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Photo By Brittany Sumner

FALL 2014

DO NOT FEED ALLIGATORS OR FOXES Feeding wildlife does more harm than good. Before offering food to wild animals, please consider the following:

ISLAND NATURE TOURS Join professional naturalists on a guided tour of the wildlife hotspots and unique habitats of Bald Head Island! Even if you’ve been enjoying BHI for years, there is still always something to see and learn. This 2 hour tour will give you the opportunity to see birds, mammals and reptiles of Bald Head while you explore the island’s pristine beaches, ancient maritime forest and unspoiled salt marshes. Tours are available daily at 9am or can be scheduled to accomodate your group. Reservations are required. Please call 910-338-0911 or visit bhic.org for more information.

WILD ANIMALS ARE DANGEROUS. Animals that are fed by humans often lose their natural fear of people. Nearly all wild animals are capable of inflicting injury to humans or pets. FEEDING WILDLIFE CAN SPREAD DISEASES. Most wildlife diseases are transferred from animal to animal. Because of their close contact, animals crowding at feeding sites can readily exchange diseases. More animals die from disease and diseaserelated ailments than from starvation. Additionally, animals can carry many diseases that readily spread to people or pets. FEEDING LEADS TO CROWDING, CROWDING CAUSES STRESS. In crowded situations, physical aggression among individual animals is common. At feeding sites, larger more aggressive individuals often exclude younger and weaker individuals. Aggressive behavior can lead to injuries and even death, particularly for vulnerable individuals. OVER POPULATION RESULTS IN HABITAT DEGRADATION. Any given habitat can only support a limited amount of wildlife. An overabundance of wild animals drawn to a feeding area can damage the local habitat for not only the animals being fed but others species as well. Habitat degradation significantly affects all wildlife species. WILDLIFE NEED HABITAT, NOT HANDOUTS. Wild animals benefit from healthy habitat. To help wildlife species, practice sound habitat management in your own backyard and support programs dedicated to providing and protecting healthy wildlife habitat. The Smith Island Land Trust can provide information and guidance to people interested in helping wildlife around their homes and in their communities.

The 2015 BHI Community Directory is now on sale. Visit Turtle Central to get your copy!


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Shop Turtle Central + Save Sea Turtles

IN THIS ISSUE: Conservancy Collaborations.......................................................4-5 Much More Than a Field Station....................................................6-7 2015 Events........................................................................................9 BHI Deer Immunocontraception Project: Year One.......................10 Seven Months in Blue...............................................................12-13 Bald Head Earns Stellar Marks on Report Card........................15

BHIC.org | BHI Conservancy


Conservancy Collaborations: a Partnership with USGS by Courtney Spears - Conservation Biologist - Coastal Ecology Program Coordinator

Water Quality monitor in the well


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“Water is the driving force of all nature.” - Da Vinci


t has been an exciting year for partnerships at the BHI Conservancy! This summer a partnership that has been in the works since 2012, with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was finalized. The Bald Head Island Conservancy requested assistance from the USGS to provide expertise and modeling to explore the freshwater resources in the aquifer underlying Bald Head Island. Monitoring the aquifer more closely will allow decision makers to determine how much fresh water our aquifer can provide and how that supply may change in the future.

salinity) and temperature every 15 minutes, which is then sent to a satellite and can be accessed by anyone interested on our website. Visit http://www.bhic.org/water. You can follow along with the real-time data and even see the influence the tides have on freshwater level by observing the depth to water data! USGS will be back to check on equipment in the fall. The partnership will continue to do research in order to build a data set that will

The Conservancy currently measures depthto-water at about 40 monitoring wells on a monthly basis and water quality in these wells on a quarterly basis. More intensive modeling will give a more in-depth idea of water availability. This information will provide critical data to guide management decisions as the island faces uncertain environmental conditions into the future. The first part of this project involves compiling historic data and collecting additional water level and water quality information. The USGS visited the island in mid-August to install a continuous water quality monitor on a well near the golf course and on the perimeter of the island. Historically, this particular well has shown increasing levels of chlorides, which indicates increasing salinity. The aquifer beneath Bald Head is a lens of freshwater surrounded by the saltwater from the ocean. When too much water is removed, or when sea level rises, saltwater can infiltrate the freshwater aquifer, known as saltwater intrusion. Saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers is a major concern for coastal communities, particularly islands, and the best way to monitor for it is to observe perimeter wells. The equipment hooked up to the well records water level, conductance (a measure of

