• 30 April 2014: Re- re- re- re- routing!

    30 April 2014: Re- re- re- re- routing!

    We left hotel early in the morning to catch the first flight from Tallahassee to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our plane was SAAB, a tiny plane and an experience. Our first stop was in Tampa and we were to go to to Fort Lauderdale. For some reason our flight was delayed and finally we got to know we cannot go on with the same plane. Alyce and Ashley did a lot of work to find alternative solutions to go to Bozeman, Montana.

    Finally six of us made a re-routing via Dallas to Bozeman.  The rest of group stayed overnight in Tampa and will go on tomorrow.  I was one of those who went to Dallas. But I flight was late and we missed the next flight ( via Denver to Bozeman). Fortunately we had Ashley in our group who worked hard to find a solution. Finally we found it. We fly first to Salt Lake City (Utah), stay overnight there and go on by shuttle to Bozeman ( 8 hours drive). Quite an adventure. What is lesson to be learned? Flight traffic in US did not work today. I hope to get back to home in time.... :)

    SAAB! We had these planes 20 years ago in Finland ;)

    From Tampa to Dallas.

  • 29 April 2014

    29 April 2014

    We left hotel early in the morning and headed to Wakulla Springs State Park. This park plays host to an abundance of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, deer and birds. Lodge was built in 1937 by Edward Ball and is open year-round. We were hosted by ranger Jeff Hugo, an excellent guy who provided an orientation to the park as well as its habitat restoration, eco-tourims and the diversity of the  Apalachicola area. We took a boat excursion on the river. It was raining but it was another highlight during this visit. We saw beautiful greenery, a lot of birds, alligators and really enjoyed this unique excursion!

    The second meeting was as the National Estuarine Research Reserve. Erik Lovestrand ( Education coordinator, assistant manager Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reseverve) hosted us. He made a presentation bout the reserve and told about the conservation work taking place in this consortium. The program is a federal/state partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as the state program administrator. Then we wento to St Marks National Wildlife Refuge. We met Lori Nicholson who is an environmental education specialist there. St Marks National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1931 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds. The refuge includes coastal marshes, islands, tidal creeks and estuaries of seven north Florida rivers and is home to a diverse community of plant and animal life. Lor told us about her work with schools and we had a good conversation. Finally we went to see the lighthouse in the area, just next to Gulf of Mexico. A superb day, thanks for everybody!

  • 28 April 2014

    28 April 2014

    We left Pensacola beach early in the morning and started our busy day in the Escambia County Community and Environment Department. It is responsible for biodiversity protection, ecotourism and environmental monitoring and evaluation. Robert Turpin made a presentation  about their Lion Fish project , an invasive species that appeared after they have made articisl reefs in the area.  It has been spreading throughout the Gulf of Mexico and threatened native species of fish.  Mr Taylor Kirschenfueld presented a project called GreenShores, a multi-million dollar habitat restoration effort taking place along the urban shoreline of downtown Pensacola. This community effort to restore the salt marsh, sea grass, and oyster reef habitat to the Pensacola Bay System is a result of coooperation between volunteers, businesses and government at the local, state and federal levels. The project has won several awards.

    Next place of visit was Pensacola High School, a local public schools providing education to students ages 15 through 18. We visited a Marine Science class and observed how environmental science was taught and had some talk with students after our own short presentations. Then we met some students from the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and discussed about the science curriculum at the school and voluntary work of students. Students were very active and interested about our environmental activities. We had a very good conversation.

    The highlight of today was canoeing in Blackwater River. First we had a lunch at Blackwater River State Park where Darryl Hatfied (Park Ranger) told us about the park. It is a part of State Forest, one of the largest state forests in Florida. We discussed about ecotourism initiatives and public-private partnerships within the park, amongst other issues.

    Canoeing was great. I was in the same canoe with Maria from Uzbekistan. We enjoyed the peace and river flow until the end. Maria step up from canoe and we got up from steep river bank. I fall out and was the only one in our group who did it. Soaking wet for a while and seeing laughing people around me and afterwards. But I didnät mind. This was my first canoe trip and felt exactly like in my song below:

    "I wobbled along,
    paddled with long strokes
    and let the stream carry me.
    I meandered in the current
    And I remember the freedom and joy
    when the canoe touched the river bank."

