An expert on roseate spoonbills, the beautiful pink birds that populate the Everglades and Florida Keys, will speak about their ability to reflect the status of nature, in a lecture entitled, “A pink canary in the coal mine” at 7:30 p.m. tonight, March 9 at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park visitor center, mile marker 102.5 oceanside, in Key Largo. The fate of roseate spoonbills, says Dr. Jerry Lorenz, points to the health of the South Florida environment.
At the turn of the century, the plume hunting industry in Florida nearly extirpated the huge populations of wading birds that were associated with the Everglades, according to the Tavernier Science Center history. Among the casualties was one of Florida’s most identifiable and beloved bird species: the Roseate Spoonbill. By 1935, it was believed that Florida’s spoonbill breeding population had been reduced to only five nests on Bottle Key in Florida Bay. At that time, the National Audubon Society took on the task of, not only protecting these birds, but also finding out why numbers remained so low more than 30 years after the plume trade was halted.
The original Tavernier Science Center was established in the Florida Keys in 1938, by National Audubon’s first Director of Research, Robert Porter Allen.
Dr. Lorenz, a trained fisheries biologist, is the most recent Audubon scientist to pick up the spoonbill standard. Since joining Audubon in 1989, Jerry has combined information from Audubon’s extensive database on spoonbill nesting patterns with his personal experience in studying the fish on which spoonbills feed, thereby constructing a story of how the human population explosion in southern Florida has had a multilevel effect on spoonbills. During the development boom, seemingly unrelated events serially reduced the spoonbill’s foraging habitats in domino like fashion resulting in a dramatic decline in spoonbill nesting success that continues today. Dr. Lorenz has demonstrated how the destruction of wetlands for urban and agricultural use has not only endangered spoonbills, but a myriad of other creatures and entire ecosystems, ecosystems that drive our tourist based economy.
For all lectures, the park gates will open at 7 p.m., after normal operating hours. Visitors are urged to arrive on time to be assured of a seat in the auditorium, a wheelchair-accessible facility. Attendees may wish to bring a cushion for added comfort.
There is no charge to enter the park to attend the lectures.
For more information and a complete listing of lectures, contact the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Visitor Center at (305) 451-9570.
For information on accommodations in the Key Largo area, contact the area chamber of commerce at (800) 822-1088 or explore the official Web site of the Florida Keys & Key West at www.fla-keys.com.