Gumbo Limbo Nature Center: Closed But Still Caring
Don’t miss our themed weekly educational activities for kids! From Pre-K story time to activities for older kids, families can enjoy learning together at home and in their own backyards. Topics include lizards, insects, gopher tortoises, life cycles, and more! Visit At Home with Gumbo Limbo to check out these lessons!
Last month we launched our first virtual Little Wonders (ages 3-4) and Nature Detectives (ages 5-6) programs. The programs include a short exploration session about the topic, a story-time video for each age-group, and a craft demonstration. Free craft kits are available for pick-up (at pre-determined times) to participants who reserve them in advance (while supplies last).
July’s theme was Rooting for Plants! Missed it? Don’t worry, we are keeping our previous programs posted! Visit our Virtual Programs page to check it out! You can also learn more about our August’s topic, and how to reserve your craft kit!
We also released Beachcombing Gumbo Limbo Style, a self-guided version of our popular beachcombing program, Beach Treasures. This self-guided program provides the knowledge and incentive to get out, enjoy the beach, find cool natural treasures, and help wildlife all at the same time. Join Gumbo Limbo beachcombing experts as we reveal some of our secrets and fun facts about Florida beach treasures. Download our handy Beach ID Guide and watch the program by visiting Virtual Programs.
By Kristin Child, Environmental Program Coordinator
Manager’ s Corner
As I write this note to you, I realize that Gumbo Limbo has been closed to the public for over four months! Our mission, “To inspire stewardship of coastal and marine ecosystems,” guides everything we do and is the inspiration behind our programs, our events, and even our exhibits. To not have you all here to visit and get inspired in person has been a bit challenging. As you read the articles inside, you’ll see how our team has risen to that challenge, and with that, has made some truly remarkable additions to our offerings.
We are always on the lookout for ways to connect with you, our members, visitors, and residents. In addition to our Environmental Camp, we have created virtual versions of several of our programs with more in the works. As
we add them, they will be listed on the Virtual Programs wepage . Our popular field trip programs for local schools and homeschools are being completely re-imagined for a virtual platform. We have been offering science-focused field trips for local students for nearly 40 years and just because school looks a little different, we have no plans to stop! We hope to begin offering our virtual field trips in the Fall. Our team is also available for virtual outreach opportunities right now. If you are looking for an opportunity to inspire your group, class, or club to stay focused on the task at hand, protecting wildlife and conserving natural resources in our coastal and marine ecosystems, you can request a lesson, lecture, or virtual tour from one of Gumbo Limbo’s knowledgeable staff members by submitting a digital request form, found on the Outreach page on our website.
Take a relaxing half mile walk through the Coastal Hammock Forest. The Boardwalk is open 7:30 am – sunset and is accessible from the Red Reef West parking lot only (parking fees apply).
While we remain #Closedbutstillcaring, please make sure to stay connected with us on whatever platform works best for you. Whether you prefer our website, one of our many social media channels, including our YouTube channel, we always have something enjoyable for you to learn, watch, or participate in. I also encourage you to become a member of Friends of Gumbo Limbo. Friends provides Gumbo Limbo Nature Center with vital advocacy, resources, and financial support for our sea turtle rehabilitation facility, exhibits, and other programs. We couldn’t do much of what we do without their (and your) support!
Until next time, Leanne Welch, Manager
Get Social With Us!
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Inc
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
Boca Raton Recreation
City of Boca Raton Government
Volunteer of the Month – February 2020
Unfortunately, since Gumbo Limbo has been closed due to the pandemic, our wonderful volunteers have not been coming in and they have all been greatly missed. Gumbo Limbo is not the same without their smiling faces, and we can’t wait to reopen and have everyone back together again. In the meantime, we are happy to announce our February Volunteer of the Month!
The volunteer of the month for February is Zoe Lefkowitz. Zoe started volunteering in October 2019 and has been consistent, reliable, and extremely helpful. She has helped with field trips, programs, and as an aquarium guide. She is always friendly and fantastic at teaching our guests and students who come to Gumbo Limbo.
What is your favorite part of volunteering at Gumbo Limbo? “My favorite part of volunteering at Gumbo Limbo is getting to share what I learn about native marine life with our guests and watching them engage with our fish and sea turtles. I also love to see Mortimer (our 6.5 ft Green Moray Eel) every day I’m at the tanks!”
What is the most interesting thing that you’ve learned since starting at Gumbo Limbo?
