What’s the Buzz?

Apiphobia – the fear of bees.  Most of us were taught at a young age to be weary of anything that stings, bees being the main culprit.  From electric swatters to expert exterminators, we spend countless dollars trying to eradicate the very insects that need our protection.

            Bees are one example of a group known as pollinators – individuals who move pollen between flowers and instigate seed fertilization and reproduction.  Scientifically speaking, these individuals work as vectors to move pollen from male anthers to female stigma, which in turn fertilizes female gametes and allows reproduction to occur.  Simply put, pollinators allow flowers to come in contact with each other and make more seeds.  In Alabama, many of these pollinators include bees, wasps, hummingbirds, butterflies, ants, and bats – many are stigmatized as being dangerous and deadly.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) with bee

While the bee is the pollinator, the plant is the pollinizer and is the source of pollination for the bee. Many plants that require pollination include native beauties like purple coneflower (right) and Rudbeckia (below).  These plants rely on pollination to grow, mature, and reproduce.  In return, pollinators receive nectar and other pollen rewards from plants.  Nectar offers necessary carbohydrates and pollen has proteins, fats, and vitamins.  This mutualistic relationship works to keep each party alive and build families and generations. 

Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-Eyed Susan)

Plants need pollinators and vice versa, but why do we care – why do we need pollinators?  Firstly, pollinators not only fertilize pretty flowers.  They also pollinate over half of our crops.  Okra, potatoes, and onions are a few examples of the countless food items that need pollinators to produce yield.  Pollinators also direct biodiversity.  Areas that are abundant with pollinators will have more flowers, fruits, and more plant species overall.  Rich biodiversity not only indicates a healthy ecosystem but also provides food and habitat for more species.  Plants also lower levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, a conversation for another time.  More plants mean more animals, more clean air, more food, and more natural beauty. 

The takeaway?  We need pollinators and they need us.  Due to deforestation, urbanization, and erosion, pollinators are losing vital habitat and foraging space.  They are running out of places to live and feed.  Chemical pesticides also endanger pollinators, which in turn damages the many plants that rely on pollination.  Although there are large scale solutions like ending deforestation and reversing climate change, there is also a simple at home solution – plant a pollinator garden.  By planting certain flowering species, you can easily attract pollinators and supply the nutrients necessary for their survival.  Not sure where to begin with your pollinator garden?  Follow this list to get started.

  • Feed pollinators all year – Make sure to plant species that will flower at different times of the year.
  • Make it attractive – You want a home that looks loved and clean and so do your pollinators.
  • Have plant diversity – Pollinators all favor different foods, so make sure to plant a variety of food options.
  • Provide the necessities – Just like us, pollinators need shelter and water, so adding some spaces of shade and hydration will attract even more pollinators.
Liatris (Blazing Star)

Brianne Kendall

I am a junior at Birmingham-Southern College from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  I am studying Urban Environmental Science, with a double minor in math and religion, in the hopes of becoming the next Dian Fossey.  When I am not studying, you will either find me in the theatre department or the great outdoors.

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Let’s Talk Trash

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is a natural wonder… but one thing that is not natural—or wonderful—is trash. And it’s becoming a regular sight among our banks, in and out of the water.

What is Littering?

The formal definition of littering is the illegal disposal of waste materials in public or private spaces. Litter is trash that has been thrown away and left to be picked up by others. Littering is a form of pollution and can have substantial negative consequences for the natural environment. It can result in the contamination of land, waterways, groundwater, and other shared natural resources.

 Littering is illegal in every state, including Alabama. Here in Alabama, anyone who is found knowingly depositing litter on any property or water without permission to do so is breaking the law and will face a minimum of $250 fine for first offense, and a $500 fine for each offense afterwards.

Why shouldn’t you do it?