USGS – Kristen McSwain (red coat) and Dominick Antolino, both hydologists with USGS.

feed directly into a model to help determine groundwater flow. If you are interested in getting involved as a citizen scientist to help our aquifer monitoring efforts, please contact Courtney Spears at (910) 338-0942 or courtney@bhic. org.

BHIC.org | BHI Conservancy


Much More Than A Field Station By Kendyll Collins Conservation Biologist - Education Programs Coordinator

“The most remarkable quality of Bald Head Island is that the extraordinary elements never become ordinary.” - Brooke Williams


he BHI Conservancy boasts a remarkable track record - when school classes, scout troops, or university researchers spend an overnight or extended stay with us, they almost always return! The BHI Conservancy “dormitory,” or renovated beach house, sleeps sixteen individuals comfortably in bunk beds, contains a full kitchen, comfortable living room, bar stools for seating, television with cable, three full bathrooms, one half bathroom, and a laundry room with washer and dryer. The Fleming Environmental Center sleeps ten additional individuals in bunk beds and two more on a sleeper sofa. This extra living space, above the classroom exhibits, also contains a full bathroom. The campus gem, or Barrier Island Study Center, is


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adorned with riverwood salvaged from the Cape Fear, supported by recycled metal, speckled with skylights, supplied with non-potable water from a 7,000 gallon cistern, and regulated by a zone specific HVAC system. The Young Hatchling Learning Laboratory, or wet lab, contains thirty research aquaria, a touch tank exhibit, and laboratory tables. The Mitchell Research Laboratory, or dry lab, contains gas access, basic laboratory equipment, and advanced equipment like an autoclave, chemical hood, drying oven, and laboratory grade dishwasher. The BHI Conservancy is able to offer phenomenal accommodations and research facilities at competitive prices. Facility location enables students and researchers of all ages to have immediate access to pristine and endangered ecosystems. Despite these offerings, there is another reason why guests return to the island- the human element. In January 2014, a multidisplinary group from Guilford College spent nearly a month with BHI Conservancy staff. The students came from varied backgrounds studying everything from the humanities to business. During a shortened semester, the Guilford group traveled from the headwaters of the Cape Fear River, where Guilford College is located, down to the river’s culmination. They stopped at environmentally conscious organizations along the way to collect information and interviews used for a final project. When they finally reached the terminus of the Cape Fear, they learned about the history of the BHI Conservancy, hot topics impacting our coastline, attended a Village council meeting, and joined BHI Conservancy staff for a kayaking trip focusing on the importance of island ecosystems. Students reported that the experience on BHI was the best part of their class. They spent part of the month interviewing staff, island visitors, and getting to know the BHI Conservancy’s founding members. What set the field station apart was not the shiny state-of-the-art equipment or even the imperiled maritime forest ecosystem, but the committed

Are you part of a class, troop, or other organized group? Would you like to have a similar and meaningful experience with the BHI Conservancy? Let us customize an overnight visit or extended stay that meets your group’s needs. Please email kendyll@bhic.org for more information.

and inspiring community- truly the most extraordinary element of Bald Head Island.

Signs of an Exciting Year Ahead October marked the first official day of a two-year grant awarded to the Bald Head Island (BHI) Conservancy by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (ILMS). The $23,891 grant will fund interpretive signs aimed to increase volunteer and citizen science involvement with the non-profit organization. This amount was the full amount requested by the BHI Conservancy. Conservation Biologist- Education Program Coordinator at the BHI Conservancy and ILMS Grant Project Director, Kendyll Collins said, “We understand that many feel overwhelmed by the enormity of ‘saving the environment,’ and through this project, we will strive to offer straight-forward, tangible actions to help all of our constituents work towards this vision.” She continued, “I’m so excited to increase knowledge of our conservation efforts and expand our volunteer fleet, as the grant project manager.” The BHI Conservancy has already begun work on this grant project, which specifically funds the creation of ten interpretive signs for display on their campus. Half of the signs will present information about the unique features of barrier islands and report on the monitoring work that the BHI Conservancy conducts, including

