From 2012-2014, researchers at the University of Central Florida test piloted a community-based social marketing campaign titled Reel Florida, which was intended to help boaters better protect marine ecosystems in the Indian River Lagoon from negative boating impacts. The Indian River Lagoon is an estuary of national significance, and the pilot project could serve as a model for much-needed future initiatives in other areas with intense boating pressures. The principal investigators on the program were Denise DeLorme, Kathleen M. Hill, and Linda Walters.
This web page archives the materials generated by the project. Questions about the project, methodology and results may be directed to Dorothy Zimmerman, director of communications, Florida Sea Grant.
|Plants and Seagrasses
|Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
|Home to creatures such as sand skinks and the Florida mouse as well as a food source for countless other critters, this common shrub is a key natural asset. It gets its name from the sharp, saw-like spines featured on its fronds.
|Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)
|The most salt water tolerant of mangroves, these trees are a vital habitat to countless species on shorelines and brackish environments. Downward growing air roots provide oxygen to the thick, underground trunk roots which help to support and stabilize the shoreline.
|Turtle Grass (Thalassia testundinum)
|The lagoon’s largest species of seagrass, turtle grass features flat blades and thick, extensive root systems. This seagrass is often prime real estate for invertebrates, which use it for support and anchorage, as well as some fish species.
|Manatee Grass (Syringodium filiforme)
|This grass flourishes in shallow waters with loose and muddy seabeds. This species is often dispersed amongst other seagrasses and was once the most common in the Indian River Lagoon.
|Shoal Grass (Halodule wrightii)
|Growing in low intertidal and subtidal shallows, this seagrass can be found all the way from North Carolina to the Caribbean. This also happens to be the most common seagrass in Mosquito Lagoon!
|Things that crawl
|Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)
|(Species of special concern) Given their name, it should be no surprise that gopher tortoises are expert diggers that burrow holes in their often dry, sandy habitats. These creatures provide key shelter for countless other animals that may appropriate their unused tunnels.
|Thinstripe Hermit Crab (Clibanarius vittatus)
|These stylish critters are easily identified by their striped, clawed legs. Finding a suitable gastropod snail shell is key to these crabs’ survival, as they have little natural defense without this added protection.
|Atlantic Sand Fiddler Crab (Uca pugilator)
|This common creature can be found near mangroves and salt marshes, burrowing into muddy and sandy sediments. Interestingly, this burrowing can stimulate nutrient-rich organic matter in the soil which promotes growth in mangroves and Spartina. Males are easily identified by their enlarged claw, which is used to attract females and fight off competing males.
|Things that fly
|Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)
|Most easily identified by its forked tail and long, slender wings, this raptor is an agile flier — perfect for catching its prey of lizards and insects at the tops of trees — or even mid-flight. These birds call the wetlands of the southeastern United States home.
|Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
|These large, dark brown birds are the cleanup crew of the animal kingdom. Known for their amazing sense of smell, these scavengers use a curved, sharp bill to feed on carcasses in small groups. Look for their characteristically bald heads and wobbly flight patterns as they scout for prey high in the sky.
|Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
|These skilled hunters dive talon-first into shallow waters in order to catch their prey, which consists almost exclusively of live fish. Featuring a long wingspan and stark brown and white patterns on their head and body, these birds are a sight to behold.
|Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)
|FWC Species of Special Concern — Florida’s rarest wading bird. Keep your eyes peeled for Florida’s rarest wading bird! The reddish egret is most identifiable by its red-brown neck and head, accented with a black-tipped bill. You may find these active hunters foraging for fish in shallow salt water habitats.
|Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocoephalus)
|Federally Endangered. An unmistakable icon of the United States since 1782 and long-revered by native cultures across the continent, these beautiful birds are easily identified by their large brown bodies and striking white heads and tails. Consuming a mostly fish-based diet, they are known to scavenge meals by stealing prey from other birds, such as the osprey.
|American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
|This bird is a wintertime visitor, migrating from their cooler Great Plains and mountain West homes for some warm Florida sun. They hunt by scooping fish into their bills and have even been observed working as a team, encircling their prey in the water. They do not implement the dive and stun tactics of the Brown Pelican but sometimes make shallow dives to catch a quick meal.
|Things that swim
|Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris)
|This bell-shaped beauty can be found drifting and swimming in saltwaters of both the open ocean and estuaries. Relatively harmless to humans, these jellies feed on a diet of fish eggs, zooplankton and other tiny creatures. Most notably, these jellyfish serve as a primary diet for many predators, including the endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).
|Pinfish (Lagodon rhomboides)
|These bony fish can be identified by their oval shape, dark shoulder spot and yellow striping pattern. They are one of the many creatures that call seagrass beds home.
|River Otter (Lontra canadensis)
|Despite its rather cute appearance, these critters are among the Indian River Lagoon’s top predators. They have a diverse diet that ranges from crustaceans to slower non-game fish. Though once blamed for lowering commercial fish populations, it turns out they may actually help fishermen and anglers by weeding out the non-commercial fish population, leading to better catches for local fishermen and enthusiasts.
|American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
|These toothy reptiles can be found in relatively calm fresh or saltwater marshes, burrowing into the earth for shelter in cooler temperatures. Mostly nocturnal hunters, they ambush larger animals near the water’s edge, often conserving body energy by simply drowning their prey. The alligator’s flat profile allows it to use stalking tactics, exposing only its eyes and nasal disks while in the water. As important contributors to the ecosystem, these master predators help balance species population and create habitable burrows for other creatures.
|Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
|Protected. These elegant marine mammals are swift swimmers and thinkers. They are known to hunt in pods, often swallowing their fish-heavy diet whole. Dolphins and Manatees are the only marine mammals found in the Indian River Lagoon.
|Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)
|Threatened. “Sea cows” are large, slow-moving marine mammals known to travel in small groups and warm waters. They feed primarily on seagrasses and, as their name suggests, can only be found in the southeastern U.S. Unfortunately, these gentle creatures have faced dips in population due to a variety of causes, including human interaction and toxic algal blooms. They are now a highly-protected species.
|Things that don’t move
|Florida Crown Conch (Melongena corona)
|Named after its shell’s crown-like spines, this gastropod is a carnivorous predator and scavenger, often feeding on live bivalves such as oysters, as well as dead or dying organisms.
|Rock Boring Urchin (Echinometra lucunter)
|These spiny invertebrates have an unusual habit: burrowing right through rock with their teeth and sharp spines. Interestingly, these creatures have been observed pushing and biting other urchins that intrude on their burrows.
|Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica)
|Found in brackish and salty waters, these bivalves often collect on shallow rocks, beds or oyster bars. The reefs that these creatures produce often become vital pillars of the ecosystem, inhabited by countless neighboring species while filtering huge volumes of water, protecting shorelines from wind and boat wakes, and removing nitrogen from the water.
Reel Florida™ is a one-stop resource for smart boating tips and information on keeping central Florida’s treasured Mosquito Lagoon preserved for current and future generations of boating and fishing enthusiasts.