  • 27 April 2014

    27 April 2014

    Sunday was to relax and arrange personal things. I was doing my laundry while others went to shopping. Then I had a morning walk with our wonderful guide Alyce discussing about our countries. I used a lot of time for email correspondence to ministries of environment, concerning 100 Million Trees by 2017. Albania and Kazakstan have officially joined as supporters for this campaign.

    The highlight today was home hospitality. I was invited to Gary and Patricia McGraw's home, together with Doris (Nigeria) and Jabulani (South Africa). Gary and Patricia lived many years overseas in Germany, North Africa, and the Middle East and are now settled in Pensacola. In addition to other volunteer activities, they are working as volunteer facilitators to Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council. Gary picked us up from the hotel and we had a wonderful evening. He showed their garden and plants they had there. Particia has made a perfect dinner for us and we had interesting conversations. Atmosphere was very warm and cozy. After dinner I performed some Finnish folk music with my ukulele and we gave some gifts to family. This evening was a memorable one and left us all a great experience that we all can recommend.

    For my daughter....

    Sand looks like white sugar!

    Our hotel on the right

    Gary's and Patricia's home

  • 26 April 2014

    26 April 2014

    The feeling you go out early in the morning when warm and gentle air embraces your body. Had to walk to see the gorgeous beach with white sand.  

    After breakfast we headed to Fort Pickens where our group had a volunteer activity with Cleanpeace. Ocean Hour is the world's first international weekly cleanup, leveraging social media and technology to crowdsource cleanups around the globe on a weekly basis. Every Saturday from 9 to 10 AM, in many cities and towns across the planet, the Mother Ocean community will head to local beaches, rivers, lakes, and waterways around the globe to clean up trash and debris. The Pensacola Ocean group operates unde the name of Cleanpeace. Together with the group coordinator and two high schools students, we went to beach and picked up trash on the shore. It was a nice experience itself and an example of American tradition of volunteering; to interact with local citizens with a passion for protecting the environment. American people may sometimes irritate us quiet Finns with a lot of talking but voluntarism is a lesson to be learnt from them.

    After Ocean hour we explored Fort Pickens and the surrounding areas. Fort Pickens is the largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola Bay and its navy yard. The fort was begun in 1829, completed in 1834. It was made by slaves and used until the 1940s. Built in the age of wooden warships and cannons firing round balls, the fort underwent changes in response to advances in weapon technology following the Civil War. Today, Fort Pickens is an important source for tourism into Gulf Islands National Seashore which is the largest protected seashore in the US, receiving five million visitors per year, more than even Yellowstone National Park that will be our next place of visit after Florida.

    Another great day and in a warm weather. Hopefully I did not burn my skin....

  • 25 April 2014

    25 April 2014

    After six days in DC it was time to leave. Our international team was splitted when half went to Portland (Maine) and other half including me to Pensacola, Florida. First we flew to Atlanta, Georgia. We flew with MD planes that I have not seen for many years.  We also needed to turn our clocks an hour back because of a different time zone. After six hours of travelling we entered our hotel Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front. Women went to shopping but I was too tired and stayed in the room and got sleep. Waiting for the morning sun to rise as I have a great view to beach from my room window.

  • 24 April 2014

    24 April 2014

    Almost heaven, West Virginia,
    Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
    Life is old there, older than the trees,
    Younger than the mountains growin' like a breeze.

    This legendary song "Take me home country roads" is about the places we experienced today. After office meeting and formalities it was great to explore nature in fresh air.  We took a bus to see Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. That song inspired our Indian representative to sing in the bus and soon followed by me, Nigeria and Bahrain ;) . It was a cold nd windy morning but people were well prepared for the weather. 

    Shenandoah National Park is long and narrow, with the broad Shenandoah River and Valley on the west side, and the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont on the east. The park stretches for 169 km along Skyline Drive from near the town of Front Royal in the northeast to near the city of Waynesboro in the southwest. The Park headquarters are located in Luray.

    We had a first meeting with Mr James Schaberl (Chief, Natural and Cultural Resources).  He told us basic information about the park. Mr Schaberl said that when Shenandoah was established 80 years ago, the land was private property with 500 homes. People were offered to sell their land and many of them accepted but not all. Some people were forced to go. He also answered to our questions about poaching, the role of patrols and many other.  We had a lunch in a nearby cafeteria where I met my facebook friend Patricia Hensley from South Carolina who was visiting park and noticed my status update in FB. It was nice to meet her.

