EPA Workplan: Demonstration Project on Hydrilla and Hygrophila in the Upper Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Element 4: Demonstration and Outreach

Objectives Addressed by Element 4

1) To demonstrate the work in alternative technologies to manage hydrilla and hygrophila and disseminate to the public the results of this project.

Introduction

Local stakeholders, including boaters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts and key community leaders are concerned about the impacts of hydrilla and hygrophila on lakes. The demonstration and outreach portion of this project features a variety of methods to demonstrate progress on the project and implementation of new alternative management strategies. It also presents an excellent opportunity to bring Floridians “up to speed” with the problems our state is facing regarding invasive and aquatic plant management, of which hydrilla and hygrophila are prime examples in aquatic habitats. Although we have been struggling with invasive plant problems for more than a century in this state, most people are unaware of the severity of the situation.

While the use of herbicides continues to play an extremely important role in the battle against invasive plant species, an informed citizenry is perhaps our best long-term defense in protecting the diversity of our native flora and fauna and the habitats they require.

A concerted public information campaign in Osceola County will go a long way in getting the word out to lake residents and other user groups who can help us stem the flow of invasive species by being aware of the problem and on the lookout for existing infestations or potential ones. This will ultimately benefit all Floridians, whose tax dollars are being spent each year to mitigate the damage being inflicted by a number of highly invasive species. The information developed in this project can then be used as a template for similar public outreach efforts throughout the state.

Plant management agencies also will benefit from making herbicide information more readily available to the public – thereby easing a general “suspicion” of herbicides among some lake-user groups and lakefront homeowners. Even when plant growth is “out of control” in a water body, many people are reluctant to resort to chemicals for fear of adversely affecting fish and other wildlife. Much of this distrust is the result of historical problems associated with the use of specific chemicals (which are no longer used) and also from citizens not having enough information about today’s herbicide application practices.

It has been shown however, that once residents are made aware of the ecological and economic impacts of invasive plants in their community, along with the care being taken to research and license the various herbicide products, they are usually quite willing to “allow” researchers and field technicians to go on about their work. In fact, many of them are eager to offer assistance.

Lastly, while the project focuses on management of hydrilla and hygrophila, this project will enhance our ability to educate both Osceola County residents and visitors about the unique ecology of one of Florida’s most vital freshwater systems (i.e., the headwaters of the Kissimmee River Basin), further nurturing a strong sense of ownership and stewardship and long-term environmental protection.

 

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Project Objectives

Our main goal is to demonstrate the results of this project to the local applicators, non-scientific public, as well as to federal, state and local government partners. To accomplish this, Osceola County’s local Extension Office will be hiring a faculty member to develop a series of demonstration and outreach strategies in cooperation with the UF Center for Invasive and Aquatic Plants (CAIP) Information Office. The Extension faculty member will also be responsible for the coordination of meetings and facilitate communication between research personnel, CAIP staff, and other County staff.

Task 1 Demonstration field days and media events to keep stakeholders informed on the progress of hydrilla and hygrophila management work and to show new techniques and management plans.

Task 2 An interactive website will keep citizens/agencies informed of the various stages of research in a timely manner and also allow citizens to communicate directly with researchers and county officials with any questions and/or concerns.

Task 3 A searchable on-line database, available 24 hours/seven days a week, will hold citations of all Osceola County plant management and work related to the hydrilla and hygrophila control. Complete manuscripts (hard copies) of the project works will be available from the CAIP Information office or as downloadable PDF files. At least two electronic publications will be specifically developed for the non-scientific public.

Task 4 Portable Aquatic Plant Management Displays / Kiosks that can be used for local events such as the County Fair, Earth Day, Great Outdoor Days Fest, Scientific Conferences and at various public areas such as boat ramps, parks, libraries and county offices.

Task 5 Development of interactive science curricula for teachers in Osceola County; the curricula will allow students to be involved in the project via customized laboratory lessons/activities made available on the website, in the classroom and in the field. Training for teachers and lab kits will also be included in this task.

