Local man strives for wildlife conservation

Bruno Falkenstein is the Godfather of sea turtles.

Since 1979 he has been monitoring the stretch of beach from the Pass-A-Grille jetty to Bunces Pass at Upham Beach. While the times and shoreline have changed drastically since Bruno’s first year on turtle patrol, his routine has not.

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Bruno gets out of bed at around 6:00 every morning from April 1 until Halloween.  He walks his dog and then grabs the keys for his Jeep. He leaves and drives down the beach to search for turtle tracks and check on existing nests.

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In the past few years there has been an increase in sea turtle nests and a rise in interested locals wanting to do their part to conserve the aquatic creatures.   In response to the swell in popularity, Bruno founded Sea Turtle Trackers Inc. The mission of Sea Turtle Trackers Inc. is to ensure a suitable habitat for sea turtles, people and the ecosystem of the islands and their surrounding waters. They also connect with the community and inform residents about what they can do to promote sea turtle conservation.

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There are other organizations in the state that do work similar to the Sea Turtle Trackers. Locally, Clearwater Marine Science Center monitors the Pinellas County beaches north of Bruno’s jurisdiction. Clearwater, however, has incentives for monitoring turtles besides just conservation.

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“The major difference between Clearwater Marine Science Center and myself is that I’m not under contract with Clearwater,” Bruno said.  “And by the way as food for thought, Clearwater gets paid about one hundred and thirty five thousand dollars a year to do Pinellas County beaches.  I won’t accept anything, I don’t want to be paid for anything. To me, it’s a labor of love.”

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In 2009, Bruno was named Florida Citizen of the Year by The Florida Beaches and Shores Association in recognition of his long time commitment to conservation.  As far as what is next for Bruno and the Trackers, he says he is more than content doing what he has done so well for the last 35 years.

 

USF Japanese Club welcomes spring with Haru Matsuri Festival

Spring is a big deal in Japan.  The cherry blossom represents the changing of the season to the people, and Haru Matsuri is the festival that ushers in the warmer weather.

The Japanese Club at USF puts on its own version of Haru Matsuri to educate students more about the culture.

Lisa Ton is one of the senior members.

“Here, we celebrate spring by presenting our own spring festival,” Ton said. “We have Japanese food, games and performances, and we just try to bring a slice of Japanese spring to USF.”

The club features organizations such as the USF Judo and Aikido clubs at the festival. They also provide experts to talk about traditional and new art forms, dances, cuisines and practices that are emerging in Japan.

One of these experts is Seth Cole, a collector of Japanese War memorabilia from World War II.

“I love sharing history of people,” Cole said. “I believe when you can touch history hands-on, it reinforces the stories of our grandfathers. It makes it a little more real.”

Even as a non-Japanese member of the club, Cole has felt more than welcome every time he presents his collection or attends a meeting.

“I’ve been welcomed with open arms and have made some truly incredible friendships,” he said.

Japanese Club festivals like Haru Matsuri build a bridge for students to learn about a culture that may be very far and foreign for them.  It also provides a forum for Japanese students to interact with and relate to students of different cultures.

Tampa Bay Jazz Association reaches out to community

Dwayne White is the education and scholarship director for the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association. He has held the position for the last several years, but jazz has been an integral part of his life since he was a child.

“I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana,” White said. “The music is just in the air.”

When he moved to Tampa, he wanted to stay involved in the music. Joining the Al Downing association gave White more than just the opportunity to keep playing his horn.

“We support jazz; we educate people about the music. We just broaden people’s knowledge and appreciation for the music,” White said.

Learning from and listening to the pros playing jazz when he was a boy fostered White’s deep-rooted love for music. Today, he still recognizes the importance of introducing young people to professional musicians.

“We have something called the Jazz in Schools program where we go into elementary, middle and high schools and we bring live jazz musicians into the classroom setting,” White said.

White believes the state of jazz is strong in the Tampa area. He hopes the freedom of expression in jazz will keep the genre alive forever.

Video: High school hockey garnering support around Tampa Bay

Ice hockey has become one of the fastest growing high school sports in the Tampa Bay area.

There are 12 teams in the Florida High School Hockey Association’s Lightning Conference, which includes schools from across the region.

Ed de la Paz, president of the conference, attributes much of its recent success to the support of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

“The Lightning have been wonderful,” de la Paz said. “(They’re) really giving us that hockey perspective.”

Dan Bubley, head coach at Steinbrenner High in Lutz, which competes in the Lightning Conference, has been coaching in Florida for more than 12 years.

At first, Bubley said, it was difficult to find players.

“We used to have to go and drive around the Northdale area to find kids who skated on rollerblades,” he said.

Things have improved. Bubley predicted they will have up to 50 kids trying out for one team before the season starts.

“With all due respect, I think you have to recognize what we are: a non-traditional sport in a sunshine state,” Bubley said.

Bubley said he believes the next step is for the sport to become sanctioned, or “soft sanctioned,” as he put it, by the Florida High School Athletic Association, which sets the guidelines as the governing body for high school sports in the state.

For game times and more information about the FHSHA, visit fhsha.goalline.ca. Select games are also televised on Bright House Sports Network, Ch. 47.