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Environment

On some Florida Panhandle beaches, swimmers can come off the beach with oil from the BP oil spill still on their skin -- two years after that environmental disaster. 

And, even after showering, the oil can still be on their skin. Only an ultraviolent light can show it.

A Hidden Jewel: USF’s Botanical Gardens

Apr 18, 2012

Tucked away on the edge of Tampa's USF campus is a little-known oasis: the USF Botanical Gardens. The gardens, founded in 1969, provide students and visitors with a unique look into Florida's natural beauty.

On April 14th, the gardens held its 23rd annual Spring Plant Festival. That’s when growers and botanical aficionados are invited to showcase their crops and flora for a two-day event.

The gardens’ program coordinator, Kim Hutton, says this festival is unique.

That stinging feeling that sometimes accompanies trips to the beach during outbreaks of red tide can be especially harmful to people with asthma. Now, researchers are trying to find out why some asthmatics are affected by red tide.

Anyone who ventures to the Gulf shore during red tide season knows the symptoms: irritated eyes and noses, a dry cough - even wheezing. For people with asthma, it's even worse.

It may look like the it's gone -- but oil from the BP spill may be mixing with dispersants and being absorbed into your body.

That's the disturbing revelation from a USF researcher in a story by Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times.

Photos show that under a blue light, oily spots remain on the skin after bathing on panhandle beaches -- even after a shower.

From the Times story:

Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

Part of the 1,000-mile trail the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is blazing through Florida passes through what may seem an unlikely place: the main training base for the Florida National Guard. WUSF's Steve Newborn reports on how the armed forces are armed with another mission: helping protect the state's wildlife.

Air Quality in Tampa Improving from Wildfire Smoke

Apr 12, 2012

If you've been outside today, you probably have smelled the smoke coming from forest wildfires close to the Georgia border.

County officials say there's a moderate level of air pollution today- not enough to issue a warning. We should be getting some fresher air soon.

The smoke is coming from a wildfire burning 13,000 acres close to the border of Georgia. It's far away but we're getting some of the smoke here thanks to the northeast wind.

Julie Marquez from Bay News 9 tells us the conditions are already looking better for most of Tampa Bay.

New Home Construction up In Tampa Bay

Apr 11, 2012

New housing starts are way up in the Tampa Bay Area.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, new housing starts went up 26.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2012. The data comes from "Metrostudy," a national company that keeps numbers on the construction industry.

One thousand 40 new homes were started between January and March this year. Last year during that time only 840 new homes were started.

Steve Newborn

One-thousand miles-- that's how far the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is kayaking, cycling and walking.  This week, they're crossing the Ocala National Forest. I recently hiked just nine of those miles, and walked away several blisters and a new appreciation for what they're doing.

It's dawn at Hopkins Prairie, a primitive campground deep in the Ocala forest. I unzip my tent and head through the morning fog to see what Rick Smith is up to.

Climate Change: Ready or Not

Apr 5, 2012

The Natural Resources Defense Council thinks states like Florida should start preparing for problems caused by climate change -- rising coastal waters and interior droughts -- even if they don't believe climate change is real.

Ben Chou* -- the author of a new state-by-state analysis of climate change readiness -- tells WUSF that even non-believers can get behind the idea of better safe than sorry.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and in the long run the costs of not preparing for climate change far outweigh the costs of planning now," he said.

Colorado State University

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University, lead by William Gray and Philip Klotzbach, predict below-average activity in the Atlantic basin during the upcoming hurricane season.

The prediction is based on two factors: a cooling of tropical Atlantic waters in recent months, and a return of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean.  

Hurricane season begins June 1st.

As they thread their way north, members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition have come across one of their biggest barriers - Interstate 4.  And if humans have a hard time crossing the busy highway  --  what does that mean for wildlife?
 
Expedition members have paddled through the heart of the Everglades without seeing anyone else for days.

They've high-stepped through snake-and-alligator-infested swamps.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made Kings Bay in Crystal River a manatee refuge. As part of that, it enacted new rules about boating. And city officials haven't been too happy about it- they have until their next meeting, April 9th to vote whether or not to sue to reverse the rules.

City officials are upset  the new rules require slower boat speeds during the summer- peak season for recreation activities on the bay.

Crystal River Mayor Jim Farley says the bay is already manatee-friendly.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition started their trek in January at the tip of the Everglades, and they plan to end it next month at the Okeefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

Steve Newborn

OSCEOLA COUNTY - You'd think that wading through some of the most impenetrable swamps in Florida and traveling a thousand miles from the Everglades to Georgia would be tough enough. But sometimes the worst thing members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition have to deal with is the weather.

It's the night before the expedition has travel 17 miles, hiking and then kayaking across Lake Kissimmee. But a front that spawned tornadoes in the Midwest is expected to arrive by the morning.

Steve Newborn

KISSIMMEE - The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition has emerged from the wilderness and is now skirting around Orlando's suburban sprawl. The group recently stopped at the Disney Wilderness Preserve on horseback, and they received an unexpected gift - from President Obama.

After trudging an untold number of miles under the weight of a 60 pound backpack...

SOUND: horse snorting.

...there's nothing like strutting into your next stop atop a horse.

Steve Newborn

KISSIMMEE - The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition neared civilization today. The group stopped at a wilderness preserve on the edge of Orlando’s sprawl, where they received an unexpected gift - from President Obama.

The gift was a copy of both the expedition’s route map through Florida and a photograph by group member Carlton Ward Jr. – both signed by the president. The items were brought to the White House by members of the Northern Everglades Alliance, which is trying to protect the headwaters of the Kissimmee River.

Steve Newborn

LAKE PLACID - The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is nearing the halfway mark of their trip up the length of Florida - 1,000 miles in 100 days. Their mission is to publicize the need to connect the state's disjointed wild areas into a continuous wildlife corridor. WUSF's Steve Newborn recently caught up with the group for an update.

Deadly US 27 Crash Caused by Smoke and Fog

Mar 6, 2012
Bay News 9

There's been a deadly vehicle pile up on US Highway 27, in Polk County around the Lake Wales area.

Police say one person is dead, and several are injured in the 9-vehicle crash.

Around 5 this morning, a truck  traveling southbound crossed the median and hit an SUV. Then, motorcyclist Frederick Wood of Frostproof crashed into them and was killed.

AVON PARK - There are more than just birds and alligators being encountered by the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition as they make their way up the middle of Florida. Try bombs. And jets. And attack helicopters. Members of the Expedition camped for a couple of days at the Avon Park Bombing Range, where they witnessed how F-16's making practice strafing runs coexist with some of the rarest creatures in Florida.

WUSF's Carson Cooper talks about their latest stop with expedition member and filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus.

Remember earlier this year when we reported on the fiery end to the "Senator", a 3500-year-old cypress tree in Seminole County? It was the centerpiece of Big Tree Park near Longwood, and was a tourist attraction long before the states' theme parks.

Now authorities have charged a 26-year-old meth addict with setting the fire.  Beth Kassab, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, says it's a sad but unsurprising outcome to a long history of neglect:

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