Annual Reports

Annual Report of Natural Area Teaching Laboratory Advisory Committee: 1995-96

During the 1995-96 school year the University of Florida Natural Area Advisory Committee consisted of Mark Clark (Wetlands Club), Daniel L. Colvin (Agronomy), Samuel A. Jones (Wildlife Ecology & Conservation), Carmine A. Lanciani (Zoology), Alan J. Long (Forestry), Robert McSorley (Entomology & Nematology), Max A. Nickerson (Florida Museum of Natural History), Francis E. Putz (Botany), Joseph M. Schaefer (Wildlife Ecology & Conservation), Clay Scherer (Entomology & Nematology Student Organization), Thomas J. Walker, ch. (Entomology & Nematology), John V. Carlson, ex officio (IFAS Facilities Operations & Planning),

The Committee met three times: 29 Sep 1995, 8 Dec 1995, and 11 Apr 1996.

1. Firm boundaries and name established

The boundaries of NATL as shown on the map of the semifinal version of the University of Florida Master Plan differed substantially from those originally proposed. Working with Semmy Ju (Director) and John Maruniak of Campus Planning, the Committee resolved the discrepancies, thereby establishing the originally proposed boundaries except where changes were required by the siting of the Florida Museum of Natural History Exhibits Building.

The Committee substituted “Natural Area Teaching Laboratory” (NATL) for the originally proposed “Campus Natural Area and Outdoor Teaching Laboratory.” This shortened the name and made an almost-pronounceable acronym.

2. Survey of permanent grid

University of Florida Chapter of the Geomatics Student Association undertook as a club project the survey of a permanent 100-meter grid in NATL. They completed the survey in several week-end sessions during Fall and Spring Semesters. At the grid intersections they drove iron stakes flush with ground level and visibly marked the points with meter-long posts of 1" dia. PVC pipe. They used similar posts of 3/4" dia PVC to mark 50-meter intervals along certain grid lines. A map was prepared that shows the grid and establishes a system for naming fifty 50m areas within NATL.

3. Development of east entrance

IFAS Facilities Operations erected a board fence on the east boundary of NATL from the Surge Area to the retention pond. A gap was left to permit easy entry of pedestrians, and a lockable double gate was installed to control vehicular entry. At the pedestrian entry, Plants and Grounds installed a litter receptacle and erected an official sign.

4. Trash pickup

For decades the woods in what is now NATL have been used by vagrants for drinking and camping and, to a lesser extent, by others for dumping. This resulted in an imposing accumulation of bottles, plastic jugs, larger items, and other litter. The Entomology & Nematology Student Organization sponsored a trash pickup day that attracted more than 20 students, staff, and faculty from several departments. More than 120 30-gallon bags of trash and many non-baggable items were removed from NATL, filling two dumpsters to overflowing. Except for a few heavy items and some of the bottles and cans that nearly filled a sinkhole, all known litter was removed from NATL.

5. Security

Use of NATL by vagrants creates a security problem as well as a trash problem—well illustrated by Danny Rollings’ use of the area. Entry has been through an open gateway in the fence along SW 34th Street and by a path from the Bennigan’s parking lot on Archer Road that leads to campsites without crossing a fence and with no indication that the area is University property. The gateway on 34th Street was reworked, and the gate was closed and locked. At the locked gate and on the path into NATL from Bennigan’s, signs were posted that read, “University of Florida Natural Area Teaching Laboratory. Enter only at designated entrances.”

To improve security and to reduce dumping and littering on NATL, the Committee voted to seek funds for a fence along the south and southeast NATL borders to match the one along 34th Street.

6. NATL pamphlet

The Committee prepared an illustrated informational pamphlet describing the history and purposes of NATL, its ecosystems, and their proposed management. More than 200 of these pamphlets were photocopied and distributed to administrators, committees, and faculty who should be interested in NATL. Steve Humphrey, Interim Dean of College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE), copied the front and back panels of the folded pamphlet to the back of a course announcement that he distributed to CNRE faculty.

7. NATL on WWW

At the same time the pamphlet was distributed, a NATL home page was made public at Natl.htm (now and linked to UF’s home page and to appropriate departmental home pages.

