the unimaginably large amount of sea life that has perished in these waters since the pollution-fueled toxic algae blooms began over a year ago. We need to ADMIT that we have become an epic shit hole, deadly to humans and animals alike, and we need to actually change our laws and practices to stem the gushing tide of excess nutrient pollution, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, etc. into our precious waters.

Following is a series of a images I have created to illustrate how this epic shit hole situation arose.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Race Report: Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival

Race: The 2018 Lake Hernando Dragon Boat Festival. For a description of what Dragon Boats and Dragon Boat racing are, check this.

Date it happened: 10 November 2018

Host: The Citrus County Education Foundation

Location: Lake Hernando Park, in Hernando, Florida. It's in a beautiful rural area of mossy oaks, cypress swamps, gentle hills, and farmland. It's between Orlando and Gainesville.

Course / Distance: All the dragon boat races were 307 m sprints in parallel lanes marked with little buoys. Each heat only lasted about a minute and a half, but it was a minute and half of full power exertion. Our boat raced in three heats over the course of the day.

Conditions: It was cloudy and pleasantly mild with a northeast breeze blowing towards the lakefront, perpendicular to the course.

Participants, Results and Gear: This was the biggest and most spirited paddle race I have ever been to. The event site had a full-fledged, dragon-themed country fair going on, with rows of arts and crafts booths, food tents, etc. There were also dozens of dragon boat clubs with elaborate tent setups, outfits and costumes, including one Asian cultural association that had a giant Chinese Dragon puppet that periodically danced through the crowd. Dragon boat racing is far more popular than I had realized!

I was there at the behest of my SUP racing pal Robert Norman, who recently formed and began coaching the Ka Nalu Nui Dragonboat Club in Citrus County where he lives. In just a few months of existence, the club has grown to about 40 people; enough to field three "boats" in this competition (one 20-person crew, and two 10-person crews). Clubs have their own boat or boats to practice on, but competitions are usually held on boats provided by the race organizers to keep things fair. There are two divisions based on boat size: 20-person boats with 10 rows of paddlers, and 10-person boats with 5 rows of paddlers. Both lengths of boat also include a drummer at the front and a steersman at the back. The steersman is sometimes provided by the race organizers. Besides boat length, there are some divisions based on crew type. The "community" division is less competitive, and the "premier" division is more competitive. There are also some divisions by gender; an all-female division and a mixed gender division. The mixed division has to have at least 10 women on the 20-person boats and at least 4-women on the 10-person boats. There's no men's division.

Robert Norman steering his 20-person Ka Nalu Nui team to the starting line.

Ka Nalu Nui's 10-person and 20-person boats in the community division were all the new amateur paddlers that Robert had put together over the last few months, but his 10-person boat in the premier division was also filled out by some ringers that Robert had gathered from the SUP and outrigger canoe racing community. Four of us from Bonita Springs' "CGT Tribe" were brought in: Cindy Gibson, Bill Mussenden, Matt Kearney, and me. Of us four, only Cindy had been on a multi-person paddle craft before (6-person outrigger canoe team when she lived in California). Bill, Matt, and I had to learn on the spot how to paddle in coordination. We must have done pretty well, though, because we won first place in the event! For the play by play, I'm copying Matt Kearney's report. He wrote a good one.

Play by play (by Matt Kearney): "Big thanks to Robert and the Ka Nalu Nui Dragonboat Club for inviting us to compete with them at the Lake Hernando Dragonboat Festival yesterday. It was such a blast and Robert has built up something really special in just a few short months. 72 teams and thousands of people came from around the state and as far away as Tacoma, Washington. With paddlers from Canada, Singapore, and everywhere in between. 4 of us from Bonita Springs came up and joined a “premier mixed 10” boat which was the most competitive division. None of us 4 had ever been in a dragonboat before, and 3 of us have never even raced a team craft of any kind where syncing up your stroke is so important. But we can paddle! 😅 With some quick coaching from Robert, we managed to win the qualifying heat posting the fastest time of the day, then in the semifinal heat our boat got rammed into by the one next to us who couldn’t steer then still almost won 😂 (and did after time penalties added). Then we won first overall in the championship heat. All against teams with years of experience and dragonboat practice. Ka Nalu Nui’s other 2 teams also went undefeated and won first overall in their mixed 10 and 20 community divisions! Needless to say the other clubs at the event couldn’t believe it and I hope the buzz we created yesterday helps Ka Nalu Nui continue the momentum and build the club even further. They have a great coach in Robert and a fun group of people. I’ll definitely try to do this again some day."

