the-osbs1Picture day! With a high in the mid-70’s yesterday it would have been a crime to spend it indoors working on a blog post. I think normally highs in the 70’s isn’t uncommon for Florida this time of year, but like just about everywhere else this has been the coldest winter this area has seen in years. Yesterday marked the first day it happened that I’ve been around to enjoy it, so enjoy it I did. There was reading a book outside on my kindle and enjoying the warm sun and wind through the trees, jogging at sunset, and taking a few minutes after nightfall to marvel at the stars which are actually easier to see here than I thought they’d be – I guess I am a half hour away from the nearest city.

Since I arrived here in Florida I’ve been slowly accumulating pictures at work. A commenter on a previous post said he’d like to see more of where I am, so here it is: a little bit more about the OSBS, as told by pictures. This counts as your science credit for today. I’ve numbered the descriptions to go with each picture, 1 is for the first picture, etc.

the-osbs21) The station has two basic types of lakes, dark water lakes and clear water lakes. The dark water lakes on site are fed by the marsh, and the water in them contains tannin from trees and brush growing in the marsh and along the edges of the lake, making them, well, darker. These lakes are considered more ‘productive’, as in they host more marine life. These lakes are also more likely to have alligators, because there is more for them to eat. Pictured here is a clear lake, which is ground and rain water fed. The water is clearer and it’s much easier to photograph because it’s not surrounded by marsh. Water levels have been low in north-central Florida for decades, it’s come back a bit this year but is still nowhere near where it use to be.

the-osbs32) A tortoise shell, found one day while I was out hunting old fence. If you look closely you can see bones inside the shell. The Gopher Tortoise is the only species of tortoise native to North America, they are classified as Vulnerable due to habitat destruction. As their name implies, they like to burrow, and abandoned dens provide shelter for numerous other animals.

3) A coworker setting up a camera and direction marker to take a pre-fire picture. There is a post mounted in the ground that the camera pole is screwed onto, and then the camera is rotated at 90 degrees intervals to get a picture from the spot facing the four cardinal directions. After the fire, which is slated in the next couple months, pictures will be taken from the spot again for comparison. The OSBS has been doing this for years, and these pictures can be compared to years past to see how the habitat is changing over time.

the-osbs44) Two coworkers put out a stump still smoldering after a controlled burn the day before. It’s not uncommon to find bits of wood still smoking or on fire the day after a burn, whether these are allowed to burn themselves out or get put out depends on a few factors. How close they are to the road and other unburned sectors, whether the smoke is going to blow into a residential area, and if weather conditions are going to change to make letting them burn unsafe (as in a increase or shift in wind direction, or a drop in humidity).

the-osbs55) Up until the 30’s, long leaf pine were harvested for turpentine used to seal cracks in wooden boat hulls and later to thin paint. This is an old pine with a mostly healed turpentine harvesting scar, you can still see bits of metal in the center of the wound. Trees with these scars are called cat faces, because the harvesters would cut X shaped hashes in the wood of the trees, and from a distance the marks looked like whiskers on the nose of a cat.

The bark of long leaf pine is very fire resistant, but the wood inside is not. Because they are a part of our cultural history, the OSBS tries to help these old “cat faces” out before a burn by sending people out to rake the needles and debris from around the base to prevent fire from getting at the wounds.

6) Baby long leaf pine will stay in a grass stage for 7-10 years while they send down a tap root before growing upward and looking like a proper tree. Their long needles act as a heat sink to keep fire from burning the growing bud in the middle of the tree. As long as this bud doesn’t burn, the tree will recover from a fire.

the-osbs67) In 2011 OSBS leased some land to the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) to build this tower, which collects ecological data (science-y stuff, I don’t know all the details). It was completed about three months ago, the first of 20+ such units which the project is building across the country.

the-osbs78) I’ve seen deer, turkey, possums, racoons, armadillo, turkey vultures, hawks, and small birds of all sorts during my stay here so far, and also several of these little guys, which I would call a green tree frog but I’m not sure if that would be the official species name. This one snuck under the door into the bathroom at the barn when I was getting ready to take a shower.