“While I was born and raised in the area and grew up visiting Gumbo Limbo, I am continuously learning new things about our environment, precious wildlife, and our relationship with them.
Since becoming a volunteer, I am more conscious of ecology
and sustainable living efforts including: The Plastic Bank, The Resin Identification Code used to indicate ease of recyclability, and various policies/laws addressing our negative impact on our environment. For example, did you know in 2018 Hawaii became the first U.S. State to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and/or octinoxate which studies have shown damage coral DNA and kill coral larvae?”
What is one example of something you do/ someone can do to conserve the environment?
“Personally, I make a habit of always carrying a garbage bag with me to collect trash when I visit the beach – and anyone can also do this when they visit a park, sports field, or any outdoors area! Recently, scientists from New Castle University discovered a previously undocumented species of amphipod (a type of crustacean) found in the Mariana Trench (the deepest ocean trench in the world.) They named it Eurythenes plasticus due to the plastic it had already consumed. I would like to invite everyone to review their most commonly used single-use plastic products (like soap bottles, shopping bags, and plastic ware, etc.) and consider switching to versions which use biodegradable ingredients and packaging instead.”
Zoe has recently been accepted to a sociology PhD program and will be moving to Colorado soon to pursue her studies. We are so proud of her and excited for her future. While we are very sad to see her leave our volunteer team, we know Zoe will do fantastic things and succeed in her endeavors. We wish Zoe the best of luck and hope she will come back and visit soon!
By Rebecca Mannen, Volunteer Coordinator
In our new normal of closed doors and quiet hallways, many of the team here at Gumbo Limbo continue to work on our everyday tasks. Fish need to be fed, grass needs to be mown, plants need to be replaced (because the zebra longwing caterpillars have eaten through all our passion vine, again); the daily tasks continue uninterrupted. Though not as forward- facing as some of our other departments, the exhibits team has continued to push forward on long-standing projects,
as we also look to develop new content for our increasingly virtual audience.
That said, it almost feels tongue in cheek, but we are excited to unveil our newest exhibit! The exhibit has been under production for a few years now, so its arrival at this time is simultaneously fortuitous (we had plenty of time and space to install), but also a bit sad. There is a lot of buildup in the final stages of delivery, installation, and preparation to unveil a new exhibit… and now we have no idea when that unveiling will occur. That is the way with these things – we plan, coordinate, and strategize, yet there is still an unforeseen obstacle.
Our new exhibit, Fish Bites: Stories of Snacks and Survival, was conceived all the way back in 2018. At that time, the Davenport Family Foundation provided a large grant to the
Friends of Gumbo Limbo to help us update our outdoor animal
This mock-up was from our initial planning process. We wanted to incorporate signs that discussed what happens inside the new animal care kitchen. A flat tabletop exhibit was proposed, with plates of common food items for specific species.
food prep station. Some visitors may remember that for a long-time animal food and medicines used to be prepared out in the open, where the public could see (and smell) all the action. Most of that grant went toward creating
an enclosed workspace with industrial refrigerators, freezers, an A/C unit (very exciting), and other equipment. However, a portion of the monies were allocated toward educational displays.
Now that the project has been completed, it is fun to look back and see where we started. The initial exhibit proposal was for a few signs to explain what happens inside the new animal care kitchen, and to explore what we
feed our animals and why. From there, the project almost tripled in size, content, and cost (don’t worry, it was intentional). The final exhibition looks at the dynamics of animal adaptation, the transfer of energy through food webs, and the impact of human activity on wild populations. Further, I am thrilled that we were able to incorporate several interactive and tactile opportunities to the previously underutilized space.
Our final exhibition takes a much wider view, looking at animal adaptations; food webs and food chains; and (around the corner) flipping the script to look at sustainable seafood and how we fit into the environment.
However, the most exciting stage of any new installation is watching visitors walk through and interact with the space. So, we will wait patiently as our newest addition loses its “new exhibit smell,” but awaits discovery in the (hopefully near) future.
By Cory Keester-O’Mills, Exhibits Coordinator
Boba Tea, A Refreshing Summer Treat
Have you ever wondered how our sea turtle patients get their names? The Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility started using themes to help name our sea turtle patients a few years ago. Our staff votes on a theme, and then we name the turtles using that theme from A-Z. Some themes
can be fun or silly, while others can be educational. Our latest theme is drinks! We thought beverages would be a perfect summer theme while we think about cooling off during this Florida heat!
