Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites
Summer 2010           

Dear Junior Ranger,
Georgia has many unique natural places to explore.  In this issue we visit the barrier islands and estuaries along the Georgia coast and learn about a few of the creatures that live on the beaches and in the marshes there.  
Barrier islands provide valuable wildlife habitat and they are popular vacation places for us. Who doesn't love going to the beach!
Cindy Reittinger
Chief Naturalist, Georgia State Parks
Also in this Issue:
* Cool Critter Contest
* Meet a Turtle Biologist
* Famous Coastal Forts
* Summer Hikes & Happenings
Cool Critter?

Can you identify this cool Georgia plant? 
Surprise! Our cool critter for this issue is not a critter - it's a plant!  Plants are cool too - especially the plant pictured here.  Correctly identify this plant by July 31 and be entered to win a free Park Pass - good for free admission to all Georgia State Parks for a whole year!  Email your answer to the Chief Naturalist.
Meet Georgia's Sea Turtle Biologist

Mark Dodd, a biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, is working with other scientists to study the effect of the Gulf oil spill on sea turtles.  The young green turtle Mark is holding was captured within 10 miles of the oil rig that exploded -  this photo was taken after the oil-covered turtle had been cleaned up. 

Do you think YOU might want to be a biologist when you grow up?  Mark shares his background in this special interview for Junior Rangers.

What inspired you to become a biologist?
I grew up in family that was outdoor oriented so I spent alot of time outside.  I'm glad it worked out for me to become a biologist because I never honestly considered becoming anything else!  My first job out of college was working with sea turtles, alligators and shorebirds on the coast.  I enjoyed it so much I never left. 

What are your job responsibilities?
I coordinate the GA DNR sea turtle conservation and management program which includes four major projects:  1. protect sea turtle nests - we monitor barrier island beaches daily for nesting activity.
2. monitor beaches for stranded sea turtles on the beach - this is the primary indicator of threats to turtles in the marine environment.  3. conduct research to determine if our management efforts for population recovery are working.  4.  Educate people about sea turtles - education is a critical component of any conservation program.
I work with many other people and agencies to help conserve sea turtles.

What do you like most about your job?
I really like research because it is fun to learn new things that nobody knew before.  There is still alot that we don't know about sea turtles.  I actually enjoy doing animal autopsies because it helps us learn more about the behavior and natural history of sea turtles.

What advice would you give a Junior Ranger who may be interested in becoming a biologist when they grow up?
You have to do well in school but, the main thing is to get outside.  You will be amazed at what you can find there - even in your own backyard.  Turn off the TV, animal programs are no substitute for the real thing!

What did you study in college that helped you become a biologist?  I studied biology and the scientific method of course.  Other courses that you may not think are related are important too - math for instance is used to study animal populations and writing is important too.
Right Whale Gives Birth to Calf

In late March scientists had the rare opportunity to witness and photograph a right whale giving birth off the Florida coast.  Right Whales have their calves in early spring off the coast of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.  Soon after, they migrate north to New England and Canada.  The Right Whale is Georgia's state marine mammal.
Geocachers Adventure

All over Georgia kids and their families are exploring Georgia's State Parks using a GPS unit to find hidden "caches".  It's the perfect game for families who enjoy hiking and technology.  Take the Geocachers Challenge and you can do it too!
Learn More
Visit your local library and check out these titles:

* Georgia's Amazing Coast by David Bryant and George Davidson is an illustrated introduction to plants and animals that live on Georgia's coast.

* Into the Sea by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Alix Berenzy is a story about the life of a sea turtle.
Photo credits:
Masthead: Linda Patrick
Cool Plant: Hugh Nourse

State Parks Logo
Barrier Islands & Estuaries

A string of 14 islands along the Georgia coast (called barrier islands) protect the Georgia mainland from storms and shelter our estuaries.

In this barrier island photo you can see the Atlantic Ocean to the right and an estuary to the left.

Estuaries (ESS choo air eez) are places where freshwater rivers meet the salty sea.  They are sometimes called the ocean's nursery because they provide shelter and an abundance of food for many young sea creatures. 

Perhaps some of the most curious residents of the barrier islands and estuaries are crabs. 

Burrows on barrier island beaches may belong to a pale-colored crab with tiny black eyes appropriately called the ghost crab.

Fiddler crabs emerge from their burrows in the marshes when the tide goes out.  The male fiddler crab has one huge claw that it holds up in front of its' body like a fiddle.

Things to do:
* Visit a Georgia barrier island with your family.
* Learn a funny crab song.
* Study a map to see which Georgia rivers empty into the Atlantic Ocean.
* Make a virtual visit to an estuary.

Sea Turtles
Georgia's barrier island beaches are important nesting sites for the loggerhead sea turtle (the Cool Critter pictured in the Spring E-news).  

These large sea turtles which average 250 pounds are named for their huge head.  The females generally come ashore in June & July to lay eggs and hatchlings emerge in August and September.
Who's Laughing?

Gulls are a familiar site on Georgia's coast.  The most common small gull in Georgia is the laughing gull.  Their call sounds like- you guessed it - laughing! In spring and summer they have a distinctive dark head.  But, in the winter (picture on left) they are harder to distinguish from other gulls.

 Things to do:
* Sea Turtle coloring page and puzzles
* Listen to the sound of a Laughing Gull
* Play the Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest Game

Famous Forts on Georgia's Coast

Several old forts are found along the Georgia coast.  Forts were strategically located in places where they could provide protection during times of war.
  • Fort CLAMLITERS               
  • Fort GINK REGOGE                     
  • Fort SKILPAU
  • Fort SMIRRO
Can you unscramble the names of the Georgia coastal forts listed above?  All are National Park Service sites or Georgia State Historic Sites.  Send the correct answers to the Chief Naturalist by July 31 and be entered in a drawing to win a free DVD "Sites to Behold: The History of Georgia's State Parks" 
Things to do:
* Famous Forts Scramble - see above
* Listen to the sound of a clapper rail, a bird commonly heard in the marsh but rarely seen.
* Tell us about your favorite coastal creature.  We have mentioned only a few of the fascinating creatures that live on Georgia's coast.  There are fish and shrimp and whales and snails and so much more!  Tell us what your favorite coastal creature is and why it is your favorite and we will send you a copy of Myrtle the Turtle's Coastal Adventure.  Email your response to the Chief Naturalist.
Summer Hikes & Happenings

Explore a Salt Marsh at a State Park

Take a hike or enjoy a paddle at these sites:
Crooked River State Park, St. Mary's
Fort McAllister State Historic Park, Richmond Hill
Skidaway Island State Park, Savannah

Visit the Sea Turtle Center

At the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island you can  explore the exhibits to learn more about sea turtles.  In June & July you can register for a Turtle Walk to look for nesting turtles on the beach at night.  In August and September you can take a morning Nest Walk to look for active nests.

July 25 Bat Blitz at Fort Mountain
Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth
6:30-10 p.m.
Learn about Georgia's resident bats as biologists catch them in nets and provide a close-up look.  The event also includes exhibits about bats and "batty" crafts.

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