9) The habitat type that the OSBS is best known for: Sandhill. It’s an open forest of mostly long leaf pine with native grasses growing underneath. Only frequent fires allow a habitat like this to exist, it use to cover large swaths of lightning-prone Florida until wildfire suppression became a big thing. When it doesn’t get burned, oak and brush move in and the grass dies out. This plot was burned last summer. Oh, and open forest like this? Less mosquito infested. That’s a win in my book.



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39 Responses to The OSBS

  1. Old Fat Man January 28, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Those little green frogs have a croak louder than a train whistle. They used to get on the window of my bedroom and scare the daylights out of me.
    Old Fat Man recently posted..Can You See?My Profile

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

      Yikes! I haven’t heard one make a peep so far, and I’ve seen close to a dozen of them. They also like to hang out in the electric box at my campsite.

  2. jonthebru January 28, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    I like it! Sounds like a nice change from your Kansas job.

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

      It is Jon. It’s so great to be able to mix things up like this. Kansas was great for the money, this is great for the memories. a little of this and a little of that, it’s how I like things.

  3. EmilyO January 28, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    This is interesting and educational for me. I like these eductional posts of the whys and whatfors. Never too old to learn. I spent a month along the Forgotten Coast and learned a lot while there about plants and animals, weather, culture, people, food, and I found it so interesting. Thanks for the info.

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

      You’re very welcome Emily. That’s one of the big reasons why I travel, to learn. I love learning. This kind of hands-on approach is so refreshing compared to just reading things in a book. Like going on field trips as a kid.

  4. Kylene January 28, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    Fire is such an important part of some ecosystems, but we have a tendency to only see the bad. Some of the prairie land where I grew up was the same way. I think it’s beautiful when the fires are allowed to burn sometimes. 🙂

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

      I agree Kylene, seeing what I’ve seen here.

  5. Ron January 28, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

    Great post, very interesting to me. It looks like a very pleasant place to hang out & explore for the Winter. Ron

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

      Glad you liked it Ron. A bit less pleasant today when I’m not sure it hit 40, but by this weekend it should be back in the 70’s. Much better than most of the rest of the country right now.

  6. George January 29, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    Morning Becky, Glad to hear you are warm. Just up the road in Macon, Ga, we are covered with ice and snow. Won’t last long, just really bad around here for these Georgia drivers. They are not used to snow. Tonight’s temps, 19.

    Love the editorial. I try to learn something new each day. With your blogs, I can push it up to 2 a day. Take care, be safe.

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      Yeah it sounds really bad up in Georgia. At least one of my Atlanta friends was still unable to get home as of earlier today, a civil emergency was declared and people were being urged to not travel unless it was an emergency due to the ice and all the abandoned vehicles on the roads. My first cast meeting for fest is suppose to be on Saturday but I’m wondering if it’ll be called off. Guess it depends on how quickly the roads can be cleared. You be safe too.

      So you’re saying my blog can double the amount of new things you learn in a day, that’s a pretty good statistic, hehe.

  7. John Hussey January 29, 2014 at 5:48 am #

    Small world. For a few years my son was doing archaeological/firefighting out oft Osceola north of you and was one of those who likely did your controlled burns you wrote about. He is still at UF, finishing his doctorate in archeology.

    Enjoy our Florida weather. It is great for nine months of the year and you will quickly learn to adapt to the remaining three hotter ones but even those are not as bad as those in the hot months in some of the colder states up north and west. Plus, here in Florida, much of the state about always has a breeze off the ocean around our peninsula to cool us off somewhat. That breeze does strengthen a bit occasionally during the hurricane season but thankfully we have not experienced one of the massive ones in many years, perhaps thanks to our present global warming cycle. They were much worse some years ago when we were in the midst of a global cooling cycle.

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

      That’s very possible John. Some burns are entirely in house, but often crews come from other places to train and help with the bigger fires.

      Florida’s winters do seem great, but if the summers are anything like SC they’re more humid than I like. The heat doesn’t bother me so much, but I hate showering and feeling sticky less than an hour later. Not to mention my hair gets very frizzy in humid conditions. Luckily I don’t need to sit and complain about it as I’ll be driving north before that becomes an issue, hehe.

      Here’s hoping for many more seasons without big hurricanes.

  8. Gary January 29, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    Nice post. I learned some stuff. Enjoy those well deserved temps in the 70’s.

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      Glad you liked it Gary.

