Surgeon General’s prescription for Americans: “Take a walk with PIAS!”

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
October 2015

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, in a call to action, prescribes that all Americans (including children) walk to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Walking can ease symptoms and improve quality of life for 1 out of 2 adults already living with these and other chronic diseases. Only 50% of adults meet the Surgeon General’s 2008 Guidelines that recommend adults walk at least 2 ½ hours a week, and only 27% of high-school students are active at least 60 minutes every day. Being physically active can lessen the severity of one’s ill-health conditions, prevent disease progression and premature death, improve one’s quality of life and emotional well-being, and encourage positive mental health and delay cognitive decline in older adults (

Photo: Bob Montanaro

So fulfill the Surgeon General’s recommendations by taking a walk “with PIAS!” We extend an invitation to you to sign up for its 2015-2016 field trips (see our yearly schedule at.. This month:

  • Oct. 10 at 8:30 am: Introduction to Birding at the Audubon House taught by David & Dee Simpson that will also include a hike.
  • Oct 10 from 1:00-4:00 pm: eBird course with ornithologist David Simpson, a regional monitor for our area and Dr. Juanita Baker — a great way to get your walk in and learn to be a citizen scientist recording the birds you see, adding to the worldwide database sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, and so important in this age of climate change. Experienced birders and beginners…there is much to command, to understand, much potential to learn what eBird can do. This class will demonstrate: how you can use eBird to enhance your birding, find birds you want to see, see where rare birds have been seen, enter birds you have seen and maintain your birding lists and life list, plan a birding trip anywhere in the world, enter your photographs of birds on eBird, share your bird list with others, analyze data from multiple lists over time, use smart phone apps in the field to enter straight into eBird, what to enter, how to count bird flocks easily, and the importance of using eBird to be a citizen scientist contributing to the largest scientific data base in the world.
  • Oct. 11 at 8:00 am: Captain Forster Hammock Preserve looking for migration warblers led by David Simpson.
  • Oct. 31 at 7:30 am: Sebastian Inlet State Park with the Indian River Photo Club, led by Dr. Juanita Baker.

Those who take walks in nature have more energy, are more creative and more focused on their goals. Fortunately, you can follow the Surgeon General’s recommendations with hardly any cost, little or no equipment, and have fun on the many nature trails where you can enjoy fantastic birding at our county conservation areas. Planned field trips include Sebastian Inlet State Park, Viera Wetlands, and the North Sebastian Conservation Area. Take a walk at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA), across from the Audubon House by joining the free guided nature walks.

Take an opportunity to volunteer for JayWatch, EagleWatch, and OspreyWatch to get out in nature. Other opportunities are available to go out with experienced birders to monitor birds at three area golf courses.

In January, we will be again offering two courses at the Audubon House that will get you out walking into Nature:

  • Beginning Birdwatching Course taught by Dr. Juanita Baker: Come learn all about birds in an intensive course: four classroom sessions Jan. 12th, Jan. 14th, Jan. 26th, and Jan. 28th from 6:30-9:00 pm, with two field trips on Jan. 16 and Jan. 31st,from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm. You will see and learn to identify over 75 bird species
  • The 20th Volunteer Nature Stewardship Class will be offered by the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida, in collaboration with PIAS, from 1:30 to 4:30pm on Saturdays from January 16th through February 20th, 2016. Each session includes classroom activities and field experiences that focus on developing an understanding of the Indian River Lagoon and its upland habitats. Topics include ecology, ornithology, botany, zoology, and entomology. Class participants are asked to volunteer back. Visit for more information.

This summer, we teamed with the A Florida Outdoor Center for five weeks of day camps in nature and provided scholarships to underserved Title 1 students from county schools at our Audubon House using a $5,000 grant from Indian River Community Foundation.

Starting in September through May, funded in part by Impact 100 and West Marine grants, support from the Indian River County School Board, and PIAS member donations, Board Member Bonnie Swanson and others have organized an after-school lagoon science-education program for underserved students from four Title 1 South County Elementary Schools (Citrus, Glendale, Indian River Academy and Vero Beach). We will inspire students to expand their horizons with an innovative, fun, hands-on afterschool outdoor learning program from 3:30 to 5:30 pm that teaches lagoon science and conservation by walking on the land and kayaking in Indian River Lagoon. Students also will learn to draw and write about their experiences. Please consider volunteering us to assist with the life-changing program.

We are excited about these field trips, classes and our after-school course to offer truly community-changing experiences that will transform our children, our community, and our environment that sustains us all. These outdoor experiences on the water and land will inspire the youngsters to become the explorers, scientists, future educators and conservationists for our entire community. Let’s all work to protect our unique Florida habitats and wildlife and make our community more walkable and bike friendly.

To participate in the courses, please call the PIAS office 772-567-3520 to reserve your spot! If you would like to improve your health and well-being, take a hike, volunteer, and/or take a class.

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