On June 31st, we admitted a sub-adult loggerhead we named Boba Tea. For those of you who are not familiar with this tasty beverage, boba tea or bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink containing tapioca pearls. If you have not tried it, it’s a refreshing summer treat!
Boba Tea arrived with the help of the Boca Raton’s
Loggerhead sea turtle Boba Tea upon arrival.
Ocean Rescue team members in South Beach Park. Boba Tea was spotted by snorkelers and reported to Gumbo Limbo’s Sea Turtle Rescue Hotline for help. Found struggling in the water, entangled in fishing line, it took a team of lifeguards, snorkelers, and Gumbo Limbo’s staff to bring the turtle safely to shore. Watch Boba Tea’s rescue story and follow us on YouTube for more patient updates.
Boba Tea is now recovering. X-rays revealed two internal hooks with monofilament line and fishing gear attached and a severe lung infection. We have been giving her nutrition through IV treatment as well as broad spectrum antibiotics, fluids, and nebulizer treatment for her illness. She is slowly starting to turn the corner and we surgically removed the hook that was lodged in her throat. We added a feeding tube to her neck so that we can get things moving in her intestinal tract in hopes of helping her pass the remaining fishing gear.
Our fingers are crossed that she continues to make improvements towards a full recovery, but she has a long road ahead still. We are so thankful for everyone who made this rescue possible and hope that you all can continue
to follow Boba Tea’s recovery, and learn how you can help support our sea turtle rehabilitation program on our website.
By Whitney Crowder, Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Coordinator
X-rays revealed a fishing hook in Boba Tea’s throat (left), and a hook with monofilament in Boba Tea’s stomach.
The hook from the throat was removed during surgery and is shown on the right.
Friends of Gumbo Limbo News
Lights, Camera, Action!
Since Gumbo Limbo closed in the middle of March, our education staff has been tackling a special challenge. The goal of the education team is educating visitors, families, and children, so we were desperate to find a way to connect and continue our mission of educating about
our marine and coastal communities while staying connected to the visitors who missed visiting Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.
The first program we had to consider was our summer Environmental Camp. There is a lot of planning that goes into our summer camp and it takes many staff and volunteers to help execute the program. However, after several virtual meetings, it was decided that not only did the community need whatever we could offer, but we, the staff, needed it too.
Campers from all age groups were welcome to join us with their parents and/or siblings on Fridays for Family Camp activities.
As the camp director, I started attending every webinar I could find about virtual camps. They were all addressing the same topics and issues, mainly “How do we offer a virtual camp?” No one knew how to do it, if it was plausible, if there was a demand for it, and wondered if anyone would even attend? So, with some guess work, creativity,
and a lot of passion, we started down the path of do-it-yourself lessons in video production and editing, acting, and directing. Channeling our inner Scorsese, we set out to create a virtual environmental camp that was interactive, educational, fun, and got the kids outside. Okay, so how do we do all of that virtually when the staff was used to hands-on and in-person?
After weeks of planning and organizing, the program started coming together. We had a great response, not just from the local community but from across the country! We had kids join us from Washington state, Arizona, and Connecticut. The campers were grouped by their grade level; for example, 1st-2nd graders attended 3-hour sessions every Monday for five weeks. By spreading the sessions over the whole five weeks, campers would have activities to do over the summer instead of just one week. We did many of the traditional things, like play games, sing camp songs, and learn about nature. The only requirement was that the campers have access to a mobile or portable device so they can move around and go outside for an outdoor activity. It was a lot of fun, and I have to say I really enjoyed the five week format because we got to see all the campers the entire summer, which not only kept us busy but happy.
So, it may not have been the ideal situation, but we adapted and made the best of the situation. The campers seemed happy to see us each week and excited for what we had in store for them each day. We received wonderful support from camper’s parents who were grateful that their children could continue learning about nature and have activities planned to get them outside over the course of five weeks.
We’ll be ready when our doors open again someday, and we’ll have many wonderful programs for the public, but until then…Lights, Camera, Action!
By Christie Collins, Science Educator
Unusual Sea Turtle Encounters and Beach Etiquette
This year has been far stranger than any of us would have liked! Our nesting sea turtles have also managed to get themselves in trouble on a couple of occasions. As long as I have been studying sea turtle nesting behavior,
I have noticed that green sea turtles seem to be attracted to structures or furniture on the beach. This view was reinforced when I saw green nests on uninhabited beaches in Costa Rica near rocks, logs, or anything that happened to be washed up the beach. Here in Boca Raton, we often find them nesting under beach accesses (boardwalks), furniture, and lifeguard towers!