A NATL biota database on WWW was begun with lists of vertebrates, by Joe Schaefer; of plants, from the Cooperative Florule Project (see below); of bats, by Jackie Belwood, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History; of ichneumonid wasps, by Charles C. Porter, Division of Plant Industry; of crickets and katydids, by Tom Walker. The lists can be accessed from NATL’s home page or at (originally .htm).

8. Cooperative Florule Project

Jack Putz organized the Cooperative Florule Project to begin the inventory of NATL vascular plants and bryophytes. On two days in May, crews of botanists identified more than 240 species in NATL ecosystems.

9. First controlled burn in upland pine

The restoration of NATL’s ca. 8 ha (20 A) of upland pine ecosystem was begun by burning the 3 ha east of the DPI compound. Sam Jones was recruited as burn master, and under his supervision a Prescribed Burning Plan was submitted and approved in December. Notification and justification of the planned burn was sent to University administration, DOT, DPI, Fire Department, Campus Police, City Police, managers of nearby apartments, Gainesville Sun, and Independent Florida Alligator. (The first six of these were also notified, by phone, the day of the burn.) Fire lanes were disked by the Agronomy Department in January, but the right combination of moisture, weather, and the availability of the forestry crew and fire equipment from the Austin Cary Memorial Forest (School of Forest Resources and Conservation) did not occur until April 10. On that day the fire lanes were re-plowed and the burn was accomplished with no smoke problems during or immediately after the burn. However, a thermal inversion the night of the burn caused smoke from smoldering wood and litter to become a problem in the nearby Doyle Conner Building and Performing Arts Center. Personnel from IFAS Facilities Operations, Physical Plant, and the Fire Department extinguished the sources of the smoke with water and sand the next morning. The next controlled burn must include a plan to put out smoldering fires immediately.

10. Stormwater Ecological Enhancement Project (SEEP)

The Wetlands Club, under the leadership of Mark Clark, has developed SEEP to enhance NATL’s retention pond. The Club’s plan envisions extensive recontouring of the pond and development of a variety of wetland communities. Most runoff water will first go into a forebay, where it will lose some of its contaminants before flowing to other parts of the pond. The St. Johns Water Management District and UF’s Physical Plant have approved the concepts of the plan, and a permit for nonsignificant modification of the pond is expected. Once approval is obtained, the Club and the Committee will work together to find the means to implement the plan. Recontouring is the major anticipated expense.

11. Proposal to Florida Advisory Council for Environmental Education

Eco-Cognizant, Inc. (Maria Minno), with guidance from Max Nickerson, Tom Walker, the Wetlands Club, and the Florida Native Plant Society, submitted a proposal to the Florida Advisory Committee on Environmental Education to (1) develop a NATL nature trail with hands-on interactive stations, (2) develop and print a trail guide that emphasizes plant-animal-human interactions and interdependence, (3) build entry/information stations at the two entry points to NATL, and (4) provide boardwalk access to SEEP. A grant of $71,405 is proposed, with a starting date of October 1996.

12. Guidelines for class and individual use of NATL

Guidelines for use of NATL for class activities and student projects were adopted. The Committee agreed that an information station at the east gate should be built to dispense information about NATL and to schedule and log class use and special projects.

13. Committee operating policies

The Committee adopted procedures intended to ensure its smooth continuance with a membership representative of those using NATL.

14. Membership and Chair for 96-97

At its last meeting of the school year, the Committee accepted Danny Colvin’s resignation. Clay Montague, Environmental Engineering Science, whose Basic Ecology course uses the Natural Area, and Maria Minno, who wrote the FACEE proposal, will be asked to become members.

15. Publicity

In addition to the distribution of pamphlets and the posting of information on NATL’s WWW home page, these appeared in the local press:

26 May 1995 “‘Rolling’s woods’ reborn,” Gainesville Sun article on Cooperative Florule Project
3 Dec 1995 “A clean campsite,” Gainesville Sun report on ENSO’s trash pickup day.
19 Dec 1995 “Forest land will be burned,” Gainesville Sun report on plan for controlled burn.
11 Jan 1996 “UF to set fire to laboratory area intentionally,” Alligator article.

