Sunday, December 01, 2013

Talking About the Environment: My individual presentation to the Uplands Module, Florida Master Naturalist Program


As a Florida Master Naturalist, you are likely to be doing a lot of talking, both formally and informally. The following may help you as you choose how/when/where you employ your skills.

You will be called upon to talk in any number of ways:
  • Answering questions/identifying elements of the Florida natural ecosystem. These may occur one-on-one or to large and small groups
  • Docent-type tours of projects/sites to which you are attached in one way or another
  • Talks to interested groups ranging from civic groups to school classes.
  • Serving as an environmental advocate or volunteer
  • Representing a resource on behalf of a government agency, conservation trust, etc.

Before you begin talking, I suggest you:
  • Identify your areas of interest and expertise. Know your strengths and weaknesses in the field
  • Build and develop a set of reference materials, web sites, apps that address your areas of interests and beyond. Become fluent in how these tools are laid out so that you can use them to increase your knowledge as well as access them quickly for answers to questions you do not know off “the top of your head.”
  • Keep a log or notes on the questions you receive, particularly ones that you had to do further research about. You may wish to create your own set of Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Immerse yourself in natural surroundings as much as you can. Do so in extended periods of time if possible. Stop, be still, use all of your senses. Observe, imagine, contemplate. Don’t be rushed. Nature will reveal itself on its own schedule, not yours.
  • Field trips have their place, but I recommend going alone or with one other person more often than in groups.

Your presentations:
  • Briefly tell your own story. Use an anecdote or two about how you came to love natural systems and want to share your knowledge with others. This is very important to establish your commitment and competence in the subject at hand. You are setting the stage for the rest of your remarks.
  • Identify your audience ahead of time. Speak to their needs and interests.
  • Do not depend on Powerpoint or paper. Be able to communicate clearly, with enthusiasm without those tools. It is hard to crank up a computer when you out in the field.
  • Always have a map of your subject site at hand and refer to it periodically to orient listeners.
  • You do not have to know every last detail about the resource. You are like the maitre’d, you are offering up a menu to an ecosystem or natural resource. Seek to inspire your audience to learn more on their own and to be long-time stewards for natural resources.
  • Summarize your key points at the front end. Be explicit about what you want them to take away from your talks. Do it in bullets.
  • Be conversational. Listen as much as you talk. Don’t get tied up in your script.
  • Develop your anecdotal library and continue to add to it. If something works particularly well, use it again.
  • Touch upon as many varieties of perspectives as you can to shed light on natural systems: photography, science, art, literature, history of ancient peoples who used the resource, politics, management requirements, economic values/impacts, environmental ethics, sustainability, and environmental vs agricultural issues.
  • Do not be afraid of silence. Breathe, Smile, Be yourself. Show your love for the subject without flooding them with minutiae. Avoid being a “smarty-pants.”
  • Always be honest and accurate. You can not know everything. Don’t try to fake it. You may want to offer to get back with the questioner on questions that you can not answer.
  • If you hear a good presenter, study them, and take things from their presentations to use later. They will help you find your own voice.
  • At the end, summarize your talk again in bullets.

On-going continuing education

  • Commit to life-long learning about Florida’s natural resources. Observe and learn from as many perspectives as possible.
  • Do the obvious: read, study, take courses. Know as much of the science as you can absorb so that you will speak with as much accuracy as possible.
  • Speak formally and informally on behalf of natural resources often. Practice makes perfect.
  • When I was working on Lake Apopka, I dove deeply into piles of technical papers, data, etc. After awhile, the jargon contained there became secondhand to me. That can be a problem, because those jargon may not be the best way to communicate. I often would do tests on friends and family who had little scientific background.. If I could make “hypereutrophic” clear to those friends, I knew I had found the language to use for the general public. I found those interchanges invaluable in distilling my thoughts into a series of “elevator speeches.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Egg Substitute: A Staple In My Refrigerator

I often cook with Publix's egg substitute, EggStirs. The lower cholesterol is the main reason. I find that, particularly when adulterated with veggies, cheese, or meats (even a peach), the final product turns out beautifully. By themselves, they are still good though the difference in taste between the substitute and the eggs is more evident. To me, real eggs taste saltier and, when cooked alone, they scramble better. 

In my frittatas, I most often use the substitute with great success. The key is to cook the "frit"very slowly. I prepare it on the stove first and then sprinkle cheese on top before broiling  until the top is lightly browned. I nearly always season with my mix of salt-free/low salt Cajun seasoning and Crystal Hot Sauce. 

Another plus to the substitute is that, in recipes calling for an egg or two, it is easier to just pour into a measuring cup and add to the mix. 1/4 cup = one egg. No dealing with shells and washing an extra bowl and wisk. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Word on the Street (and in the Sun): Stonewood Grill in Gainesville has closed

Based on a news report in today's Gainesville Sun, Stonewood Grill has closed suddenly. The Sun reported that there was a dispute over rent that had gone unpaid and that restaurant equipment was seen being removed from the restaurant on Sunday.

I have long enjoyed their food, particularly in their early days in Gainesville. They sought to be innovative at using fresh, local ingredients in creative ways and we had a number of interesting dishes there. For awhile, they even produced a magazine about their wares that was outstanding. The room itself was embracing and sophisticated with dark, warm words with stone accents.

I hope some restauranteur with same dedication takes over this building soon. I am sad to see Stonewood Grill go.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Staff have indicated that theWestgate Shopping Center will be demolished in February, 2014 and completely rebuilt by football season, 2014. Publix will be expanded to match their standard size and lay out (maybe with some twists). CVS is said to to be moving to a free-standing building to be built on the site of the present Checkers presently located on the southeast corner of University Avenue and 34th Street.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From my mother's recipe box: TURKEY CURRY


This recipe is from my mother, Jo's, recipe box. It was given to her by her friend Peggy Martin. Naturally, my inclination is to add some dashes of creole seasoning or a hint of Crystal Hot Sauce. I just can't help myself if they are in reach.

Serves 8-10 (supposedly, without seconds)


Butter - 6 T.
Flour - 5 T
Chicken stock - 2 cups
Milk, divided - 1 ½ cups and ½ cup
Curry - 1 T (note: I triple it or more)
Water - 1-2 T.
Turkey - cooked, cut up; 4 cups
Apple, large - shredded

1. Make a light roux with the butter and flour, constantly stirring. Let it bubble up.

2. Meanwhile, be heating 2 cups of the chicken stock with 1 ½ cups of milk. Note: heat but do not boil.

3. Add the chicken stock/milk mixture to the roux and stir well until you have a creamy sauce consistency.

4. Make a slurry out of the water and curry. Add to sauce. Stir in.

5. Add the turkey to sauce and mix well.

6. Grate a large apple and mix with ½ cup of milk. Add to turkey and sauce. Mix well.

7. Let simmer to evenly heat all ingredients. Serve over rice or pasta. Toast or a baked potato might also be used.