Ashton Biological Preserve

Do you like our new look?

We’re so excited to finally reveal the fresh, new look for our website! Ashton is always growing and changing and now our website has an updated appearance and more information about the Preserve. We think the new look reflects who we are as an organization.

We’d like to give a special thank-you to Alyssa Jaisle, who helped design the new banner and color scheme for the Preserve. We love what you made for us–thank you, Alyssa!

We’ll continue to refine our site over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for even more changes!

Chase Pirtle speaks on venomous snakes

Ashton’s own Animal Care Specialist and Habitat Manager, Chase Pirtle, was recently interviewed for a video segment on WUFT, the local public access station. In the interview, Chase shares information about venomous snakes and what kinds of snakes you might see in our area.

Watch the whole segment here:

Ashton in the news (featuring Blue!)

We were thrilled to be profiled recently in a recent news article by our local public news station, WUFT. The article featured information about our efforts to protect tortoises and even information about our resident gopher tortoise, Blue!

Want to read the whole article? Click here!

Ashton in the News

Ashton volunteers recently participated in the 1st Annual Flatwoods Fire and Nature Festival, held at the Austin Cary Memorial Forest north of Gainesville, Florida. We had a wonderful time meeting new friends and sharing our love of the natural world with all the visitors.

As part of our work at the Festival, we were featured in an article on gainesville.com! Check it out!

Volunteer

Come Work, Play, and Learn with Us

Do you want to volunteer with Ashton? We are always looking for motivated, passionate individuals to help with all the work we do at the Preserve.

We offer three-, six, and twelve-month internships with the Preserve, where you can gain experience conducting research, caring for captive animals, and managing conservation lands. Internships at the Preserve are a wonderful opportunity to get first-hand experience at an environmental nonprofit. After completing their time at Ashton, our interns have gone on to jobs around the world, including places like Hawaii and Dubai.

Ashton also offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups looking to make a difference in the world and engage in community service.

To learn more about volunteer and internship work, please click here, or contact us for additional information.

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Visual Guide to Tadpoles of the Eastern United States

ABPRI is proud to host the Visual Guide to Tadpoles of the Eastern United States. This special guest post by Matthew Ratcliffe describes the history of the Guide and his purpose in developing it.

As a herpetology hobbyist, I’ve always wanted a comprehensive guide to identifying anuran tadpoles, which are notoriously difficult to determine down to the species level. I found that most online references only had one or two photos per species. Given the variability of tadpoles, this was not enough to remove some of the confusion surrounding their identification. While professional literature takes great lengths to explain the differences in tadpoles by species, most people do not have access to such books nor are they willing to pay the modest sum to acquire them. As a result, I was determined to create my own guide to tadpoles, using photos of tadpoles I had definitively identified as belonged to a particular species. My network of amateur and professional herpetologists voluntarily contribute their photos as well, and the project was launched on the Field Herp Forum (www.fieldherpforum.com) in fall 2015.

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Back then, the visual guide was a single post on the forum with species and their respective picture(s) listed vertically one after the other with marginally discernible breaks between each species. This was not a visually appealing format and made finding a particular species an exercise in scrolling through dozens of photos. Being largely clueless to webpage design, I put out a call for suggestions on how to migrate the guide to a more visually appealing format. That’s where my friend Noah stepped in, and he connected me with Lauren and the Ashton Biological Preserve website. Thanks to their gracious support, I am very pleased to announce that the latest and greatest iteration of this guide is now live! You’ll notice that each species has its own page, and the name of the original contributor of each photo appears when you scroll over each photo.

I hope that you find this guide useful towards improving your tadpole identification skills. If you would like to contribute high-quality photos to the guide, please contact me at mtratcliffe@hotmail.com. You can also send contributions to communications@ashtonbiodiversity.com.

Thank you, and enjoy the guide!

Sincerely,
Matt Ratcliffe

We’re updating our site!

All good things take upkeep! We’re excited to give the Ashton website a brand-new look and feel. There will be lots of changes coming over the next few weeks, so please check back frequently to see what we’ve been up to.

Also, we love to hear from our friends! If there’s something you wish were on the website, or something that you think we’re missing, please drop us a line.

Learn more about Ashton

Want to know more about who we are and what we do? Check out the video below for more information about the Preserve and how we’re helping promote conservation in north-central Florida and beyond!