This Annual Report will be sent to the chair of each department that uses NATL. Accompanying the list will be a memo that lists future OCO needs.

Annual Report of Natural Area Teaching Laboratory Advisory Committee: 1996-97

During the 1996-97 school year the University of Florida NATL Advisory Committee consisted of Mark Clark (Wetlands Club), Samuel A. Jones (Wildlife Ecology & Conservation), Carmine A. Lanciani (Zoology), Alan J. Long (Forestry), Robert McSorley (Entomology & Nematology), Maria Minno (Florida Museum of Natural History), Clay L. Montague (Environmental Engineering Sciences), Max A. Nickerson (Florida Museum of Natural History), Francis E. Putz (Botany), Joseph M. Schaefer (Wildlife Ecology & Conservation), Clay Scherer (Entomology & Nematology Student Organization), Thomas J. Walker, ch. (Entomology & Nematology), Larry J. Connor, ex officio (Dean, College of Agriculture), Donald A. Graetz, ex officio (Lakes, Vegetation & Landscaping Committee)

The Committee met twice: 25 Oct 1996 and 28 Mar 1997. Minutes can be viewed at naac_documents.php.

1. East NATL boundary established

A boundary between the Surge Area and NATL was proposed by the Advisory Committee and subsequently approved by the Lakes, Vegetation & Landscaping Committee and the University Land Use and Facilities Planning Committee. The only significant change from the previous, tentative boundary was the annexation by NATL of the small retention pond north of the Surge Area mini-storage buildings. This provides a habitat for certain frogs that breed in temporary pools.

2. Fence erected on south and east boundaries

The south NATL boundary was tentatively established from University of Florida survey monuments located by the UF Student Geomatics Association. With the College of Agriculture providing the funds and with IFAS Facilities Operations clearing the right-of-way, a farm fence was erected along the south and east NATL borders. This fence prevents easy ingress and egress from the Surge Area and from the apartment complexes and commercial establishments along the south NATL border. A gate just south of UF’s Hazardous Waste facility provides vehicular access to the utility right-of-way that extends westward across NATL to 34th Street. One stretch of fence along the south border was left undone pending resolution of a boundary dispute. Regency Oaks Apartments donated $500 to NATL to support clean-up along its portion of the boundary, where years of yard debris and tenant trash had been discarded on NATL land.

3. Relationship with LVL established

Because the Lakes, Vegetation & Landscaping Committee (LVL) is officially charged with “the management and well-being of natural areas containing non-domesticated plants and animals,” the NATL Advisory Committee sought a formal relationship with it. In LVL meetings of 3 Oct 1996 and 14 Nov 1996, it was agreed that the chair of the NATL Advisory Committee would be an ex officio member of LVL and would inform LVL of NATL activities as appropriate. To further facilitate communication between the two committees, the chair of LVL was made an ex officio member of the NATL Advisory Committee and will receive all materials of that committee. The 14 Nov meeting of LVL was held at the Entomology & Nematology building, and those attending toured NATL to see its present condition and to learn of future management plans.

4. SEEP approved and funded

The Stormwater Ecological Enhancement Project (SEEP) was proposed by the Wetlands Club as a way to transform NATL’s cattail-marsh retention basin into a diversified wetland. SEEP is planned to enrich the biota and improve the aesthetics and water quality of the basin while preserving the basin’s stormwater-retention function. The chief expense of SEEP will be recontouring the basin to provide varied water depths and hydrological cycles. Once recontouring is completed, the Wetlands Club will take the lead in finding and establishing native wetland species appropriate to the habitats created by the recontouring.

The St. Johns Water Management District (SJRWMD) approved SEEP in August, and in September, UF’s Physical Plant Division (PPD) made a preliminary estimate of the cost of the recontouring. LVL approved SEEP in November, and the University Land Use and Facilities Planning Committee approved it in January. In the meanwhile, funding was sought for the recontouring. By the end of January, pledges of $40K had been collected and an application made to SJRWMD for matching funds of $25K. In March, SJRWMD informed PPD that only $10 had been granted. By that time Blum, Schumacher and Associates had bid on the design and construction management of SEEP and had estimated the minimal cost of the recontouring to be $65K. The NATL Advisory Committee then successfully sought the additional $15K needed to proceed. Here is the final list of contributors and their pledges and/or donations:

College of Agriculture$25K
College of Engineering   15K
Office of Provost   10K
St. Johns River Water Management District   10K
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences __5K

On 23 Apr 1997, the firm of Blum, Schumacher & Assoc. was hired to design and supervise the recontouring. The basin has now been resurveyed and the design of SEEP is more than 50% complete. The project is scheduled to be put out to bid in mid October with construction intended to coincide with the winter dry season.