Task 6 Development of demonstration and outreach strategies to help stakeholders understand and minimize the spread of hydrilla and hygrophila. This would include printing of educational materials and items to be distributed at meetings and Field Day demonstrations. This could include quick tips and fact sheets on hydrilla and hygrophila that direct clients and applicators to the website for additional information. Examples could include laminated boater/angler quick ID cards, key chain floats, boat trailer stickers to remind boaters to clean trailers of plant debris, etc.

Task 7 Participation in scientific meetings to share research relating to hydrilla and hygrophila management. Posters and research papers will be presented.

 

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Element 4, Task 1

Justification/Approach

Demonstration field days and symposia are ideal for showcasing work progress and findings to stakeholders including elected officials, applicators, key community leaders, media, travel writers, fishing guides, agency personnel and the public. On the water and seminar presentations allow interaction with scientists and help relay facts as they are being discovered. Field Days/Lake Days will need to be conducted at stages throughout the project including a Kickoff event and project updates.

Element 4, Task 1 Milestones and Measures of Success

Year 1: Kick Off Event – introduce the public and local government officials to the goals of the project.

Year 2 & 3: Hold one field demonstration day in years 2 & 3 for general project information and education. Goal: a minimum of 30 people in attendance and press coverage.

Year 4: Hold the final field demonstration day. Goal: a minimum of 50 people in attendance and press coverage.

 

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Element 4, Task 2: Interactive Website Development and Maintenance

Objective

The goal of this task is four-fold:

  • It will provide a visual means of demonstrating newly emerging hydrilla and hygrophila management strategies and communicating with Osceola County residents and other stakeholder groups about the aquatic plant management activities taking place in their own backyard and why it is so important to their local economy and ecology.

 

  • It will provide a way for the public to interactively query workers, graduate students, and researchers as to the status of the plant management project during the four-year time frame. Project managers will benefit because it will provide a highly efficient and cost-effective means to gather questions, concerns, and comments from the public and/or fellow workers and respond in a timely manner, minimizing communication problems.
  • Because information will be made available in “real time,” it will provide project workers a way to easily track progress of the project, no matter where they are located, and also allow for enhanced communication between workers and/or the public.
  • It will provide a framework / organizational tool for developing material that will be used in the creation and publication of informational booklets for the general public (i.e., to be printed later in the project).

Justification

This web site presents a unique opportunity to include citizens “in the loop” by providing detailed information about the work being done, while it is being done. Educational ‘lessons’ written for a non-scientific audience, and photo documentation will be used to describe the steps being taken to have the least impact on non-targeted species (native species) while still accomplishing the goal of managing invasive aquatic plants.

Basic lessons about aquatic plants and the role they play within freshwater systems also will be featured on the web site along with information about native, non-native and invasive plants found in the lakes, ponds and waterways of Osceola County. Supplemental materials such as maps of the various lakes involved in the project will be provided along with other pertinent information (e.g., surface area acreage, rainfall, historical plant data, water chemistry, etc.).

All of this will be presented within a historical context that includes the geology and hydrology of the area and human-induced changes made over the years. Additional plant management information will be made available by providing links to the rather extensive CAIP main website, when appropriate: http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu

As mentioned earlier, the website will provide a framework for gathering material that will ultimately be available in printer friendly files that can be used for printed publications. Topics will include:

  • A discussion of how much vegetation is “acceptable” or needed in a water body and how hydrilla and hygrophila fit in the overall picture;
  • Growth rates for hydrilla and hygrophila as well as other invasive plants, and a discussion of how they compare to native plants;
  • Methods used to control hydrilla, hygrophila, and other invasive plant species including biological, mechanical and chemical control (i.e., herbicides) along with discussion of maintenance control;
  • Effects of the various control methods on birds, fish and other animals in the system;
  • Herbicide safety and the historical research behind it.

Additionally, the website will provide a visual celebration of the flora and fauna found in the Kissimmee River Basin.