Think your trash doesn’t harm anyone? Think again.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve is home to more than just the beautiful falls. The preserve is home to seven protected species including three endangered species of fish: The Rush Darter, the Watercress Darter, and the Vermilion Darter. In addition to being endangered, the Vermilion Darter is also endemic to Turkey Creek, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. Turkey Creek is also home to a threatened species of flower, the Eared Coneflower, a critically endangered species of bat: Grey Bat, and an endangered species of turtle: The Flattened Musk Turtle. Turkey Creek may be your favorite place to swim, but to the wildlife and plants here, it’s home! Trash can contaminate water and land and kill or injury wildlife and plants.

Like to swim in clean water?

In addition to the wonderful biodiversity here, our water is clean and clear and safe to swim in because it is naturally sourced from groundwater. Litter can contaminate groundwater, decreasing the water quality of your favorite swimming hole.

What you can do to help:

  1. Just throw it away: Don’t throw trash on the ground or in the water! Ever! Toss it in your nearest trash can or hold on to it until you can find one.
  2. Clean it up: See trash? Pick it up! You wouldn’t leave trash lying around in your yard or swimming pool at home, would you?
  3. Be a Steward of the Land: Treat the preserve the way you would your own land. As visitors, we all have a responsibility to respect the preserve and leave it as clean or cleaner than we found it.

Abbi Hallman

I am a 21 year old college student from Jasper, Alabama. Currently, I am a senior studying Urban Environmental Studies and psychology at Birmingham-Southern College. After college, I plan on attending law school and becoming an environmental attorney.

 

 

Sources Consulted:

Bullard, E. 2019. Littering. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

TCNP Management. 2013. “Conservation.” Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

Alabama Forever Wild. 2018. “Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.” Alabama Forever Wild.

JeffCO H20:Waste Not

food-waste-thanksgiving When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably imagine a huge, delicious meal enjoyed with friends and family.  Many holidays and celebrations seem to revolve around food.  After all, food is one of the basic necessities for human life.  But in spite of its importance to our very survival, Americans throw away about 133 BILLION pounds of food – worth $162 billion – each year.  For the average American family, that adds up to discarding about 20 pounds of food per person per month, which means we also are throwing away about $2,200 per household each year.  Whether you overbought at the grocery store, food wasn’t properly stored, or you have some picky eaters, unwanted food usually winds up in the trash where it is transported to a landfill.  Food waste is the largest component of landfills, which in turn are the largest generators of methane, a greenhouse gas. food_scraps_pile On top of that, the land, water, energy, and other requirements of growing and transporting food to the consumer where about 1/3 of it winds up in the trash is a huge waste of resources.  These steps involved in getting food to your table, which include fertilizer and pesticide use, irrigation, emissions from vehicles, and power generation, can degrade water quality.  So what can be done to reduce the amount of food we throw away and the natural resources we waste or harm by doing so?  A good starting point is to plan what food you want to serve for the week, buy only what you know that you will use, and properly store the food until it is consumed.  Search for recipes that can incorporate often wasted items such as slightly wilted vegetables (try adding to soup) or overripe fruit (whip up a smoothie) to make meals your family will enjoy while using up all the food you purchased.  When serving a meal, only put what you know will be eaten on the plate.  You can always come back for seconds!  Carefully and properly store leftovers.  For food which has no further use (some fruit and vegetable cores and peels, coffee grounds, egg shells), starting a compost pile which will yield a rich organic soil amendment for your garden is a great option.  Wasting good, edible food is especially disturbing since 1 in 6 Americans live in households where access to food is not always secure.  Some places of worship, food banks and shelters can accept unopened, unexpired food – ALWAYS check with the agency first before you drop off any food.food_waste

 

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

TCNP Currents: Summer 2016 Legacy Environmental Intern Emma Gladstone

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2016 Legacy Summer Intern, Emma Gladstone

My name is Emma Gladstone and I am from Mary Esther, Florida. I am attending Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) and had the incredible opportunity to intern at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. I grew up in a neighborhood that was five minutes from the beach and just a short walk from acres upon acres of longleaf pine forests. I grew up with a love and appreciation for nature. This passion for the environment is what led me to become an Urban Environmental Studies major at BSC. Through this major and school, I have been able to experience some of the most incredible places in Alabama. However, the place that stands out the most is Turkey Creek. The crystal clear, blue tinted, spring fed creek is breath taking. Along with the amazing rock faces and hiking trails that show the gorgeous trees and flowers of Alabama. This preserve is home to 7 endangered/threatened species. One of which is the Vermilion Darter. This vibrant, small fish is only found at Turkey Creek and nowhere else in the world. The rich history of this piece of land is full of evidence of Native Americans, first settlers here in Pinson, and the prison that led Turkey Creek to become a preserve just 7 years ago.