5. NATL cleanup continued

On 22 Feb 1997, more than 20 persons participated in a trash and debris pickup sponsored by the Environmental Management in Agriculture Club. Their efforts were directed primarily at chunks of asphalt and concrete pavement that dated from when NATL’s successional areas were used as a site to dump construction debris. They also began the process of reducing the accumulation of trash on NATL’s south border at Regency Oaks Apartments.

IFAS Facility Operations and UF’s PPD removed numerous large items dumped in NATL, including crossties, massive pieces of concrete, and floats made of steel barrels. IFAS also removed old fencing along NATL’s east and south borders and two old livestock pens in the successional areas.

6. Restoration of upland pine continued

A prescribed burn of the upland pine in NATL’s southern half was planned for the winter of 1996-97. Required firelanes were cleared and tilled and liaison established with the Gainesville Fire Department. All affected parties were notified of the plans. However, the burn was postponed until the winter of 1997-98 because the required combination of favorable burning conditions and availability of personnel and equipment did not occur.

Jack Putz secured wiregrass and forbs from upland pine in Withlacoochee State Forest and established about 800 slips suitable for transplanting. These were used to reintroduce these plants into the northern half of NATL’s upland pine, which had been burned on 10 Apr 1996. Most of the slips were set out 27 and 28 May 1997, by work parties organized by the Entomology and Nematology Student Organization.

Volunteers from the Department of Entomology and Nematology completed the girdling of laurel oaks in the already burned area north of NATL’s main east-west road.

7. Baseline photographs made and archived

Through the efforts of Max Nickerson, the Florida Museum of Natural History hired Mike Turco, a professional photographer, to take a photograph in each of the four cardinal directions at each stake marking a node in NATL’s 50-meter grid. He completed the work on 28 Jan 1997, and the photographs were archived by FLMNH.

8. First old-field-succession plot started

The southeast plot in the main succession area was cleared during fall 1996. It was disked on 21 Feb 1997 and will demonstrate the natural succession of biotic communities for the next 10 or 40 years (when it will be restarted). Preparation of the remaining successional plots continues, including efforts to eradicate three exotic grasses (elephant, Johnson, and cogan) that until last year dominated most of the successional area.

9. Berm along SW 34th Street proposed

South of the Division of Plant Industry compound, NATL’s pineland fronts on SW 34th Street for about 200 yards. The noise and visual impact of six lanes of traffic is already great, but will become greater as the upland pine community is restored and the laurel oak understory is eliminated. Thus the NATL Advisory Committee commissioned Matt Horton, a Landscape Architecture student, to plan a berm that would shield NATL from the sights and sounds of 34th Street. He presented his plan to the Advisory Committee at its 28 March meeting. The Advisory Committee asked David O’Brien, PPD Director, to make the berm a PPD project, but in a 16 May letter he declined and questioned whether the berm was needed. Subsequently, he toured NATL with Professors Peggy Carr (Landscape Architecture) and Tom Walker (Advisory Committee chair) and agreed to consider a revised proposal for the berm..

10. Data conduits cross NATL

In October, four 4-inch data conduits were installed about 6 feet underground from the Performing Arts Center, south along NATL’s gridline F to the main NATL road, then east just north of the road angling into the road at about gridline I, then due east to connect with conduits on the east of Surge Area Drive. A concrete manhole (696½ ft) was buried just south of grid stake F5.

11. Nature trail planned

The Florida Museum of Natural History plans an interactive nature trail through the high-use portion of NATL, including boardwalk access to SEEP. Two proposals to fund construction of the trail were sent to private foundations but denied on the basis that the University should fund the trail. A proposal to NSF is now being readied. David Kramer addressed safety issues relative to the trail in a 20 Aug 1997 subcommittee meeting.