wildlife monitoring, dune surveying, and aquifer water quality testing. The additional five signs will present ways BHI Conservancy Campus visitors can directly advance the organization’s mission of barrier island conservation, education, and preservation. QR codes will link information presented on the physical signage to dynamic, electronic information. A soft launch of rough signage will seek community feedback in spring 2015. “Our grants are highly competitive. The Institute of Museum and Library Services enlists hundreds of library and museum professionals throughout the United States to review grant applications and make recommendations on projects most worthy of funding,” said IMLS Director Susan H. Hildreth. “Receiving a grant from IMLS is significant achievement, and we congratulate the Bald Head Island Conservancy for being among the 2014 IMLS museum grantees.” IMLS museum grants support a wide variety of projects that create learning experiences, strengthen communities, care for collections and provide broad public access.

Visit BHIC.org/Visiting-Groups for more information.

BHIC.org | BHI Conservancy


Social Media 2014

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With our Adopt-A-Programs You Can Share the Miracle of Sea Turtles! You can become directly involved with our Sea Turtle Protection Program by adopting a nest, adopting a mom, or naming your very own loggerhead sea turtle by adopting a legacy! Your contribution goes directly towards the conservation and protection of the threatened and endangered sea turtles on Bald Head Island. Adopt-A-Nest - $150 For anyone who can’t get enough of sea turtles, this gift includes an official Nest Adoption Certificate, an 8” plush turtle, an invitation to the nest excavation and a Nesting Success Certificate at the end of the season, which details number of eggs laid, number hatched, and date of hatching.’


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Adopt-A Mom - $500 Great for an anniversary or Mother’s Day, this gift includes a Certificate with your mom’s tag number and measurements and a 12” plush turtle. You will also recieve a certificate at the end of the season detailing each nest your turtle laid that summer.

Adopt-A-Legacy - $4000 or $5000 A great way to welcome a child or celebrate a marriage, this program gives you the opportunity to name a BHI nesting sea turtle forever. You will recieve a certificate detailing the known history of your turtle and will be notified every year your turtle returns to nest on BHI. Includes a copper sculpture placed on the walls of BISC.

Mark Your 2015 Calendars Saturday, March 21st BADWATER CAPE FEAR Bald Head Island, NC From the masterminds behind the world-famous 135 Badwater Ultramarathon comes the second annual Badwater Cape Fear. This 51.4-mile ultra running race featuring a 12-mile warmup on Bald Head Island, followed by 39 milees of running on the wild sandy beach between Cape Fear and Fort Fisher. The BHI Conservancy is the official chartiy of this race.

Thursday, July 2nd CONSERVANCY BENEFIT PICNIC The Common at Cape Fear Station, Bald Head Island Join BHI Conservancy Staff, volunteers and supporters at this annual event. There will be live usic, family-friendly fun and games, delicious food, a silent auction, and more! All proceeds benefit the BHI Conservancy’s education and conservation programs.

Friday, September 19th Sunday, September 20th THE THAD WESTER FISHING SCHOOL Barrier Island Study Center, BHI Conservancy Campus Celebrating 32 years in 2015, Fishing School is fun and educational. The three-day “semester” includes classroom instruction, surf fishing experiences, a Friday night social and a Sautrday night fish fry where students get to eat what they caught earlier in the day!