Robert Norman and his 20-person Ka Nalu Nui team celebrate after winning first in the community division.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Race Report: Imperial River Challenge 2018

Our team: The Smurfs.

Race: The 2018 Imperial River Challenge

Date it happened: 3 November 2018

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page. This particular race was also sponsored by the Imperial River Conservancy, and raised money for water quality monitoring and other environmental stewardship of the river.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Course / Distance: The course went downriver to the US 41 bridge and back (6.5 km).

Conditions: It was relatively cool and breezy, warming up by the end of the race. The water level was high and the river current was unusually slack, so wind played more of a role than current.

Participants, Results and Gear: This race was different than most because it was based on TEAMS of four people, with at least one woman in each team. There were three complete SUP teams, one incomplete SUP team of 3 women, and one team of two tandem kayaks. One of the kayakers was a dog. My team was recruited by Robert Norman and included Matt Kearney, me and Cindy Gibson, who is the fastest woman in our town. Robert then cancelled, ironically, but we replaced him with a great local paddler, Bill Mussenden. Our team name was the Smurfs. While we were proud of team we put together, local badass athletic coach Mark Athanacio was putting together an ultra-fast team with members of the East Coast's "Flying Fish Paddle Sports" crew. The fastest guy on that crew is pro-level Brazilian paddler Eri Tenorio. Only one notch slower than Eri were the next two guys, Steve Miller and Tim Warner, who are the top men's amateur paddlers in the state. The other fast men from the flying fish crew were Reid Hyle (former pro-level kayak racer and current fisheries biologist), and Steven Bernstein, a serious amateur racer who is usually close to my speed. The fastest women on the flying fish crew are Kim Barnes and Maddie Miller (who is Steve Miller's teenage daughter). Those two are probably the 2nd and 3rd fastest women in Florida, with only professional Seychelle being faster. Also racing SUPs were Nessa Brunton, Jen Hayes, and Donna Catron. Here are the results

1st Place Team B, total time 2:42:45
Eri Tenorio, 14x22 Flying Fish sup, 0:37:54 (new course record)
Mark Athanacio, 14x23 custom sup, 0:41:34
Steven Bernstein, 14x23 Flying Fish sup, 0:41:38
Kim Barnes, 14x22 Flying Fish sup, 0:41:39 (new women's course record)

2nd Place Team C, total time 2:43:01
Tim Warner, 14x23 Flying Fish sup, 0:39:12
Steven Miller, 14x22 Flying Fish sup, 0:39:13
Reid Hyle, 14x24 Flying Fish sup, 0:41:42
Maddie Miller, 14x21 Flying Fish sup, 0:42:54

3rd Place Team A, total time 2:56:40
James Douglass, 14x23 Riviera sup, 0:42:22
Matt Kearney, 14x24 Naish sup, 0:42:24
Bill Mussenden, 14x24 custom sup, 0:45:49
Cindy Gibson, 14x23 custom sup, 0:46:05

Tandem Kayak team, total time 4:04:52
Patrick Scheele and Kona the dog, 1:01:07
Meg Bosi and Kat Luchesi, 1:01:19

Incomplete team, total time n/a
Nessa Brunton, 14x23 Flying Fish sup, 0:52:27
Jen Hayes, 12'6x22 Hovie sup, 0:55:54
Donna Catron, 14x24 Flying Fish sup, 1:00:22

Play by play: When my team heard about the crack teams that Mark Athanacio had rallied together we knew we were out-gunned, but we still wanted to do our best. The night before the race we met at Upriver Ceramics (Matt Kearney's pottery studio on the river) to coordinate boards and strategy. Working as a team is not something that we often practice as sup racers, so it required a change of mindset, and some changes in gear. Cindy usually paddles a 12'6 board, but 14' boards are faster, so she tested some and decided to borrow one of Mark Athanacio's older boards. Matt Kearney also used a different board than his own, because his 25.5" wide board is a great in rough water but not as a fast as a narrow board in flat water. He tried a 14x22 custom Riviera and a 14x24 Naish Javelin during our practice and decided the Naish was easier to draft me with. Based on our relative paces, we determined that we would split into two groups, with Matt drafting me and Cindy drafting Bill. The other teams had similar cooperative drafting strategies, with the people of similar speed sticking together in clusters of 2 to 3, and a few going it alone.