    The second meeting was with Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) . We met their staff and got to know about their efforts to protect species and habitat diversity. SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs at Front Royal, at the National Zoo in Washington DC, and at field-research and training sites around the world. We explored their campus outside of Front Royal, got information about their projects and got to see protected animals.  After meeting we returned to the national park and met Mr Nelson, who gave an interpretive talk on the creation of the Shenandoah National Park including a 10-minute video.

    Finally we had a short self-guided hike (1,3 mile) on the Fox Hollow Nature Trail to an old homesite. People were happy and the day was memorable. Take me home, country roads!

    Joy from India and others singing "Take me home country roads", music from Ashley's iphone ;)

    Meeting a FB friend Patricia Hensley by co-incidence in Front Royal.

    Clouded leopard, one of species in the area.

  • 23 April 2014

    23 April 2014

    Our day started with a visit to U.S. Department of State. First security check. We had an appointment with Ms Melanie Nakagawa (Policy Planning Staff, Office of the Secretary of State), Ms Barbara M. De Rosa Joynt ( Chief of Biodiversity, Office of Conservation and Water) and Mr John Verdieck (Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of Global Change). They examined the role the U.S. plays internationally to promote environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. I asked from John Verdieck about the potential role of actors against the climate change, outside the United Nations. John emphasized the role of private sector. We had good discussions.
    Our next meeting was at U.S. Agency for International Development. Second and third security check! USAID experts discussed their agency's leadership role and global support to ensure environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. Mr Chris Kosnik (Acting Director, Water, Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment) had an informative presentation. 
    After lunch we went to Virginia, to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Fourth security check! Welcoming words were by Victor Labson, director in the Office of International Programs. Douglas Beard Jr (Chief,National Climate Change Wildlife Science Centers) had a presentation about Convention of Biodiversity, IPBES and domestic equivalent the BEST project. Joseph E. Bunnell ( International Coordinator for Ecosystems) spoke about Ecosystems as a part of USGS missions. The most inspiring presentation was by Roger Sayre (Senior Scientist for Ecosystems, Land Change Science Program). He told us about Global Ecosystem Mapping Project, a very challenging and interesting project that should be finished by 2015. After visits we headed back to hotel in rush hour from Virginia to Washington DC.

    I only have two photos here as we were not allowed to take cameras because of tight schedule caused by security checks. There will be some more photos here as I get them from our Nigeria representative who was our camera woman.

    At USGS

    Leaving USGS with Reem from Bahrain.

  • 22 April 2014

    22 April 2014

    We started today with a bus trip to Arlington, Virginia. It is on the other side of Potomac River. The first meeting was at  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We discussed preservation of fish and wildlife and how the endangered species are protected in the United States as well as implementation of CITES. Next appointment was at U.S. Department of the Interior. Mr Rudy D'Alessandro provided an excellent overview of the National Park system in the United States. After lunch we headed to National Geographic Museum. Staff discussed National Geographic's efforts to raise awareness and promote environmental protection. They highlighted various outreach tools created to respond to changing communication needs and share experiences to promote environmental conservation. Day ended to a tour in the museum. Thank you everybody!

  • Monday 21 April

    Monday 21 April

    Monday started with a visit to Institute of International Education. Welcoming and introduction speeches were by Ms Kimberly Jenkins (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State), Ms Cara Herman (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State), Ms Usha Balakrishnan (Institute of International Education) and Mr Robin Greving (Institute of International Education).

    Dr Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University) provided an excellent overview of environmental protection an biodiversity conservation in the United States. He discussed U.S. efforts to protect biodiversity through environmental protection policies and sustainable land and water management programs. I asked about his opinion on fracking and how environmentally friendly it is. He said there is still no evidence of harming the environment but had his doubts.

    After a lunch hosted by the U.S. Department of State we had a briefing about administrative and financial aspects of the program with IIE Staff. We also discussed about the use of Digital media. Finally we had an intra group discussion. I was chosen as a presenter of our group in DC meetings.

    In the evening I headed to local jazz bar called Bohemian Caverns. This is DC's legendary jazz club that was established in 1926. The house band celebrated its 224th gig, playing four years on every monday. Very nice experience, good band and nice people!

    Ms Kimberly Jenkins and Dr Lovejoy.

    Band played bebop and most of the arrangements were by musicians in the band.