12. More NATL information put on WWW

NATL home page was maintained and improved. Among the features added were a PDF version of a NATL map showing the 50-meter grid, new lists of sphecid wasps, and “Guidelines for class activities and student projects.”

13. NATL makes the news

These stories appeared in the local press and helped inform the public and the UF community about NATL:

9 July 1996. “Retention pond can be asset instead of eyesore.” Gainesville Sun article on SEEP.

21 Feb 1997. “UF environmental club to clean up garbage from outdoor lab.” Alligator article on the trash and debris pickup sponsored by Environmental Management in Agriculture Club.

23 March 1997. Interview with Maria Minno and a report on plans for an innovative nature trail at the new Florida Museum of Natural History. Gainesville Sun, Our Town feature.

14. Committee members and chair remain the same

At its March meeting, the Committee made no change in its members or chair for 1997-98. It voted to offer membership to a representative from any club that would make NATL a continuing project.

Annual Report of Natural Area Teaching Laboratory Advisory Committee: 1997-98

During the 1997-98 school year the University of Florida NATL Advisory Committee consisted of Mark Clark (Wetlands Club), Donald W. Dickson (Entomology & Nematology), Carmine A. Lanciani (Zoology), Alan J. Long (Forestry), Maria Minno (Florida Museum of Natural History), Clay L. Montague (Environmental Engineering Sciences), Max A. Nickerson (Florida Museum of Natural History), Francis E. Putz (Botany), Joseph M. Schaefer (Wildlife Ecology & Conservation), Clay Scherer (Entomology & Nematology Student Organization), Thomas J. Walker, ch. (Entomology & Nematology), Larry J. Connor, ex officio (Dean, College of Agriculture), Donald A. Graetz, ex officio (Lakes, Vegetation & Landscaping Committee).

The Committee met twice: 2 Oct 1997 and 19 Mar 1998. Minutes are posted at naac_documents.php. (Between meetings, business is conducted by e-mail.)

1. SEEP re-contoured

Last year $65,000 was raised in support of the Wetlands Club's Stormwater Ecological Enhancement Project (SEEP), a plan to transform NATL's cattail-marsh retention basin into a diversified wetland. This year, under the supervision of Physical Plant and at a cost of $61,900, the engineering and design for re-contouring the basin was completed, a contract was let, and the basin was re-contoured. The remaining $3,100 will be applied to other SEEP needs--most likely a weir to control water flow between portions of SEEP and a fence along the east and north boundaries to keep out mowers and other vehicles and to direct visitors to entry points that have kiosks with displays about SEEP. The Wetlands Club's plan for the continued development of SEEP is attached to this report

2. East-gate kiosk established

The Natural Area Advisory Committee has long planned an information board, or kiosk, for NATL's east gate. This spring, the text, illustrations and layout were completed and displayed on a temporary kiosk at the east gate. Subsequently, the Florida Museum of Natural History, with support from the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Arts Council, built and erected a permanent kiosk. On the front surface of this substantial, roofed structure is a 4×8 ft., plexiglass-protected display of NATL's history and of the Committee's management plans for its principal ecosystems: hammock, upland pine, old-field succession, and wetlands. On the back of the kiosk is a 4×4 ft., plexiglass-protected case that will explain SEEP. The remaining 4×4 ft area is a bulletin board where rules for using NATL and other information are posted. Document holders offer maps of NATL and pamphlets describing NATL and SEEP.

3. Restoration of upland pine continued

On 12 March 1998, Alan Long directed a successful burn of the upland pine in the high-use area. After the burn, smoldering material was extinguished, and smoke caused no problems even though the burn was adjacent to the Doyle Conner Building and the Performing Arts Center. Once again, the planned burn of the upland pine in the low-use area was postponed for lack of suitable weather at a time that burn crew and needed equipment were available. To open up the canopy and provide for a better burn during the winter of 1998-99, the Committee approved the felling of medium-sized laurel oaks in the low-use upland pine.

