The Institute for Regional Conservation Director Named a National Geographic Explorer
April 4, 2023
DELRAY BEACH, Florida—George Gann, founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) in Delray Beach, Florida, has been designated a National Geographic Explorer and was awarded the inaugural National Geographic Photo Ark Species Impact Initiative grant. This $350,000 grant will be used to fund the ecological restoration of habitat for two federally endangered insects in the Richmond Pine Rocklands of Miami-Dade County, Florida. The focal species, Miami tiger beetle (Cicindelidia floridana) and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly (Strymon acis bartramii), are endemic to the pine rocklands ecosystem of southern Florida. IRC will lead the two-year project in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Coast Guard, Zoo Miami, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and other partners.
“On behalf of our many partners, I am deeply honored that the restoration of pine rocklands has been chosen for the inaugural Species Impact Initiative grant,” Gann said. “The number of rare species in this ecosystem is staggering and the National Geographic Photo Ark will help us communicate that science-based restoration is imperative. For many species we are past the tipping point and must restore to conserve.” Pine rocklands comprise a globally imperiled ecosystem that exists only in southern Florida and parts of the Bahamas. They are home to 11 federally listed animals and 16 federally listed plants, and dozens more state listed and regionally rare species. In urban Miami-Dade County, pine rocklands have all but disappeared outside of Everglades National Park with less than 2% remaining.
The restoration project will be conducted as part of IRC’s Pine Rockland Initiative, which was founded in 2005. This multi-faceted program provides education and outreach, support for private owners of pine rocklands, and implements ecological restoration on more than 200 acres of public conservation lands with funding from and collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands program, and other partners. Restoration activities include invasive species control, hardwood and palm reduction, planting and seeding native species, protecting and recovering rare species, and facilitating the use of prescribed fire as a restoration and management tool. With more than 40-years’ experience in conservation and ecological restoration, Gann also acts as International Policy Lead for the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) and is first author of the 2019 peer-reviewed “International principles and standards for the practice of ecological restoration.” These globally agreed standards will underpin the project. “The SER restoration standards are a tool to help deliver high quality, high impact, inclusive restoration,” said Bethanie Walder, Executive Director of SER, “This incredible award to George Gann from the National Geographic Society and his continued work through the IRC to deliver standards-based ecological restoration will help raise the bar for better restoration outcomes not just in Florida, but across the US and the world.”
The Photo Ark is a multi-year effort that aims to document every species living in the world’s zoos, aquariums, and wildlife sanctuaries – while raising awareness of and seeking solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting wildlife and their habitats. “The Photo Ark gives animals the chance to be seen, and have their stories told while there’s still time to save them and their habitats. The time to act is now,” said Joel Sartore, National Geographic Explorer and founder of the Photo Ark. Although often overlooked, insects like the Miami tiger beetle and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly are critical components of native biodiversity and ecosystems. Sartore’s new book, Photo Ark Insects, highlights the importance of insects and is both a celebration of insects and a call to action to protect these small but mighty creatures.
Ecological Restoration Volunteer Day with Loggerhead Marinelife Center
March 10, 2023
We are excited to share that our Restoring the Gold Coast (RGC) program is expanding into northern Palm Beach County! On Saturday, February 25, we held an ecological restoration volunteer day with Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) staff and volunteers along the beach dunes adjacent to LMC (Juno Dunes Natural Area). We planted over 100 plants including sea-oats (Uniola paniculata), beach morningglory (Ipomoea imperati), inkberry (Scaevola plumieri), sea lavender (Tournefortia gnaphalodes), beach creeper (Ernodea littoralis), and beach ragweed (Ambrosia hispida). Thank you to Neglected Plants, staff and volunteers from LMC, staff from PBC Environmental Resources Management, and staff from PBC Parks and Recreation. Also shout out to Roots n Shoots and Delray Beach Children's Garden for growing and supplying the beach ragweed we used at this planting event! For more photos, click here.
Welcome, Hector Reyes-Gaspar!
March 10, 2023
Hector Reyes-Gaspar joined our growing Ecological Restoration team this month. Before joining IRC he worked as a seasonal wildland firefighter for Everglades National Park. He has a great admiration for the diverse flora and fauna that call South Florida home. Additionally, he has a great interest in water activities and tropical fruit.
Hector is going to be a great addition to our Pine Rockland Initiative Program. Welcome to the team!