Our plan worked perfectly until the race started. Each team started separately, and we were first. Tragically, Cindy fell off on her first stroke, and told Bill not to wait up, while Matt and I zoomed ahead of both Bill and Cindy. I went at a hard pace very similar to the pace I would go while racing solo; just a little bit smoother to make sure Matt could stay attached. It was hard to know what the optimal path was through the river because of the unclear current direction. At times I thought we might have been fighting reverse current, but I'm not sure. When Matt and I rounded the bridge at the halfway point we saw Bill first, then Eri Tenorio on his own, then Cindy. Cindy hadn't lost much distance on Bill, but Eri was tearing by everybody at amazing pace. I can't remember exactly what the order was of the people we passed, but I remember Team B had a three-person draft train of Mark Athanacio, Kim Barnes, and Steven Bernstein, who cooperatively traded leads the whole race. In team C Tim Warner and Steve Miller worked as a very fast pair, with Reid Hyle and Maddie Miller each going separately a bit further back.

On the upriver section there were some open water areas where a headwind knocked our speed down by 1 kph or so. In retrospect it might have been wise to hug the shoreline or make other route changes to minimize the wind. A little after the headwind sections, with 2 km still to go in the race, Eri Tenorio caught up with Matt and I. I took a few strokes to try to catch him as he went past, but his speed was >10 kph and I just couldn't keep up. That jazzed me up though, and I forgot about keeping a steady pace to keep Matt attached. Matt let me know he had dropped out of my draft and I slowed down for a minute or two for him to catch up before resuming the pace we'd been going before Eri came by. Nobody else passed us, and we crossed the line still in a draft train.

Here's my GPS track from the course:

The race committee was pretty quick about calculating every individual's time and team time. It was interesting to see how closely matched teams B and C were (just 16 seconds apart). Eri Tenorio's incredible course record time of 37:54 (10.21 kph average!) was a big advantage for his team, but Steven Miller and Tim Warner both getting ~0:39:12 (9.87 kph average!) helped their team a similar amount. Reid Hyle was lamenting that he might have cost his team the win by getting some debris stuck on his fin. Oh, well. Everyone on the first place team got $300, the second place team got $200, and third place got $100 each. So I made money on this race!

After the race there was lots of milling about, posing for pictures, and fussing over boards. The Flying Fish folks were nice about letting me try out some of their boards. I particularly liked the speed and light weight of Steven Miller's 14x22, but I'm not sure I'd be able to handle it in rough water conditions. Eri Tenorio's 14x22 had a little more rocker and was noticeably thicker, which I didn't like for flat water but might have been nice in rougher water.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Pros and Cons of Aquatic Weed Spraying

I recently weighed in on the contentious issue of herbicide spraying in Florida’s waterways. The issue was highlighted in a social media post by central Florida pastor and bass fishing guide Scott Wilson. The post summarized Wilson’s years of observations of the relationship between aquatic weed spraying, water clarity, and harmful algae blooms in central Florida lakes, including Lake Okeechobee. Most of the spraying in that area is done by contractors under the direction of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Wilson noted that the weed spraying had increased over the years, becoming pervasive, and that the more the weeds were sprayed, the more water quality and clarity declined. I read Wilson’s post and commented on it because it resonated strongly with my own concerns about the underappreciated roles of aquatic vegetation in absorbing nutrient pollution and preventing algae blooms. I commented on and shared the post. Wilson then contacted me and hooked me up with nature documentarian Jim Abernethy and his crew. They were seeking scientific perspectives on the issue, and I was happy to contribute my thoughts with an interview on campus at FGCU, where I work as an associate professor in the department of marine and ecological sciences. Abernethy’s documentary is not out yet, but parts of my interview have been aired on a West Palm Beach television news station.