  9. Diane January 29, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    That little green frog is ADORABLE!!!
    Diane recently posted..28 January 2014, LBJ National ParkMy Profile

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      I knooooow right? I scared him pee-less when I picked him up and put him back outside, felt a little guilty.

    • Diane January 29, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

      Hi Diane, I’m also Diane! The funny thing is that you made the exact same comment I was going to make: that little green frog is adorable!!

      • Becky January 30, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

        Hehe, glad you liked it.

  10. Michelle January 29, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Awesome post, learned a lot. Thanks for the detail!

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

      You’re welcome Michelle, thanks for reading.

  11. Roger in SoCal. January 29, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Hi Becky,

    Great post, I especially loved the pic of the frog…all my life I have been a frog lover. I have raised so many different frogs, even had a pond for frogs when I was kid. There were so many Pacific Tree Frogs that the neighbors complained about the noise from croaking ( Threatened to sue my parents lol ) that my parents made me collect them all and take them to a stream in the canyons a couple miles from my home.

    Thanks for the interesting facts, maybe someday I’ll get to do what your doing, this is great stuff your doing..wish I had done some of this when I was younger.

    Thanks again,

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

      Glad you liked it Roger. I was definitely one of those kids who played with toads and frogs, hehe.

      Also there’s no time like the present to get started plotting your escape to the road…

  12. Tom January 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Great update, Becky. Thanks for the pictures.

    • Becky January 29, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

      You’re welcome Tom.

  13. AmyKate January 29, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    I asked my husband who is a native to Fl and he said the green frogs are just green tree frogs. He suggest not liking them. I think he’s thinking of the frogs in our BIL home country (Venezuela). Loved the photos and really enjoy your adventures AKA life.

    • Becky January 30, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

      Glad you liked it Amy and thanks for the name confirmation.

  14. Heather January 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Have so enjoyed finding your journey, Becky! Have passed it along to my daughter, who’s in the process of re-inventing her life and she said she finds much wisdom in your thoughtful posts. You never know how/how you’re going to touch someone’s life 🙂 Thanks for sharing yourself & journey. We’re thinking about finding volunteer work in nature (as you have), but would never of thought of this ~ photos are terrific!

    • Becky January 30, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

      Glad you and your daughter liked them Heather, and best of luck to her in finding her way.

      These photos like all of mine were taken with the camera in my iPhone 4S, it’s so handy to have my camera wherever I take my phone. Having optical zoom would be nice sometimes, you’ll never see wildlife closeups where I’m not directly in front of the subject, but this saves me the money of having to buy a real camera and the hassle of carrying both with.

  15. Roger in SoCal. January 31, 2014 at 1:21 am #

    Quick question, Do you remember about how many times you applied to Workamper positions before you got an offer?
    I am on 9 apps so far, obviously i can’t apply to the ads that want couples…



  16. Roger in SoCal. January 31, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Hi Becky,

    Well I spoke a little too soon…Just got a call this morning from a workamper job for an RV park in Texas. Just wondered, they a re sending me a contract. Do you know how this works?
    Since I just recently started looking, if I sign a contract and something better comes up, am I stuck to that position??

    • Becky February 2, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

      Hello Roger, that’s an ethical question that doesn’t have a clear answer. Your employer whom you’ve signed the contract with will be expecting you to come and if you don’t show up you can expect to never be able to work for them again. If you have a tendency to back out after giving seasonal jobs a “yes” it could ruin your reputation after a while. I actually wrote a post about this.

      • Roger in SoCal. February 2, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

        Thanks Becky, I’m not going to sign any contract unless I am 100% certain I will take a position.

        Thanks for the info..


        • Becky February 3, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

          You’re welcome Roger, sounds like a good plan.

  17. Dawn February 2, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    Great post. Love those long leaf pines…we have a few around in AL…where my folks lived. They are just beautiful when they are grown up! The little ones are cute too! 🙂 Thanks for all the information. And have fun in the warmer temps. It’s snowing again today here in MI

    • Becky February 2, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      Yeah they are. After they finish the grass phase they move into a “rocket” phase: a tube of needles on a long thin trunk, which is also amusing looking. Drive safe and stay warm!

  18. OpenSpaceMan February 2, 2014 at 9:30 am #


    I think I would volunteer just for the peace and quiet away from the city. Great job on the post.

  19. Becky February 2, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    Glad you liked it Space.

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