Waste Free Feb: Week 4

Just as a refresher: #WasteFreeFeb is about becoming aware of the waste you produce during the month of February. If it can’t be recycled or reused, you must keep it and put it in the container you have chosen for the month. Our Research Manager, Maggie, chose a jar (roughly a pint in size) and chose to do this for the entire month, although she encourages people to participate in any way they can, even if it’s just for a week or weekend. 

Maggie writes:

End of Week 4: Thursday, 28 February 2018

This Week’s Waste:1

  • Plastic pull top to almond milk (2)
  • Plastic wrapping of a frozen burrito
  • Mini bag of potato chips
  • Frozen pizza plastic shrink wrap
  • 2 protein bar wrappers
  • 1 candy bar wrapper
  • Crinkly plastic wrapping of a gas station pre-made sandwich
  • Cough drop wrapper
  • Weird sort of foil/plastic pita chip bag (Explain to me how your company is so concerned with not using animal products and being sustainably-sourced ingredients…yet doesn’t use recyclable packaging?)
  • Plastic fork and salad container from fast food restaurant (not pictured)

As a bit of a disclaimer: not long after I finished writing last week’s post, I boarded a last-minute plane to Virginia to attend the unexpected funeral of a loved one. As such, I had to do my best to be waste-free in an environment in which I was completely unprepared to do so. On the way home, exhausted from travelling and from a plethora of emotions, I simply wanted to eat fast, easy food and basically purchased without any thought. It lead to one of the…

Things I Learned This Week:

  • The above-mentioned fork and salad container were actually recyclable, but I thought I had nowhere to keep them. In hindsight, I should have washed them off in the bathroom and just left them in my car for the weekend while I was parked at the airport. There is always an alternative; it’s just about making that thought process a habit.
  • Being waste-free while traveling is heart-breaking and exhausting. I’m sure there was more waste from this last week than I included. I was too tired to remember, but I did my best to keep all my waste—I brought it back on the plane with me. When it came time for a bit of fast, easy comfort food, I was frustrated with the waste I ended up with—it shouldn’t be this difficult! One of my previous go-to stores for cheap and good produce has started pre-bagging all of their produce. It seems to me that it would create extra cost for them, on top of the waste. You can believe I will be contacting the company!
  • On a more positive note: did you know you can recycle your dead batteries and used printer cartridges? Your local electronics store (and possibly your office supply store, depending where you live) will have the resources to do this. I called ahead to be sure and was told it was a go to bring in my batteries. When I got to the store, though, the recycling station out front listed only rechargeable batteries. I went and talked to customer service and he said that technically they only take rechargeable batteries but were more than happy to take my load of dead alkaline batteries as well. Nervous that they were just trying to make a good impression, I asked what would they do with the batteries they weren’t technically supposed to take. Would they just throw them away? The customer service representative laughed and assured me that they would still be recycled–it just wasn’t an advertised service because it costs more to recycle alkaline batteries than rechargeable ones. I can go ahead and keep bringing them in. What a lovely guy!
  • I also took all of my plastic bags to the drop-off station at my closest grocery store, took my recycling to the county waste station, and am preparing for a bonfire tonight that will be kindled by some of the paper recycling.
  • 6Last, but certainly not least (I’ve been looking forward to this all month): I got take-out from our local Mexican restaurant in my own containers! Not only were they more than happy to take my containers back to the kitchen and put the food right in, they didn’t even mind that all I had was two small containers instead of one larger one. I am so excited about this oh-so-simple waste reduction method and will gladly be that obnoxious friend who forces everyone to bring their own leftover containers moving forward. I now keep a set of containers (as well as cutlery) in my car for any culinary emergencies.

Things I Plan to Carry on Beyond February:

  • Bringing my own take-away containers, for sure! I’ll also continue on with my own straw and water bottle. I’ve done this for ages but I will now be much more vigilant about remembering them.
  • I’ve said it before but one of the biggest realizations from this month was how much can be recycled that I didn’t realize, like some chip bags, vegetable packaging, little bits and pieces of beverage containers, and so on. I will do a double-check before putting a product in my shopping cart to see if there is an option with recyclable packaging.
  • I’m super excited to get my worms to add into the compost and am glad I took the time to learn a little bit more about composting. Our biggest change will be cutting the food up into smaller pieces before we dump it in the bin.
  • The whole point of this month was to become aware of how much waste I produce and wow, am I aware! I struggled a bit to fit the lid onto my jar. I understand very well what it’s like to be too tired to cook and what it’s like to be too poor to buy fancier, eco-friendly alternatives to pre-made food but I’ve realized that can’t be my excuse. Maybe I’ll have to set aside a bit more time to prepare my meals, maybe I’ll have to wake up ten minutes earlier to fix my lunch, maybe I’ll have to educate myself more on growing our own food. But doesn’t Mama Nature deserve just a few more minutes of my time and love?