I’m pleased with how the news story came out, although I will admit to some nervousness about publically opining on the complex issues behind Florida’s water problems. I knew that by glossing over some of the nuanced pros and cons of spraying I might raise hackles among my colleagues in the fields of environmental science and management. I was confident that my core message was sound, but I was prepared to receive feedback and to edit or clarify the message if I learned important new information about the issue. Since the interview aired I have had some interesting and helpful conversations with a science colleague at the FWC, and with Dr. Jason Ferrell, director the University of Florida IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Both my FWC pal and Dr. Ferrell validated the basic ecological concern that I had shared on TV- that excessive spraying could release nutrients from decaying plant matter, fueling algae blooms. However, they added that there could also be negative ecological consequences of failing to control invasive aquatic plants, particularly floating aquatic plants like water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) and water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). In some situations, they said, spraying was the lesser evil. We also discussed other things, like balancing multiple ecological goals in management. In the rest of this post I will explain some of the issues involved in aquatic ecosystems management in a way that I hope will help reconcile weed control and algae bloom concerns.

Two, general goals of ecosystem management are:

1. The BIODIVERSITY goal: To protect native species, eliminate non-native species, and keep habitats in their historic, natural states.

2. The ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION goal: To ensure that the managed ecosystem is able to do what it needs to do, including providing services like food production, water purification, erosion prevention, flood control, and processing of chemicals.

Sometimes these two goals are complementary. For example, we have learned that diverse ecosystems (those with a variety of different species) usually function better than ecosystems that have a reduced number of species. This demonstrated link between biodiversity and the functionality of ecosystems is now one of the main justifications for protecting species from going extinct. Things get complicated when considering the effects of non-native species, though, and that’s where the two ecosystem management goals are often at odds. From the ecosystem function perspective, it doesn’t matter if a species is native or invasive as long as it contributes to a desired function of the environment. Some non-native species contribute quite a bit. However, non-native species run amok can eliminate multiple native species, reducing overall diversity and ecosystem functioning, or changing the types of ecosystem functioning performed.

Early in the history of ecosystem management we emphasized the ecosystem function goal, at the expense of native biodiversity. We intentionally introduced non-native species as crops, farm animals, game animals, decorative plants, and plants intended for windbreaks or erosion control. Some of these species introductions served us well, but many others caused problems, and native species declined. Thus, our priorities shifted to protecting native ecosystems from the invaders and other threats. This led to the classic, “protect and preserve,” type of ecosystem management, where we set aside certain areas like National Parks to keep as pristine as possible, with only native species allowed. In this mode of thinking, areas already modified by humans and non-native species were less valued and received less attention. But some ecosystem managers are realizing that protecting only the pristine areas, while the rest of the landscape goes to heck, will not be enough to provide the ecosystem functions that humans and other species need to survive. Attention is turning again to what can be done with the already-modified-and-messed-up areas that humans inhabit. In some cases, relaxing our crusade against non-native species might lead to improved ecosystem functioning.

That brings us to Florida’s issues with non-native species. For various reasons including subtropical climate, man-made damage to ecosystems (which creates opportunities for invaders), and a history of species introductions by foolish humans, Florida now has TONS of invasive plant and animal species. Florida’s universities and state agencies keep good track of the invaders and have useful field guides online, so I won’t waste space here describing each non-native species. I will say that the problem of non-native invaders is particularly apparent with aquatic plants. The non-natives that cause the most trouble seem to be the ones that have lifestyles and structures very different from any of the natives. Their differences allow them to exploit what we call “empty niches” in the ecosystem. For example, Florida originally didn’t have any big plants that were free-floating on the surface of the water. All it had in the way of free-floating plants was tiny stuff like duckweed, until it was invaded by water hyacinth and water lettuce. Those “big floaters” spread to fill whole rivers and lakes, shading out other plants, dying and mucking up the bottom, clogging navigation and drainage canals, etc. Dr. Ferrell and my FWC pal both cited an ill-fated 1980s moratorium on weed spraying in Lake Okeechobee as a reason to keep suppressing the hyacinths with herbicide. (Spraying Moratorium case study) In addition to the big floaters, another disruptive, non-native aquatic plant is Hydrilla verticillata. Hydrilla roots to the bottom, but its bushy stalks quickly grow to drape along the surface, and it can have some of the same negative impacts as the floaters. However, by absorbing nutrients from the water and creating hiding places for algae-eating plankton, Hydrilla can transform algae and nutrient-filled lakes into clear but weed-filled lakes, for better or worse. Hydrilla may also increase populations of fish and invertebrates, so some fishermen don’t mind it.