Approach

  • This site will be served and accessed through the main web site of the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic & Invasive Plants (http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu);
  • Project Coordinators will provide local content for the web site;
  • Project workers will provide information, photos and other products for inclusion on the site, along with CAIP staff;
  • Updates will be made to the site at a minimum rate of once a week so that both the public and project workers can track the progress and use the site as an interactive time-line;
  • Editorial support and compliance to Section 508 of the American’s with Disabilities Act for the web site content will be provided by CAIP faculty and staff;
  • The web site will begin “construction” during FY07.
  • Two informal in house usability studies shall be performed with input from website’s targeted audience. One shall be performed at the initiation of the site and the other a year after initiation.

Element 4, Task 2 Milestone

A draft outline, flowchart, and master style sheets for the website will be complete by the end of December 2006. The website itself will be launched before the end of March 2007. The site will be maintained throughout the entire project. Complete informal, in house usability studies by June 2006 and June 2007.

 

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Element 4,Task 3: Database Development

Objective/Justification

A searchable online database, available 24 hours/7 days a week, will hold annotated citations of all Osceola County invasive plant management and research reports. Complete reports will be available from the CAIP Information Office, as well as in downloadable PDF files.

The objective of this task is to provide a central repository for all reports and other published materials resulting from the overall Osceola project. Materials will be cataloged with keywords to enable both project workers and the general public to locate items of specific interest (e.g., users will be able to search for information on a particular plant, herbicide, and/or control method, etc.). The cataloged information will be provided in a database accessible via the main CAIP web site (http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu) with a link from the Osceola web site. Both hard copies and PDF files of reports will be maintained and copies provided upon request. Published materials can include published scientific articles and reports, internal agency reports, abstracts of presentations from conferences, newspaper articles, etc.

With a central repository of all published and peripheral materials on the Osceola project, any interested person can have access to scientifically accurate information. Readily accessible scientific information can promote a sense of openness and inclusion with the public. It not only will invite the public to participate as much or as little as they like, but could prevent misinformation being presented as fact to citizens, journalists, conservation groups, etc. The fact that reports and other publications are not addressed to the public, but to other researchers and to granting agencies promotes a scientific truth to the information in addition to the materials that are being prepared for the public.

A central repository of all published material also will enable project workers and others to have complete access to work being completed and reported by others, and easy access to these materials on a 24/7 basis. Materials will be permanently archived and housed at the CAIP website and research center for historical purposes, as well.

Both the citizens of Osceola County and all persons performing work associated with this project will benefit from this task as described above.

Approach

The database will be served within the existing Aquatic Plant Information Retrieval System (APIRS) database house on the UF/IFAS/CAIP main web site. A link will be provided from theOsceola Project web site described in Task 2.

Project researchers, graduate students, state contractors or other district agency personnel performing work and providing reports will contribute copies of all materials to the CAIP team for inclusion into the database. New materials will be added to the database within three weeks of their receipt.

Element 4, Task 3 Milestone

A search of the current APIRS database will be done for any materials that would be pertinent to this project and tagged for easy location by researchers and the general public; to be accomplished by the end of December 2006. An assessment of these materials will be completed and a literature review will be compiled and made available on-line (via the website); to be completed by the end of March 2007.

Materials provided by project researchers will be added to the database within three weeks of receipt.

 

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Element 4,Task 4: Visual Displays

Objective/Justification

The goal here is to create large eye-catching visual displays that can be used to inform people about the project and inspire them to seek more information via website or print material.

Approach

These displays will be in the form of large retractable banner stands or “flags” that can be displayed in indoor/outdoor venues or events whether it be at Great Outdoor Days Fest or at municipal buildings such as the courthouse, libraries or schools. Educational kiosks at public parks and boat ramps will also provide long-term education. They will need to be durable enough so they can withstand multiple uses (and users).

This would make a nice traveling display for schools in Osceola county and be used at scientific conferences. Exhibits can also be placed in pdf files on the web.

Element 4, Task 4 Milestone

Three introductory displays will begin at beginning of October 2006 and completed by the end of that same quarter (December 2006). Another set of displays can be produced by the end of December 2007, for use in various spring and garden festivals in early 2008 and a 3rd group as the project closes, providing pictorial illustrations of accomplishments, etc.; to be produced by the end of September 2010.