What about you? What did you take away from this past month? Any small or big changes you’ll be making in your consumption habits? I’d love to hear about them, or get any tips you have for faster ways to prep waste-free.

Thanks so much for joining me during this month’s journey with all of its ups and downs. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and learned as much as I have. Happy recycling, friends!

Waste Free Feb: Week 3

Just as a refresher: #WasteFreeFeb is about becoming aware of the waste you produce during the month of February. If it can’t be recycled or reused, you must keep it and put it in the container you have chosen for the month. Our Research Manager, Maggie, chose a jar (roughly a pint in size) and chose to do this for the entire month, although she encourages people to participate in any way they can, even if it’s just for a week or weekend. 

Maggie writes:

End of Week 3: Friday 23 February 2018

This Week’s Waste:1

  • One of those red plastic lattice bag that onions come in (from onions bought like three months ago)
  • A plastic wrapping for Chocolate Digestive Biscuits (because they are the most delicious thing ever)
  • The bottle seal for a bottle of Greek dressing
  • The weird waxy wrapping from a stick of butter
  • **A piece of chewing gum (see note below!)

Things I Learned This Week:

  • So much about composting! Our compost bin is a bit different than the standard one you might find in a neighborhood backyard because we’re out tin the middle of nowhere. It’s large, uncovered, and open to the air. Here are a few specific things I learned to help us compost more efficiently (because honestly I knew nothing about it before):
    • Cutting things up into smaller chunks helps the decomposition process. (This makes sense if you think about it but is something we don’t do with the produce scraps that the tortoises can’t eat.)
    • You can compost wooden matchsticks after burning the chemicals on the head off. I’ve been doing this but wasn’t sure if it was okay–I now officially know that it is.
    • For a normal system, add scraps of paper or cardboard to the compost to help regulate moisture; they’ll compost as well as help keep the system healthier.
    • I’m really looking forward to the spring–I can’t wait to add some worms!
    • **Chewing gum: You really shouldn’t compost gum because it takes a long time to break down. Most gums are entirely synthetic nowadays, which means that you have to throw it away. I don’t chew much gum, but I do occasionally…like this week.2
  • I gained a polystyrene cup on a day that I was running Preserve visitors around all day. I had limited time to eat and the closest place only had this kind of cup. I was prepared to add it to my waste list but then I flipped over cup. On the bottom, I saw a recycling triangle with a six inside and a PS below. This lured me into into the black hole that is Styrofoam/polystyrene recycling. I honestly didn’t know that recycling Styrofoam was an option—although the process isn’t easy.
    • First, there is a difference between Styrofoam and polystyrene (it’s not just the difference between what different countries call it). The majority of food storage is made of is polystyrene, much of which is actually recyclable (although it tends to be repurposed more than recycled). I have yet to find a local place that will accept it but Florida supposedly has four places that will. As I continue to look into recycling polystyrene, I am hanging onto the cup (and any others I run into) and not putting it in my waste. I am determined to fight the good fight against polystyrene for food purposes!3

Things I Am Thinking About For The Last Week:

  • I would love to turn recycling like this into a habit—it’s so easy as long as I have my reusable cup/mug/thermos with me! I just have to remember them even when I’m rushing, which is something I’ve struggled with this week. I think maybe keep a backup set in my car (and remember to wash and put back in my car after use).
  • An unintentional byproduct of this week has been a small dip in the pool of plastic reduction. Yes, most plastic is recyclable but plastic waste remains a major environmental problem. There are a variety of informative and trustworthy websites and videos online to help you learn about the plastic epidemic in our country and the world. Plastic is especially harmful when it gets into the oceans. I’m looking into all sorts of plastic alternatives. I’m even willing to try shampoo bars (I’ll let you know how it goes).

I’ve actually kind of enjoyed this past week, not because I did particularly “well” but because it’s becoming part of my life rather than a chore for the month. Incorporating low-waste habits into my routine means that I’m creating less waste but also that I can accept when I do create waste because I know the effort is there.

What about you? Have you tried to go waste-free at all this month? What about just a week? Just a day? Just a meal?

Have you thought about having a compost in your backyard (especially if you’re a gardener)?

What do you know about shampoo bars? Do you have any recommendations for me?

I hope you’ve all had an excellent week, enjoyed the warm weather, and taken your reusable shopping bags with you out into the sun!