In my few times I visited Turkey Creek, I never learned as much as I did with interning in June and July. I have learned about all of the effort it takes to keep such a magnificent place safe and clean for people to continue to enjoy it. The hard work that is required for a non-profit is mind boggling, but incredibly rewarding. The passion the people who are involved with Turkey Creek is such an inspiration to me. To work hard for little pay, just to make a gorgeous place thrive into something better. I learned that a lot of people do not appreciate the preserve as much as others. I saw that there will be people to try and take advantage of this place in the wrong way, but those people stand short in comparison to the ones who love this place and help build it up.

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Emma teaching students this summer about TCNP biodiversity

In my experience I learned that environmental education is incredibly important and that kids do want to learn! I absolutely loved helping with the environmental programs and teaching the kids about why it’s important to help the nature that surrounds us. It was such a rewarding feeling to know that I taught a student who will know what a maple tree looks like or know that snakes are not as scary as they think. I enjoyed working with the volunteers; gardening, asking for donations, preparing for big events, cleaning up trash, and so much more. The experience of working with people who shared the same passion as I is something that I will treasure forever. I look forward to the day when I come back and see the bog garden at the front gate and I can say to my friends or family, “I helped create that beautiful bog garden right there. It took a lot of work, I carried almost every single one of those rocks you see, and it was one of the best experiences in my life at the time. I had the opportunity to create something amazing with strangers who simply shared the same passion as I and it turned out incredibly.”

Turkey creek is a place that you will not find anywhere else. The cool, refreshing water on a hot summers day does not compare to a beach. The gorgeous sunflowers and brilliant fish stand out from any others. The natural rock slide at the falls is truly special, with a giant rock to climb and see the wonderful curves of the creek. The trails show off the dense trees that create a beautiful green glow in the summer time. This place will forever have an impact on my life. If you want to experience something unique and special; go out to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. You will not be disappointed.

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Emma assisting Birmingham-Southern Professor, Scot Duncan and his student with stream ecology research in Turkey Creek.

JeffCO H2O: ‘Contain’ Your Enthusiasm

vegetables-red-containersWell, actually enthusiasm is pretty hard to contain when you see how easy it is to start a container garden.  This stormwater friendly option is a good choice for nearly every type of outdoor space, large or small, suburban or urban.  You can use container gardening to make a statement for your entryway, enhance your patio, create a focal point by adding color and drama, or feed your family.  Yep, you read that right.  With just a few containers, you can grow a surprising array and amount of vegetables, from lettuce and tomatoes to carrots and potatoes.  Whether you are a beginner or have always had a green thumb, following a few easy guidelines will help maximize your container gardening success:

1. Decide what you want to grow, and do a little research to determine if the amount of sun your chosen space receives will be right for your ‘crop’ choices.

2. Select the right sized container for your plant choices.  Some plants like squash and vining tomatoes need a deep container because their root zones require as much as 30” of growing medium while others like leaf lettuce and scallions can thrive with just 4”.

3. Use a commercial soilless mix specifically designed for container gardening.  These mixes are lighter in weight, drain better than regular garden soil, and often contain materials that help retain moisture.

4. If the growing medium you have chosen does not contain a fertilizer, add a slow release organic fertilizer according to package directions.

5. Make sure that you keep your container garden well-watered, according to the needs of the plants you are growing.  Some container grown plants can require watering two or three times each week.  There are many websites and publications available to provide you with more information about successful container gardening.  The Alabama Cooperative Extension System publication Container Gardening, available at aces.edu or 879.6964, is a great place to start!