Photo Courtesy of Thatcher Photography, LLC

BHIC.org | BHI Conservancy


BHI Deer Immunocontraception Project: Year One By David R. Hall, Conservation Biologist


knew exactly who they were as soon as I saw them on the ferry. They had no identifying insignia, but having been an avid outdoorsman for the past 18 years, I can easily spot a fellow human molded by the elements. Tony DiNicola and Charles Evens (Swanny) from White Buffalo Inc. were on their way over to Bald Head Island to kick off year one of the island’s experimental deer immunocontraception program aimed at controlling the deer population through non-lethal birth control. I was nervous, yet enthusiastic, being new to deer darting and wildlife capture. No time was wasted once we arrived at the BHI Conservancy campus. We inventoried the equipment and organized tables of lights, dart guns, batteries, telemetry devices, biological sampling resources, radio collars, and, most importantly, handwarmers. Within an hour the education room looked like a mobile military operation, except this was for non-lethal deer management. We immediately began dart gun training, which included zeroing in the scopes, finding range limits and becoming comfortable with the equipment. This immunocontraception program is the first of its kind in North Carolina and of interest to many. Agencies, including the USDA and NC Wildlife Resources Commission, sent a few of their own personnel to assist and observe in the project. Night 1 of the project started rather well with Tony darting the first deer an hour in. The transmitter dart fell out, meaning we had to try to track her blindly. This type of equipment failure was the first of many and characterized one of the project’s greatest 10

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challenges: it seemed as if everything malfunctioned. Transmitter darts failed or fell out, batteries died in the freezing cold, golf carts broke down, lights burned out in the middle of the woods; Murphy’s Law (everything that can go wrong, will go wrong) was working overtime here. It wasn’t just the equipment; the weather was some of the harshest BHI had all winter, high winds, pouring rain, and temperatures below 20° F. Sitting in a tree for 3 hours in humid 20° weather was no vacation, but luckily the hand-warmers were the one item that never malfunctioned. Despite the challenges, the entire team was persistent and vigilant in efforts to reach the target goal. We went into the field every chance we got, overcoming and learning from every challenge with on open mind and improving every aspect of our operation. We quickly learned that one week of darting was just not enough to accomplish the lofty target goal. The deer were very smart and skittish, having had culling pressure placed on them for so many years. The

environment of the maritime forest was unique and much harder to work in than other forested lands, and more time was needed to capture deer. Another week of darting was scheduled for the following month. Still, Murphy’s Law showed no mercy. Working through the challenges, the team successfully vaccinated and tagged 18 does and gained a plethora of knowledge and experience. The greatest lesson I learned from this project is that there is absolutely no substitution for field experience. No amount of planning, education, or pre-conceived notions can prepare you for the very unpredictable challenges of wildlife fieldwork. Every environment, population, and animal behaves differently. It is also what makes this field so exciting. As the first non-lethal deer management program in the state, the next year of this project will undoubtedly yield field techniques and knowledge that other wildlife management agencies can learn from and utilize in future deer management operations.

Photo By Brittany Sumner

BHI Conservancy Membership 100% of net membership revenues support the education programs of the BHI Conservancy. Become a member today and enjoy discounts on programs, turtle walks, at Turtle Central and more! Visit bhic.org to join. Friend - $95.00 N Family - $195 NSponsor - $350NPatron - $500 NLife - $10,000

BHIC.org | BHI Conservancy


Seven Months in Blue:

Two perspectives on what it’s like to be a BHI Conservancy Intern


By Amy Eldredge, Summer + Fall Intern

learned something new or that the program was a great way to spend their day. One time a young girl from a turtle walk told me she was interested in marine science and wanted advice on how to get a job like mine. I was happy to share with her my experience to help inspire her to continue her interest in science.