Anyway, the primary stated goal of herbicide spraying by Florida ecosystem managers is to protect native biodiversity by keeping the non-natives at bay. (Goal #1.) It’s a noble goal. Some good scientists like Dr. Ferrell at UF have been working for a long time to find efficient ways to accomplish that goal with minimum side effects. But nature is big, complicated, and constantly changing, and even our best tool for understanding it (science) isn’t perfect. As my FGCU colleague Dr. Darren Rumbold said recently, “We need to continuously re-evaluate what constitutes best management practices [for the environment]”. I think we also need to be realistic about how well or how poorly our idealized practices are being implemented. There are many links in the chain from science to policy and practice, and good intentions can go off track. In practice, herbicide spraying may miss the ecological optimum. Here are five ways I think that could be happening in Florida:

1. The state’s process for deciding what, where, when, how much, and how often to spray involves public stakeholders, as well as the scientists and managers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can easily go bad. It introduces management goals that benefit neither biodiversity nor ecosystem function. For example, stakeholders might say, “Make the weeds go away so they don’t tickle our feet while we’re waterskiing,” “Make the weeds go away because our tenants don’t like to look at them,” “Make the weeds go away because we’re afraid snakes and bugs could be hiding in them,” “Make the weeds go away because our aesthetic preference is for a simple and tidy looking landscape,” “Keep spraying because our boat drivers need the work,” or “Keep spraying so we can continue to sell you mega-gallons of our company’s herbicide.” Depending on how much pressure the stakeholders exert, and how much resistance the managers are willing or able to give, the actual weed-spraying plan could be far removed from the science-based optimum. Florida’s current political leaders tend to give science and environmental concerns low weight in many decision-making processes. Given the underfunding and understaffing of Florida environmental management agencies, the inexpensiveness of spraying relative to other forms of plant management may be another factor leading to over spraying.

2. There is a tendency for aquatic herbicide spraying to be used as a cosmetic “solution” without addressing underlying environmental problems that may have contributed to the growth of the undesired vegetation in the first place. Instead of fixing water quality, water levels, and water flow in ways that will foster the desired aquatic plants, we force the ecosystem to look right by spraying anything we don’t like. Cycles of weed spraying, the dead weeds releasing nutrients, and the nutrients fueling growth of new weeds or algae, could contribute to an unsustainable “death spiral” of declining water quality. I think the best example of weed spraying as a superficial cover-up is the strange practice of poisoning NATIVE plants like cattails and reeds in areas where they have displaced other plants because of high nutrient levels. Picking off a scab doesn’t make a wound go away, nor does killing cattails make a nutrient pollution problem go away. In fact, both those things make the underlying problem (wound / pollution) worse.

3. In the process of balancing the biodiversity goal and the ecosystem functioning goal, I think managers in Florida have often failed to give sufficient weight to ecosystem functioning. Some key ecosystem functions of aquatic plants are: controlling runoff and erosion, providing food and habitat for wildlife, sequestering and processing nutrient pollution, and inhibiting harmful algal growth through multiple mechanisms. Ideally you’d have native plants doing all those things, but I think having non-native plants perform the functions is better than having a dysfunctional system with few plants at all. One reason I think the current weed-spraying paradigm may underweight ecosystem functions is because the benefits of those ecosystem functions are largely felt “downstream” of the area managed; out of sight, out of mind. For example, a decision to spray weeds in a Lake near Orlando might lead to a nutrient pulse running down the Kissimmee River, contributing to algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee, seeding further algae blooms as Lake Okeechobee is purged into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, and even contributing to seaweed blooms in the estuaries and red tides along the coast. Of course, that nutrient pulse would largely be absorbed and its effects attenuated along that journey, but the same process repeated thousands of times in thousands of lakes and wetlands over the years could make quite an impact. I don’t think we’re accounting for that properly.

4. The balance point between the “biodiversity” and “ecosystem functioning” goals of ecosystem management also depends on whether you’re in a relatively “intact” environment, or in a heavily human-modified environment like Southwest Florida. In the nearly-intact environment there are enough native species to take care of the ecosystem functions when small patches of non-natives are removed. But in the messed up environment, non-native species may provide a large share of whatever ecosystem functioning is left. Getting rid of them could significantly degrade functionality, unless you were simultaneously doing a major restoration of the native species and environmental conditions, which isn’t always feasible. In heavily modified environments we should be pragmatic about accounting for the functions of native and non-native species alike, rather than having a simple zero tolerance policy on non-natives.