 

What’s Happening?

Brown Bag Lunch & Learn Seminar Series – Birmingham Botanical Gardens – This series of FREE seminars starting in May and running through October offers fresh, practical ideas and techniques for your landscape and garden.  No reservations are required; light refreshments provided.   Visit bbgardens.org or call 414.3950 to learn more.

Do Dah Day – May 14 – Rhodes and Caldwell Parks, Birmingham – Jefferson County Storm Water Management staff will be at this fun, family friendly event again this year promoting the proper disposal of pet waste with the ever popular Wholly Cr@p Dog Doo Game.  Visit dodahday.org for more information.

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Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203
205.325.8741

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Holiday Hours

To help you best plan your visits to TCNP during this season, please be aware that we will be closed to the public on the following dates:

  • Thursday, November 26th, 2015 (Thanksgiving)
  • Thursday, December 24th, 2015 (Christmas Eve)
  • Friday, December 25th, 2015 (Christmas Day)
  • Thursday, December 31st, 2015 (New Year’s Eve)
  • Friday, January 1st, 2016 (New Year’s Day)

We hope everyone has a very happy holiday season!

TCNP Currents: Reflections by Samantha Brasher, Legacy Summer Intern

IMG_1979Legacy Summer Intern Samantha Brasher at Tapawingo Springs

Legacy: Family and the Environment

            The word legacy has multiple, slightly varied definitions in the English language. It is most widely used in reference to money and/or property received after a person’s death. For my purposes, however, I will use Dictionary.com‘s second definition, which is, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.” Note, that with only a slight change in wording, the meaning of legacy expands to include so much more than material things. For me, legacy has everything to do with family and the environment.

There are a few ways I can introduce myself…

  1. My name is Samantha Brasher. I am on track to earn my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Stewardship from the University of Montevallo in the spring of 2016. Upon graduation, I am eager to pursue a career specifically in informal environmental education from a Christian perspective.
  2. I am the Legacy, Partners in Environmental Education, Summer Intern for 2015 at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, AL.
  3. I am O.C. Brasher’s granddaughter.

For many, the latter introduction is perfectly sufficient. Oran Cleveland “O.C.” Brasher, who passed away in August of 2013, was a pillar of the Pinson community in which Turkey Creek is located. He played an instrumental role in the founding and operation of S.T.A.R.T. (Society to Advance the Resources of Turkey Creek), the grassroots organization that is responsible for the creation of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve as we know it today; served as one of the founders of my home Church, Turkey Creek Missionary Baptist Church, and left a legacy of morality, strength and love that can be felt by everyone who knew him. He was so much to so many people, but to me and my two cousins, he was simply “Paw Paw,” and that means more to me than anything else he ever did.

SBrasher1

(Check me out top left!)

            My Paw Paw loved Turkey Creek and he passed that love down to his children and grandchildren. Multiple branches of my family tree lived off of this land and likely rubbed elbows with famous Turkey Creek residents, John and David Hanby and R. Dupont Thompson. Turkey Creek, its history and all of the incredible variety of life contained within its boundaries are apart of my legacy and I feel a deep personal responsibility to care for it. However, my desire to care for Turkey Creek and all of creation is not based solely on my family’s legacy. As a Christian, I believe that God has called all mankind to serve as stewards of creation. The whole earth and everything in it is our legacy from God!

Becoming stewards of God’s creation is the main message of the fun, free new program I will be leading at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve this summer. Valuing God’s Variety: Biodiversity and the Bible– in which students of all ages will discover the value of biodiversity, the incredible variety of life, will only be offered June-July 2015, so if you are reading this post and would like to sign up a group please contact me ASAP at samantha.c.brasher@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you! And thanks so much for hearing a little bit more about me.

SBrasher2Learn more about Legacy’s programs and future internship opportunities at: http://legacyenved.org/

Samantha Brasher

legacy. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved June 15, 2015, from Dictionary.com             website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/legacy