Pelican Island Audubon Selected Florida’s Best 2013 Chapter

Receiving the Chapter Award at Audubon Assembly: AoF Chapter Coordinator Jacqui Sulek, Bob Bruce, Richard Baker, Peter & Lorraine Sutherland, Judy & John Orcutt, David Peabody, Juanita Baker, and AoF Executive Director Eric Draper.
The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
November 2013

Audubon Florida, Audubon’s state’s organization, selected PIAS ‘Best Chapter’ of 44 Florida Audubon Chapters in Florida – 2013 (also in 2011 and 2007).  We are very appreciative of the hard work of Bob Montanaro, Office Manager, Board Members, our members, and many volunteers for their work or support on the major innovative conservation and education projects below.

  • Square-Foot Gardening School Project (awarded an Audubon TogetherGreen innovation grant of $9,890). Led byBoard member Peter Sutherland, Audubon worked with 560 students in 13 of 22 elementary, middle and charter schools in the county to install 80-plus 4 ft. x 4ft. gardens, twice our goal, with a dozen partner organizations and 28 teachers.  A 12-minute video produced by Dr. Graham Cox and Bob Montanaro is now available on the PIAS website. This project introduced 11% of the enrolled school population in the county’s elementary, middle and charter schools to gardening and ecology.
  • Indian River Lagoon Coalition- Audubon and Yale Club of the Treasure Coast “Call to Action.” Audubon Board member Dr. John Orcutt and wife Judy initiated a program to build a countywide coalition to show politicians that the public supports them in making the hard decisions necessary to improve Lagoon conditions.  Since January 2013, 138 organizations have joined the coalition. Although this change in attitude cannot be attributed to the coalition alone, the coalition undoubtedly had a major impact in changing the county and city official’s attitude towards the health of the Lagoon.
  • Voices on the Water, Tribute to Lagoon in Song, Sign, and Photography, multi-media, multi-sensory event. On April 5 and 7, 2013, PIAS coordinated with member Judy Orcutt to facilitate a Vero Beach Choral Society concert focusing on the theme of Water.  The concert showed photos of habitat, flora and fauna of the Indian River Lagoon taken by PIAS photographers George and Mary Ester Bollis, choreographed with music at the Trinity Episcopal Church, and included a special message of the need for clean up and protection to save the Lagoon.
  • QR Interpretive Signs at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (America’s first NWR). Through the efforts of 1st Vice President Bob Bruce, PIAS received a $1,000 grant to produce 11 interpretive signs using smartphone QR technology for habitat and wildlife education.  The videos and artwork were done by Bob Montanaro.  Visitors with smart phones are able to download videos about the refuge, its history, mosquito management, plants including mangroves, hammocks, seagrasses, and butterflies, birds, and fishes in the Indian River Lagoon.  The videos are also available at the PIAS website. The QR narration and the stories that make nature come alive are presented by Dr. Grant Gilmore (Fish Ecologist), Richard Thomas (Commercial Fisherman), Doug Carlson (Mosquito Control District Director), Suzanne Valencia (Butterfly Garden Expert), Kevin Lowry (Refuge Ranger), and Janice Broda (Environmental Educator); they are exceptional and stand on their own.
  • Quality of Life Indicator Project in Indian River County. The recent award of a TogetherGreen planning grant written by PIAS board member Dr. Graham Cox of $5,000 will allow PIAS to continue this innovative community-based effort to work with two largely minority communities in Indian River County to develop quality-of-life’ sustainability indicators and community survey instruments to guide the county towards an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable future. A webpage has been established for the public to respond to a survey.  It is available at the PIAS website.
  • Audubon Community Center& Conservation land volunteer training center. PIAS purchased one acre of land surrounded by the 440-acre Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area on which to build this center. Over $200,000 in pro bono surveying and engineering work was donated for the project, and now with county site-plan approval in hand, construction funds are available and building will begin shortly.
  • Other activities during the year include Boy Scout Merit Badge Counseling (Jane Schnee), Press Journal Bird Photo of the Month ( Dr. Juanita Baker), Oslo Road Conservation Area Volunteer Program (Janice Broda), JayWatch (Joe Carroll, Rosalind James, and Jane Schnee), Eagle Watch (Billi Wagner), Advocacy for the Lagoon (Dr. David Cox & Board President Dr. Richard Baker), Nature Library (Tina Marchese), Animal Rescue (Nancy Irvin), Membership (Bill & Darlene Halliday), Civic Affairs (Jim Kirley), Field Trips and Monthly Educational Meetings in Sebastian and Vero Beach (Dr. Bill Loftus), and Fund Raising (Toni Robinson).

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