Kids Release Striped Newts, Host a Video About It

A hand holding a plant in a garden

Heading out on an Ecoadventure

“Whoa, Mr. Rob!” shouts Olivia, “there are some of those carnivorous plants!” Upon closer inspection, the reddish splotches by our feet are sticky little pink sundews. It’s the kind of moist area plant you might expect just outside an ephemeral wetland. Here in the shadow of a few pines, my son Xavi shows Ryan Means a spider that’s crawling on his hand. We talk plants and animals of the Munson Sandhills as a new batch of striped newts becomes acclimated to the wetland water.

Pink sundew (Drosera capillaris)
Pink sundew (Drosera capillaris)

That process is longer than it had been for previous newt releases, as the Coastal Plains Institute has taken a closer look at water chemistry this year. For instance, they’ve found that there’s less oxygen in the water in the early morning. Today, some of the newts they’re releasing are younger larvae with gills, who will take oxygen from that water. So there’s more testing, and waiting, and slowly adding pond water to the newt bucket.

A little while ago, CPI and their partners, as well as me and my young crew, were standing around in the wetland while the newts acclimated. Well, my crew was squatting in the water and feeling the mud in their fingers. We were mucking up the water, so anyone not working on the acclimation left. The Munson Sandhills is always a fun place for kids to poke around, whether in or out of a wetland. At present, my crew is keeping occupied.

A wolf spider guards its egg sac on blades of grass.
A wolf spider guards its egg sac on blades of grass.

Introducing Olivia, Max (a.k.a Maxolotl), and Xavi

My favorite crew members are those who don’t blink at getting wet or dirty. Today’s crew, in fact, seeks out wet and dirty. That crew is my older son Max and his best friend Olivia (both aged 11), and my younger son Xavi (8). They tell the story of today’s striped newt release through video. Maybe I’m their crew on this shoot.

Today, we’ll talk about CPI’s latest striped newt release, through their perspective and mine.

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Rob Diaz de Villegas is a senior producer for television at WFSU Public Media, covering outdoors and ecology. After years of producing the music program OutLoud, Rob found himself in a salt marsh with a camera, and found a new professional calling as well. That project, the National Science Foundation funded "In the Grass, On the Reef," spawned the award-winning WFSU Ecology Blog. Now in its tenth year, the Ecology Blog recently wrapped its most ambitious endeavor, the EcoCitizen Project.

Rob is married with two young sons, who make a pretty fantastic adventure squad.