y first impression of Bald Head Island was a dark one. I arrived late on Sunday night, May 11th, and I was exhausted from a day of travel. Just twentyfour hours before I graduated from college in Pennsylvania. By the time the ferry docked on the island the sun had already set and the trip to the BHI The BHI Conservancy gave Conservancy was shrouded in me an opportunity to share blackness. With anticipation in research and conservation and excitement I had to endure outreach, as well as to see the night thinking about what how a nonprofit organization the summer would bring as operates. I never had the Amy poses with one of our opportunity before to see I transitioned from the end of classroom snakes. my college career to my first behind the scenes of how professional internship. I told a Conservancy fundraises myself I needed to get used to working in and prepares programs. The conservancy the dark since I was going to be a Sea Turtle truly cares for its community, as well as the Intern for the summer. What an experience environment. All the programs and special it turned out to be! The island and the events engage the community to support the Conservancy was everything I was looking ongoing stewardship of Bald Head Island. for in an internship program; great staff, wonderful coworkers and a well-supported After completing the summer Sea Turtle program. Internship I was pleased to be accepted for the fall Conservation/Education Intern I loved meeting the visitors to the BHI position, which I am currently serving. I Conservancy and hearing their own stories of enjoyed working with sea turtles and gaining why they care about our environment. It was more experience in field research, but now great to share with visitors what Bald Head that the sea turtle season is over, I am Island has to offer. I not only enjoyed leading excited to broaden my experience to include island nature tours, turtle walks, other education and conservation work. When I educational applied for the summer internship, I did not programs, know which one of the three internships, as well as sea turtle, education, wildlife conservation, I monitoring wanted to do more. Staying on in the fall has nesting sea allowed me to fully experience all types of turtles, but I work the Conservancy has to offer. also enjoyed encouraging These internship experiences have helped me others to transition from college to future conservation get excited education work. The BHI Conservancy has about our helped to affirm my desire to be involved in environment. a state park or a Conservancy where I can be It always made working in research and education. These 7 me smile when months are the first step of a long exciting someone journey ahead! told me they

Amy poses with a sea turtle hatchling during the 2014 BHI sea turtle season. 12

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Our Summer 2014 Sea Turtle Interns and Sea Turtle Program Coordinator, Jaymie Reneker (third from left.) Interns from the left, Joe Seebode, Emily Hardin, Jaymie, Brandt Quirk-Royal, Amy Eldredge, and Giancarlo Coppola. Photo by Brittany Sumner


By: Brandt Quirk-Royal, Summer + Fall Intern

rowing up in Raleigh my family and I would travel to the coast of North Carolina for vacations, however I had never been to Bald Head Island. I honestly did not know what to expect when I came over here; I knew it was different from other North Carolina beaches but did not really know how. I first remember driving down Federal Road and admiring the thick canopy of the maritime forest and thinking how unique this was for a beach. I quickly picked up on all the additional environmental aspects this island has to offer as we (summer interns) went through our training. As an intern I knew I would be living in a dorm setting with my fellow interns. I was nervous and excited to live with a large group of people. Luckily we all ended up getting along well and I enjoyed being surrounded by a lot of like-minded people. We were all in a similar position in our lives and none of us had ever been to the island before. Everything was new and we all got to learn together which made us grow closer. After learning the basic facts about the Conservancy and the island we jumped right into our specified intern positions. I was a sea turtle intern and so my first task was to become nocturnal, which is not an easy task for a die-hard morning person. We struggled through the first few weeks of our new dark schedule, but when we saw our first mother turtle come to lay her eggs I think we were all a lot more fond of the night. Nights were long, but getting a turtle was worth those long tiring hours. I was kept company by four other sea turtle interns and while we were asleep during the day, the other interns, wildlife and education, were busy keeping our island pristine and educating the public. I was not able to become very involved in the conservation/ education aspect of our mission outside of doing turtle walks throughout the summer due to my sleep schedule. While doing data

collection and research is my passion, I learned that it is very important to connect to the public to teach them about what you are doing. This led me to apply to stay as a fall education/conservation intern. I wanted to further develop my outreach skills and get a chance to see the island during the daytime. I knew this would be a more challenging position for me because I had not had a lot of experience in reaching out and teaching science and conservation to a wide range of ages before. This did prove to be difficult at first for me to master, however I think it has benefitted me the most in my time at the Conservancy. It made me a more creative thinker when it comes to relying the basic facts of science Brandt digs around a sea turtle nest in or teaching order to place the cage. people how to better their environment. I am no longer daunted by the idea of teaching kids like I was prior to this summer because I have learned how to reach them on a simple, yet effective level. I no longer worry about giving presentations and I have learned how to answer any question that is thrown at me. Overall I have become more articulate and concise when explaining sometimes tough, or even controversial conservation topics. Science cannot advance without the help of the community. Working with the Conservancy has shown me how to reach out to the public while still doing hard science, such as data collection. Not only has it given me strong interpersonal skills, but it has greatly advanced my knowledge of many science related topics. I have learned how to handle injured birds, how to ear tag white tailed deer, how to babysit a alligator sunning on the banks, how to write a policy paper, how to crab, how to drive a UTV, and most importantly how to leave a lasting impression on the environment you live in through education. I will really miss my time here on the island and all of the friends and people I have met. I plan to continue on to graduate school in the following fall and this internship has definitely given me the skills and knowledge I need to succeed.