4. Clearing of old-field-succession plots continued

Five successional plots (A to E), about 1.1 acre each, are planned for the northern third of NATL. Most of this area was treeless when NATL was established, but in a few places trees had grown for as long as 30 years. Plot D, one of two plots that will have a 10-year rotation, was “started” (cleared and tilled) in 1997. Plot C, which will have a 40-year rotation beginning in 2000, was cleared except for about 20 large longleaf pines These will remain, to enhance the longleaf seed crop for the adjacent upland pine ecosystem. Plot A, with a 10-year rotation beginning in 2002, was partially cleared. In plots B and E are stands of loblolly pines that are more than 20 years old. At least one of these stands will be left in place until pines of similar age grow in plot C.

5. Berm along SW 34th Street planned

South of the Division of Plant Industry compound, NATL's pineland fronts on SW 34th Street for about 200 yards. The noise and visual impact of six lanes of traffic is already great, and it will become much greater as the upland pine community is restored and the laurel oak understory is eliminated. Since 1996, the NATL Advisory Committee has proposed that a six-foot-high earthen berm be erected to shield NATL from the sights and sounds of 34th Street. In spring 1997, the Committee paid an architecture student to design such a berm, but his plan, which would have been expensive to build and maintain, did not win approval of UF administrators. Later, in an on-site visit, David O'Brien (PPD Director) and Peggy Carr (Assoc. Prof., Landscape Architecture) agreed that a non-landscaped, too-steep-to-mow berm would serve the Committee's purposes and might win approval. It would require no maintenance once erosion was controlled by natural vegetation and would be more appropriate for NATL than a landscaped berm. To provide the earth for such a berm (should it be approved) and to help keep the bids for re-contouring SEEP within budget, the excess spoil from the re-contouring was piled on the eastern half of successional Plot C (rather than being trucked away). The spoil pile is ca 2300 cu yds, approximately what is needed to construct the berm. Prior to 2000, when Plot C is scheduled to be tilled, the spoil pile should be moved, to the berm or elsewhere.

6. NATL amphibians studied

In October, Paul E. Moler, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, concluded a study of NATL amphibians and recommended that additional ephemeral ponds be constructed, because some of NATL species probably now depend on off-site breeding areas. Subsequently, Tamatha Barbeau and Ali Hamilton, graduate students in Zoology and Wildlife Ecology, continued the study with the intention of proposing sites and specifications for two or more ephemeral ponds and to consider other ways to enhance and maintain the diversity of NATL amphibians. They presented their initial findings to the Advisory Committee at its spring meeting and will conclude their studies this fall.

7. NATL's home page enhanced

Graduate student Clay Scherer initiated a series of picture galleries on NATL's home page. Each gallery consists of thumbnail photographs relevant to a particular ecosystem or topic. With each thumbnail is an explanation. By clicking on the thumbnail, the viewer is rewarded with a full-sized version of the photograph.

8. FLMNH docents lead NATL tours

During the training course for Florida Museum of Natural History docents in February, Dana Griffin and Tom Walker helped the docents learn something of the plants and purposes of NATL. These docents, in turn, took 1,317 students for one-hour tours of NATL this spring. Marilyn Roberts, FLMNH Education Programs Coordinator, reported that the response was good and that larger numbers are expected the next time the tours are offered.

9. Policy for projects in low-use area established

With increasing use of NATL for theses and other special research projects, the Advisory Committee established procedures for proposing, approving, and reporting on projects in the low-use area. These procedures are attached to this report and posted on the east-gate kiosk and NATL's home page.

10. Land uses altered

Three changes in NATL's land-use plan were given preliminary and final approvals at the Committee's fall and spring meetings: (1) Upland pine in the high-use area was increased, (2) the SEEP-to-hammock corridor was narrowed, (3) to display the effects of continued fire exclusion, portions of upland pine in high- and low-use areas were excluded from restoration. The current land-use maps can be viewed at maps/othermaps.php.

11. NATL made the news

This story appeared in the local press and helped inform the public and the UF community about NATL:

13 March 1998. “UF goes for burn in forest lab.” Gainesville Sun article on prescribed burn in NATL's high-use area.

12. Committee membership changed

In November, Robert McSorley resigned from the Committee and Donald Dickson joined in his place. In July, Florida Museum of Natural History Associate Director Bruce MacFadden joined the Committee.