5. Florida’s philosophies, laws, and practices regarding aquatic weeds are developed at state agencies and public universities, and are applied most directly to wetlands, lakes, and rivers on publically-managed lands. The process is not perfect, but at least there is a system and some accountability. For example, the amounts and types of herbicides that the state uses in each body of water are recorded in publically available reports. However, 71% of Florida is private land, including ever-increasing amounts of urban and suburban development. What happens on private land is subject to regulations, but only barely, it seems. Nobody has a good handle on who is spraying what on private lands, why they’re spraying, how much they’re spraying, etc. This is a big problem, because we absolutely depend on the ecosystem functions of private land. Lee County alone has something like 8000 “wet detention ponds,” largely on private lands. These are small, artificial lakes, which are created to catch runoff and restore some of the surface water storage and purification functions lost when forests and wetlands are destroyed by development. The ponds are better than nothing but they generally don’t function as well as real wetlands. That’s in part because “Lake Management” contractors poison them like crazy with endless cocktails of herbicides and algicides, and property managers mow and poison away almost all the vegetation around their perimeters, leaving only close-cropped, heavily fertilized lawn grass surrounding a pickled stew of nutrients, microbes, and residual poison. Neither the “native biodiversity” goal nor the “ecosystem functioning” goal seem to get much consideration in how these water bodies are managed. We do have toothless “guidelines” for private pond management, but they’re no substitute for well-enforced regulations. For example, many local governments have a guideline for preserving a 10’ “riparian buffer” (no-mow area with wetland vegetation) around the edge of ponds and waterways. But the vast majority of ponds that I see are mowed right down to the edge, or nearly to the edge. Why do we persist in “whacking” and “nuking” our privately managed waterways? I think it’s: A) Because the weedless, manicured look is what property owners want and ask for; they don’t know or don’t care that it’s bad for the environment. B) Because herbicide is the cheapest way for landscape and lake management contractors to provide that look. And C) Because laws and regulations are too weak or too weakly enforced to stop them from doing it. We can address “A” with education and advocacy, but we need better laws and enforcement to address “B” and “C”.

Ok. This post has ended up a lot longer than I originally intended, so it’s probably best that I wrap it up with a nice “take home message.” The message is- weeds can do a lot for us, less can be more when it comes to mowing and spraying, and even-non-native plant species can be better than nothing. So if you see aquatic plant management that looks out-of-whack, learn about it, voice your concerns about it, and work to change it if necessary.

PS- I also wanted to share this series of slides that I made to demonstrate the problem of repeatedly chemically treating ponds to maintain a “neat” aesthetic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Edisto Island Windsurfing & New Surfski

I started the summer of 2018 with a trip to my folks' beach house in Edisto Island, South Carolina, and I'm pleased to be ending my summer with another Edisto trip. This time it's extra special because my sister and nieces are here, along with my science and nature loving aunt and uncle.

I arrived here Sunday with my minivan loaded with water toys: my windsurf stuff, plus a new surfski kayak. The surfski kayak is a Stellar SR, 584 cm long x 48 cm wide. It replaces a 640 x 43 cm Epic v12 surfski that I decided was too advanced for me and not shaped right for my bum. The Stellar SR is a bit slower in flat water, but faster (for me) in rough water by virtue of I'm not wobbling and capsizing it all the time.

I've found the Stellar SR really enjoyable to paddle in the choppy Atlantic ocean here. Today I convinced my dad to drop me off on the other side of the island so I could paddle out into the ocean with the ebb tide current pushing me, then turn and paddle downwind with the swells to the beach in front of our house. It worked really well and I was able to get the fastest average speed I've ever gotten for a paddling session of any kind. Woo hoo!

After paddling I played on the beach with my nieces for a while, then swapped out the surfski for my windsurf. A 6.8 sail and 106 liter Exocet Cross with a 32 cm MUFin NoSpin fin were perfect for blasting around in the steady 15+ kt conditions. The track below is from a similar session on the same gear on Monday night.

I'm not going to want to go back to work after this.