Saturday, July 22, 2017

IMPULSIVE Review of the "POWER BANK" portable solar powered device charger.





I did not intend to do a product review of my handy portable solar charger when I walked outside this morning. My mission was to splice a new end to a damaged battery cable in our little spare car, (a 2002 Hyundai) and install a new battery.

("Hyundai" ... does anybody else have to spell check this word every time they write it or is it just me?)

My phone was about half charged, so I grabbed the "Power Bank" solar device charger, plugged it into my Pixel and headed out.  

The Hyundai sat next to my burgeoning timber bamboo grove, the dappled shade light was friendly, and a fence rail provided a seat, so I impulsively decided to do a little video review of the pretty cool portable solar charger in my hand.

The video is a first take, as is about everything here on Pure Florida. 
I just sat down and started chatting and it never occurred to me that the brand would not be imprinted on the solar device. So here's a little gem of wisdom ... take the time to know the name of the product before you do a review.

(Seriously, who doesn't stamp their company logo, name, etc all over their product?)

Also, even if airplane noise is one of your pet video-making peeves, maybe just let it go and not editorialize during the video.

This Power Bank is a pretty nifty device though. I called it "waterproof" with qualifiers, but "water resistant" would be more accurate. 

You can find water proof devices like this easily online and the prices are very reasonable ... anywhere from $20 - $40 depending on features.

I am definitely a fan of all things SOLAR and this little device is super handy for those of us who take our phones and other devices far from home and need that backup juice.

... and yes, I did repair the car successfully.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Diary Of A Dolphin Research Volunteer: The Cedar Key Dolphin Project 2017



Normally, with the advent of Summer furlough, I look for some kind of valuable science teacher training that is both useful and comes with a paycheck.

The local county offerings seemed like more of the same and with 30 years of teaching under the bridge, my time was too valuable to sit through a rehash of prior training.

In recent years I was able to work a few marine science camps out at Seahorse Key, but the camps did not happen this year. 

All of this seemed to be pointing towards an unscheduled June and July, and then just as the school year was winding up, an email caught my eye.

"Wanted: Dolphin Research Volunteers. Must be willing to commit to 2 days a week ...", and then there was a long and detailed job description that seemed to be written with me in mind.

So, of course, I signed up.
It has been a remarkable experience.

It's not like I've never seen a dolphin before, but seeing them with someone like Professor Stefanie Gazda is to see them in a whole new light. Stefanie has been researching our Nature Coast dolphins for years. From Crystal River to the Suwannee, if it's Tursiops truncatus, she has studied it.


Stefanie checking the GPS


Stefanie knows dolphins and not just dolphin biology, but she knows dolphins... individual dolphins. She has a vast collection of dolphin photos used to identify individual dolphins as part of her research. On the water, she recognizes dolphins by their unique dorsal fin markings and calls them by name. 

Example:  We were both watching and filming a dolphin in Waccasassa Bay recently. The dolphin was involved in a behavior known as "Driver Behavior", which is the holy grail of the dolphin project. This is when a dolphin actively herds schools of fish against the shoreline and then charges in to capture the panicked and cornered prey.


Filming Prop driving mullet


No matter what the day's research plan calls for, we drop everything when this very special behavior is spotted. 

The dolphin involved had a dorsal fin that looked like it had been through a food processor. Once Stefanie got a clear look at that fin, she recognized him as a dolphin she had first identified years before on an earlier research trip.
"Prop", so named for his propeller damaged dorsal fin, was an old acquaintance. 

For an hour and a half, we discretely followed Prop through the oyster bars in and around Jack's Creek as a falling tide raced out from beneath us. 

Prop ignored us as he moved back and forth along the marshy shore, bunching up the mullet with slaps of his flukes and very purposeful swimming.  When he had them just where he wanted them...he charged.

The mullet were up against the proverbial rock and a hard place, in this case, the shore on one side and a hungry dolphin on the other. There was nowhere to go but up!

In a panic, they leaped out of the water and Prop, clever Prop, was more than willing to snatch them right out of the air. 
PHOTO TAKEN UNDER MMPA PERMIT No. 14450



It was spectacular, and no he didn't always get the mullet, but his skillful herding and timing were incredible. He was so determined, even swimming sideways through shallow sections of Jack's Creek ... like some giant mutant salmon swimming upstream. 

Eventually, Prop moved into an area too shallow for even the 18 foot Wahoo to follow, so we broke off the observation and rode the falling tide out to deeper water for the return voyage North to Cedar Key. 

Off in the distance, huge splashes against the marshy shore told us Prop wasn't done driving mullet to their doom. 

The ride back beneath a darkening, cloudy sky was uneventful ... until a dolphin showed up, riding back and forth across the bow in about a meter of water... and in a flash, we were back on duty, recording notes on behavior and taking photos.

Just another day (okay, Prop made it an OUTSTANDING day) on the Cedar Key Dolphin Project.

The project has a Facebook Page where you can learn more about it and even become a supporter by making a donation via PayPal.

I'll have more to say about volunteering with the Cedar Key Dolphin Project in another post to follow. 
Check out that facebook page in the meantime for all kinds of dolphin info and news about the project ... plus that shiny Donate button just waiting to be clicked.