A Talk on the Wild Side.
Shana DiPalma is a GIS specialist and Kristin Barth is an office automation clerk, both at the South Florida Ecological Services Office. They recently got to get their hands dirty for the endangered Lakela’s mint.
|Staff members from the South Florida Ecological Services Office joined with partners from Indian River County and Bok Tower Gardens for a day of Lakela’s mint habitat maintenance at a conservation area in Vero Beach. This species faces a high risk of extinction because so much of its habitat has been destroyed and its populations have become so fragmented.|
Usually when an email’s subject line mentions a workday get-together, skeptical eyes frantically scroll the page to see if the event is worth the loss of time and productivity. A recent email distributed to us and other staff at the South Florida Ecological Services Office offering an opportunity to “Save the Mint” ended up being well worth the time.
On Nov. 18, we were among several who participated in our Endangered Species Team’s first annual Save the Mint Team-Building Day. Our office teamed up with Beth Powell, Indian River County biologist, and Cheryl Peterson, Bok Tower Gardens manager for the Rare Plant Conservation Program, for a day of Lakela’s mint habitat maintenance at the historic Hallstrom Farmstead—a 93-acre conservation area not far from our office in Vero Beach.
|Lakela's mint plant in bloom. Photo Courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History|
Taking part in a hands-on conservation effort for a federally endangered plant—that just happens to be in our own backyard (the rare Lakela's Mint grows only in Indian River and St. Lucie counties)—was a very enriching experience.
Over the course of a day, we learned how to identify young plants and improve their habitat by removing invasive species and other overgrowth. A taste of field work allowed non-biologists like us the rare chance to participate first-hand in projects that we process and support every day.
The farmstead is one of only about nine known subpopulations of Lakela’s mint. Bok Tower Gardens and Indian River County have done tremendous work on Lakela’s mint and Savanna’s mint. Kudos to our biologist Marilyn Knight for organizing the day.
Continuing to have an active role in conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats both in the office and the field is something we look forward to doing more in the future because it certainly made us feel like an important part of a larger and more hands-on conservation team.