 

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Element 4, Task 5: Science Curricula for Teachers

Objective/Justification

Development of interactive science curricula for teachers in Osceola County provides additional opportunities for educational and outreach. Curricula will allow students to be involved in the project via customized laboratory lessons/activities made available on the website, in the classroom and possibly allowing for activities in the field. Using the website, students can also track progress in the project and contribute, when applicable.

Based on recent feedback from science teachers (via surveys and workshops), it has come to our attention that educators are very much in need of real-life science projects that can be used to help students learn basic science/research concepts. This project provides an excellent resource for developing a variety of laboratory and field activities, which integrate math, science and language skills. Sample activities include identification of hydrilla and hygrophila; vegetation mapping; herbicide applications based on volume of water; calculation of surface area, equipment calibration, water volume, dilution, etc.

Approach

With the help of a teacher(s) during summer months, curricula will be developed and made available in a variety of formats (PowerPoint ™ lessons, web-based activities, teaching laboratory modules, etc.) and hands-on assistance in the field (e.g., students could assist in the release of insects being used for biological control experiments). A summer lab will be developed for the teachers to learn how to use the new curricula and lab kits will be given to those that attend.

Element 4, Task 5 Milestones

At least 4 PowerPoint ™ lessons, 2 web-based activities and accompanying hands-on laboratory/field activities and modules will be tailored for Osceola County for upper elementary, middle and high school students. Materials will be developed, field tested, and made available by the end of June 2008 and presented to school teachers for use in the fall 2008.

 

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Element 4,Task 6: Develop Additional Demonstration and Outreach Strategies Relative to Hydrilla and Hygrophila Management

Objective/Justification

While some strategies have been identified, as the project advances, additional demonstration activities will likely need to be developed. Print publications are a traditional Extension educational tool, however, other more interactive strategies are needed to engage stakeholders in the information exchange process.

Approach

A stakeholder advisory committee will be developed to assist the Extension faculty member in identifying additional methods to reach a diverse audience and stakeholder groups. This can include development of specialized quick tips and fact sheets on hydrilla and hygrophila that direct readers to the website for more information. The focus of these strategies could include aquarium stores and hobbyists, as well as visitors from other countries, since there is so much tourism on our local lakes. Availability of fact sheets on the EDIS system will provide a broad audience base for information relative to aquatic plant management in Osceola County. All documents, including fact sheets, will also be available by web access in printer friendly format.

Element 4, Task 6 Milestone

Develop and implement at least 2 additional strategies to help demonstrate and educate stakeholders regarding hydrilla and hygrophila management strategies.

 

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Element 4,Task 7: Participation in Scientific Meetings to Share Research Relating to Hydrilla and Hygrophila Management.

Objectiv/Justification

Graduate students and researchers participate in scientific meetings to share research findings and collaborate on related projects. This offers additional outreach opportunities and will involve presenting scientific posters and papers. It is important for scientists to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals and through the University publication process so that others can build on their work. Having the publications available on the UF/IFAS EDIS system will assure scientific integrity of the information and make the information available to a broad audience.

General types of meetings with the potential to disseminate information derived from this project include:

  • Florida Lakes Management Society Conference;
  • National Lakes Management Society Conference;
  • Florida Aquatic Plant Management Society Conference; and
  • Florida Exotic Pest Plan Council Events

Approach

Literature searches and personal interviews with scientists in the discipline of aquatic plant management and ecology will be conducted to ensure current information is used for writing fact sheets. Publications will be peer reviewed within and outside of IFAS before publication on EDIS. EDIS publications are reviewed at least every three years to ensure information is current.

Element 4, Task 7 Milestones and Measures of Success

Year 1, 2, 3 and 4: Prepare at least one poster and one research paper each year, sharing research progress and promising new hydrilla and hygrophila management technology.

Year 4: Prepare at least one poster and one research paper summarizing the entire research and demonstration project supported by EPA funding.

 

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