On July 17, Marine Turtle Specialists (MTS) Rachel and Carlee found a nesting green sea turtle under a public beach access. After pointing the wayward turtle towards the direction out of the wooden access, the turtle crawled back to the ocean with no problem. As she was crawling to the water, they noticed that she had a tag on her right front flipper and quickly snapped a picture. Some further investigating revealed that this beautiful girl was first tagged by University of Central Florida researchers in Melbourne Beach, Florida back in 1992! That means that she has
been nesting for at least 28 years! Since green sea turtles do not reach maturity until they are 20 or older, this turtle could be over 50 years old. It is truly amazing and humbling to think about the stories this sea turtle could tell us!
Just a few days later, on July 20, MTS Taylor found a loggerhead sea turtle that wandered way into the dune vegetation just south of the Boca Raton Inlet. She had crawled through so much vegetation that she had entangled herself in railroad vines, a plant common in dunes. Taylor gently removed the entangled vines from the turtle’s neck and helped to guide her out of the extensive vegetation. It took quite a bit of time to get her out of the weeds, but Taylor persisted until she was back on the beach. She made it back to the ocean unharmed – Yay! For those of you who worry that sea turtles nesting in the dune predict a bad hurricane year, rest assured that the data for the past 25 years do not support that superstition!
I would like to finish this off with some observations of human behavior on the beach during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are used to people asking questions while we are working on the beach and are very happy to answer them; however, very few people on the beach wear masks. If you see our team on the beach and want to ask us a question, we ask that you please put your mask on and maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet. It is important that we all stay safe and do our best to keep others around us safe.
By Kirt Rusenko, PhD, Marine Conservationist
A green sea turtle stuck under a dune crossover. A loggerhead sea turtle tangled in dune vegetation.
Hours & Information
We remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Boardwalk is open 7:30 am – sunset with access from Red Reef Park West parking lot. Check gumbolimbo.org for updates.
General Information (561) 544-8605 · Volunteer (561) 544-8538
Friends of Gumbo Limbo (561) 544-8608 · Gift Shop (561) 544-8610 1801 North Ocean Boulevard, Boca Raton, Florida 33431 gumbolimbo.org
Suggested donation of $5 per person.
Your donations go to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Inc. to support Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, including, but not limited to, feeding the animals, purchasing supplies and services for the
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Program, and creating exhibits.
City of Boca Raton Recreation Services Staff
Administration & Operations
Recreation Services Director – Michael Kalvort, CPRE Deputy Recreation Services Director – Michelle Zimmer, CPRP
Manager – Leanne Welch Secretary – Darlene Rosa
Volunteer Coordinator – Rebecca Mannen Visitor Hospitality Representative – Debra Wilson Environmental Program Coordinator – Kristin Child
Community Events Assistant – Kayla Caldwell
Senior Aquarist – Keith Herman Aquarist – Bryan Danson
Environmental Program Coordinator – Susan Elliott Science Educators – Christie Collins, Alyssa Saldarriaga Environmental Educator – Frankie Gorora
Environmental Camp Counselors – Cori Scanlon, Kassie Rodriguez
Exhibits Coordinator – Cory Keester-O’Mills Exhibits Assistant – Megan Barry Exhibits Intern – Winston Miller
Maintenance Supervisor III – Reed Benardo Custodian – Kevin Addison
Groundskeeper – Cary Boudreau
Sea Turtle Conservation
Marine Conservationist – Kirt Rusenko, PhD
Sea Turtle Conservation Coordinator – David Anderson Marine Turtle Specialists – Rachel Brown, Ali Courtemanche, Lisa Espositio, Carlee Jackson, Kylea Perrin, Taylor Roe
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Coordinator – Whitney Crowder
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Assistants – Caitlin Bovery, Emily Mirowski
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Inc.
Executive Director – John Holloway Administrative Assistant – Andrea Atkins Business Manager – Pam Mulcahy
Gift Shop Sales Associates – Brittnie Funez, Amy Sarnow
Board of Trustees
President – Jim Miller
Vice President – Manjunath Pendakur Secretary -Susan Walker Treasurer – Sheila Reinken
Board Members – Connie Chiara, Robyn Morigerato, Keith Rizzardi, Darlene Ward