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SEA ISLANDS INSTITUTE SUSTAINABILITY RESEARCH PROVIDING KEY ECOLOGICAL DATASea Islands Institute Sustainability Research Initiative providing key ecological data

How do we keep the ecology that drew many of us to this nirvana while continuing to foster growth in the industry that is the financial backbone of the Lowcountry?

It’s a question that Charles Fraser kept at the heart of every decision he made as he worked to transform Hilton Head Island into a resort community beginning in 1955.

Nearly six decades later, the question is more relevant and vital to the region’s future as ever.

SHARKS SHOULD BE ADMIREDWhen shark expert George Burgess heard about the recent shark bite a tourist sustained while wading in knee-deep water on Hilton Head Island, he greeted the news with more of a shrug than a shock.

"Sharks really don’t give a damn about humans, other than that we’re in their waters,” says Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research through the University of Florida. “We’re lousy swimmers, we flop around near the surface, more times than not we’re really white in color, so sharks actually deserve a lot of credit for leaving us alone almost all the time. Considering we don’t make any precautions, we’re treated very well.”

ENCLOSURE AT THE COASTAL DISCOVERY MUSEUM A POPULAR ATTRACTION FOR ALL AGES

butterfliesThe Karen Wertheimer Butterfl y Enclosure at the Coastal Discovery Museum opened in June 2009 and is still a favorite attraction to those that visit Hilton Head Island.

The screened structure is 1,200 square feet, surrounded by countless plants and features pilings sizable enough to secure it during a hurricane.

A variety of nectar plants to feed adult butterflies and many host plants to feed the butterfly larvae are located both inside and outside the enclosure.

Living in the Lowcountry is wonderful, but it comes with challenges. Now that warm weather is here and we’re spending more time in our yards, we are once again dealing with deer, rabbits, mosquitoes, moles and other critters.

critters

The Lowountry has its challenges, but just today I had a customer inform me that “The grass isn’t always greener somewhere else.” He has a home in Virginia and he has a family of deer that eat very well at that home also.

With that being said, we are in a constant search for ways to repel these unwanted guests.

web-coyotes
If you believe the tales, coyotes are everywhere on Hilton Head Island. Until five years, it was mostly urban legend and many cases of mistaken identity. But a funny thing happened among all the storytelling. Coyotes literally made their way down U.S. 278 and on to the island. While we are far from an outbreak situation, experts caution that the migratory predator is here to stay, like it or not.

TABLETOP FOUNTAINS, GARDEN ART, DECORATIVE PLANTERS HIGHLIGHT 2014 GARDEN TRENDS

gardenmay17Gardeners have known for centuries that their pastime has a calming and -- forgive the pun -- grounding effect. Now, science confi rms what we already know on a subliminal level.

Researchers have reported in the journal Neuroscience that contact with a bacteria in soil triggers the release of serotonin in our brains, which improves mood and learning. We’re naturally wired to want more time in the garden – to “play” in the dirt – and to bring plants inside our homes and offices to reduce stress and anxiety. The biggest trends in gardening for 2014 involve the evolution of our outdoor spaces as we spend more of our leisure time outdoors, and bring more live plants indoors.

BEAUTIFUL TREES AND PLANTS, FLOWERS IN A RIOT OF COLORS, STONE WALKWAYS AND PERGOLAS AWAIT THE VISITORS WHO TAKE PART IN GARDEN TOURS THIS MONTH IN HILTON HEAD ISLAND AND SUN CITY IN BLUFFTON.

gardenmay14For those of an historic persuasion, there will be a tea in Old Town Bluffton with scones and desserts and a fashion show of vintage dresses dating back to the 1800s.

The Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, which is putting on the tea, is considering adding a garden tour next year to its repertoire of walking historic tours.

The 27th annual All Saints Garden Tour, the granddaddy of the garden tours sponsored by All Saints Episcopal Church, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 17, and has the theme of “A Potpourri of Gardens.” It will feature seven home gardens and the gardens of Hilton Head Island High School.

WHAT ANIMAL HAS 10 EYES, TELLS TIME WITH ITS TAIL, CHEWS WITH ITS LEGS AND IS 445 MILLION YEARS OLD?

crabhorsesIf you guessed a horseshoe crab you are correct! The American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) is an amazing creature that can be found in our coastal waters and sometimes on our beaches. The horseshoe crab is not a true crab like a blue crab or ghost crab. Although it is related to true crabs, the horseshoe crab is surprisingly even more closely related to spiders and scorpions.

The horseshoe crab spends most of its time moving along the ocean floor like a small tank, eating shellfish, worms and dead and decaying matter. Ten walking legs, a mouth, two chelicera (appendage use for placing food in their mouth), and book gills, are located on the underside of the horseshoe crab. They are protected by a hard exoskeleton.

Sea Turtle Protection Project monitors Hilton Head’s endangered reptiles

greenhhi10Loggerhead sea turtles emerge from the ocean onto Hilton Head beaches every year in May to lay their eggs. Last year, 339 sea turtle nests broke the previous record for Hilton Head Island set in 2011 (324 nests).

It is a rare sight to see a 400-pound sea turtle lumber up the beach on fins designed to push her gracefully through the water.

It happens at dusk and into the night. Under the cover of darkness, the female loggerhead avoids predators and baking in the summer sun; her cold-blooded, reptilian nature does not allow her to regulate her own body temperature. Her approach, the dig, the egg laying, the disguise, and the return can take anywhere between 2 to 4 hours depending on the tide and obstacles on the beach.

greenhhi5Residents fresh from the Midwest get in their minds that a green, manicured lawn is healthy, but the native plants are so much better.

For decades, Hilton Head Island has proudly proclaimed its “green” creds, pointing to its development rules that preserve trees, programs to set aside acres of green space throughout the island and efforts to protect sea turtles.

In the meantime, other communities have eagerly and aggressively climbed about the ecotourism bandwagon.