Brandt poses with two sea turtle hatchlings. Summer 2014. BHIC.org | BHI Conservancy


Did You Know?

The BHI Conservancy’s Annual Fund for the Environment underwrites all of the conservation efforts provided to the community of BHI including the sea turtle protection program, invasive species and dune monitoring, forest and land conservation, creek water quality monitoring, freshwater aquifer monitoring, wildlife surveys, wildlife emergency response and timely research projects to address emerging issues. The need for barrier island conservation is critical to life on BHI. As environmental conditions change and development continues, it is imperative that we protect and conserve the place we call home. Preserving natural spaces and conserving our resources provides invaluable environmental services including: protection from storm surge by the dunes and maritime forest, water filtration in the salt marsh, habitat for commercially important fish species, and an astoundingly beautiful place in which to relax and enjoy family time. We need your support to continue to fulfill the community’s vision to live in harmony with nature. Please help conserve and protect our environmental resources for all our families to continue enjoying the restorative, peaceful sanctuary that is Bald Head Island. 14

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Bald Head Earns Stellar Marks on Report Card! By Courtney Spears Conservation Biologist - Coastal Ecology Program Coordinator

Bald Head Island is a unique and precious place that includes sensitive habitats like the globally imperiled maritime forest, productive salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, and mature dune ridges. These ecosystems are vastly different from one another, and provide the community with invaluable services, such as protection from storm effects, and a beautiful setting to reconnect with family. The Village of Bald Head Island and the Bald Head Island Conservancy work together to monitor these ecosystems to ensure the community is living in harmony with nature so that we can continue to enjoy all the benefits of living on a healthy barrier island. For the July 2013 – June 2014 term we monitored: dune health/beach vitex, creek health, deer population and forest health, and freshwater resources. We measured dune health by monitoring the width of dune vegetation, presence of native, dune building species, and the amount of vitex removed. We determined creek health by monitoring for salinity, dissolved oxygen, fecal coliform bacteria, salt marsh accretion/erosion, and presence of filter feeders. We calculated deer and forest health by conducting a summer and fall deer count and monitoring for laurel wilt. We monitored freshwater resources by conducting monthly measurements of depth to the water table and quarterly water quality measurements.

Bald Head Island received excellent scores on this year’s report card! The dunes showed stability throughout the year, with healthy vegetation, and required less removal of invasive beach vitex than 2012. Bald Head Creek exhibited extremely high water quality, perfect for recreation, with excellent conditions for commercially and recreationally important fish. The deer and forest were also deemed healthy, with no indication of laurel wilt disease – a devastating fungal infection affecting red bay that is transmitted by the ambrosia beetle. Freshwater resources received a ‘good’ score due to an indication of some saltwater intrusion in the aquifer underlying the island. This is being closely monitored and further investigated through a partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Overall, Bald Head Island boasts some superb examples of barrier island habitat. As Bald Head was developed with sustainability in mind, it is our responsibility to continue to care for the natural environment. Moving into the next year we will continue to vigilantly monitor the resources of Bald Head Island and protect this extraordinary place. For more detailed methods and results from our monitoring program, please visit http://www.bhic.org.

BHIC.org | BHI Conservancy


700 Federal Road · P.O. Box 3109 Bald Head Island, NC 28461 910-457-0089 www.BHIC.org · email@BHIC.org

A view from our wildlife cameras. Can you tell where on Bald Head our Conservation team set up their wildlife cameras?

“the earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana

Profile for BHI Conservancy

The Conservator - Fall 2014  

Read on for BHI Conservancy updates including our partnership programs, BISC, intern fun, deer project and more!

The Conservator - Fall 2014  

Read on for BHI Conservancy updates including our partnership programs, BISC, intern fun, deer project and more!

Profile for bhic