2022 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – Natural Resources
J.Davis, UF/IFAS Extension, Sumter County and Hernando County, Bushnell, FL
Situation: Florida is home to more than 7,800 freshwater lakes. The vastness of these water systems is critical to ecology and wildlife diversity in Florida. Sumter County is one of the fastest growing counties in Florida, having one of the largest retirement communities in the United States. Transplants from other states that are unaware of the natural resources and wildlife Florida has to offer. One method to educate Floridians, is to provide an interpretive tour of one the largest lakes in The Villages, Lake Sumter. Objective: At least 90% of participants will learn at least one new invasive and one new native species, as measured by show of hands.
Methods: Six tours were conducted throughout 2021. Participants learned about Florida’s geology relative to the aquifer, ethnobotany, native fish, invasive fish, native freshwater systems plants, invasive plants, and native wildlife. More specifically, participants were shown hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) and Blue Tilapia (Oreochromis aureus). Participants learned the state tree (Sabal palmetto), the state reptile (Alligator mississippiensis), and the state freshwater fish (Micropterus salmoides floridanus). A six-passenger pontoon boat is provided by The Villages Recreation Department and provides a captain to operate the boat. No more than four passengers are taken out on each trip. Results: 100% of participants (n=22) stated they learned at least one new invasive species and one new native species after participating in the nature boat pontoon boat tour, as measured by a show of hands post trip. 100% of participants (n=22) stated they will attend one or more natural resources events held by UF/IFAS Extension, as measured by a show of hands post trip. Conclusion: The nature boat pontoon tours have been successful and provide a unique opportunity for residents. As a result of attending tours, participants have registered for other natural resources events in Sumter County.