The 26th annual lecture series Delicate Balance of Nature returns to Key Largo Wednesday.
Sponsored by the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, the session is “Nonnative Reptile Identification and Reporting” presented by Jenny Novak, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s nonnative species outreach and education coordinator.
The talk will focus heavily on Burmese pythons but will also include information about other exotic snakes that have been seen in Florida. Learn tips for identifying these snakes and differentiating them from native species, and how to submit credible reports to state wildlife officials.
The free program is at the Visitor Center and Aquarium building inside John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at mile marker 102.5 oceanside. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the lecture begins at 7:30. Temperatures in the auditorium vary and so you might want to bring a sweater or light jacket. Wearing fragrances or other scented products is frowned upon.
Following is the rest of the schedule for the season, with the times and locations the same as above.
▪ Jan. 18: “Coral Reefs of the Future: How Coral Restoration is Changing Reefs.”
Ashley Hill, education program manager for the Coral Restoration Foundation, will discuss changes observed in coral reefs as the environment is evolving. She will cover the challenges faced, restoration practices and how these practices may shape the future of the reefs.
▪ Jan. 25: “The History of Biodiversity of Alligator Reef.”
Alligator Reef, four nautical miles east of Indian Key near Islamorada, has the highest number of fish species scientifically recorded in the tropical western Atlantic, as well as many historical artifacts. Carlos and Allison Estape are published citizen scientists and will share the results of their research and photography, along with facts from the 1733 Spanish fleet to the Alligator Lighthouse.
▪ Feb. 1: “Down to Earth Astronomy.”
Mike Hughes has been observing the dark skies of the Florida Keys for more than 30 years. He combines mythology with science, nature and humor to create a view of the night sky that makes sense. The non-smoking outdoor event will be limited to 88 viewers, meeting first in the auditorium. Bring a flashlight and folding chair.
▪ Feb. 8: “The Million Orchid Project.”
South Florida was once a natural orchid paradise. Carl E. Lewis, director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, will talk about a project being undertaken to restore native orchids to the environment, mostly at schools and urban tree plantings.
▪ Feb. 15: “Math, Art and the Coral Reef.”
Laurie Brooks, a Florida Park Service volunteer, brings her background in education, engineering and mathematics to her exploration of how a mathematician sees a coral reef and how an artist illustrates the mathematics of nature. Examples of how crochet can be used to model both reefs and mathematical concepts will be shown.
▪ Feb. 22: “Tracking the Matecumbe: Material Culture of the Prehistoric Florida Keys.”
Excavations into the largest preserved midden in the Keys have brought to light new data regarding the nature of prehistoric life in this environment. Traci Ardren, professor and chairwoman in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Miami, will address the political organization and environmental adaptations of pre-Columbian inhabitants and compare them to the well-known Calusa populations.
▪ March 1: “Tapping into Angler Knowledge to Understand Bonefish.”
Jennifer Rehage, fish ecologist and associate professor at Florida International University, has been studying how changes to the hydrology of the Everglades affect fish. She will tell the story of bonefish populations in Florida Bay and the Keys over the past 30 years using data collected from anglers, guides and fishing reports.
▪ March 8: “Cascading Disturbances: The Destruction and Restoration of Florida Bay’s Sponge Community.”
Sponges play a fundamental role in the Florida Bay ecosystem. Mark Butler, a professor at Old Dominion University, will describe the importance of these simplest of multi-celled organisms. He will discuss how changes in water quality have disturbed the system and caused the mass destruction of sponges, as well as sponge community restoration efforts.
▪ March 15: “The Puppet Masters: New Insights into the Mind-Altering Powers of Parasites.”
Kathleen McAuliffe, author of the book “This is Your Brain on Parasites, will tell how these crafty creatures evolved the means to manipulate the behavior of their hosts. She will report how tiny parasites can coax rats to approach cats, spiders to change their web designs and fish to draw the attention of predatory birds. Some parasites may even contribute to human mental illness.
▪ March 22: “Gardening with Fish: Solar-Powered Aquaponic Systems.”
Aquaponic gardening is inexpensive, ecologically sound and socially responsible. Florida International University Ph.D. candidate Jaeson Clayborn will construct a model to show how easily one can grow vegetables with water circulated from fish tanks. This gardening method conserves water and yields more plants per square foot than traditional soil methods.
▪ March 29: “Go Native: The Why and How of Native Habitat Protection in the Keys.”
Misha McRae, executive director of the Key West Botanical Garden Society, will speak on the importance of planting natives in an area where anything tropical grows.