Celebrating Our Spectacular Local Eco-Systems
Posted December 11, 2019
Northwest Florida’s most valuable asset is without question its natural environment with breathtaking beaches, hundreds of miles of protected forests and intricate waterways attracting visitors from near and far. With a goal of promoting preservation and conservation, two outstanding research centers offer interactive, hands on experiences that offer insight into the delicate and unique eco-systems found along the coast.
In Franklin County, the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve includes the Reserve Nature Center with opportunities to learn about stewardship of the Apalachicola River and Bay. Walton County’s E.O Wilson Biophilia Center on the Nokuse Plantation in Freeport educates with interpretive exhibits as well as an extensive trail system. Each center provides public and school-based education programs with similar missions of promoting preservation of Florida’s natural resources.
Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center
Open since 2011, The Reserve Nature Center features a variety of educational, interactive and live exhibits. Multiple aquariums display local fauna from the river, estuary, bay, and Gulf. A theater room features showings of a short documentary highlighting the Apalachicola River and Bay eco-system while boardwalks that surround the system showcase marsh and flat wood habitats and end with a platform overlooking St. George Sound. Adjacent Millender Park proves public access to picnic pavilions and a bayshore beach.
Educational programs focus on K-12 students and teacher in Franklin County and are designed to support the long tradition of the community’s stewardship of Apalachicola Bay. Each year, Franklin County students participate in hands-on ecology programs that are aligned with specific grade standards. A variety of workshops that are open to the public include Bay-Friendly Landscaping, Seagrass Snorkel Class, Oysters 101, a weekly Sea Turtle Talk during sea turtle nesting season and a monthly ‘Reserve Wednesday’ talk with topics relating to the area’s interconnected coastal communities.
Each fall, the center hosts National Estuaries Day where attendees are invited to tour the Nature Center, interact with ANERR staff and volunteers and play educational games while learning about estuarine ecology. Additional annual events include Archaeology Day in spring, and a Birding the Bay celebration in April with guided birding tours in the coastal and upland habitats of the reserve.
For more information, visit www.ApalachicolaReserve.com