March 24, 2020

IE22: Bat Exclusion, Mangrove Mitigation, and More

Brett Berube, Tom Pride



    On this episode of Inside Engineering, we trek over to Lakeland, Florida, to talk with Brett Berube and Tom Pride from our Tampa office about some real serious problems, namely bats and how they make sure bats are safely and effectively excluded from project sites before work begins. Also, if you haven't yet subscribed to the show, do it now if you'll like the content that we're putting out. We're on Apple, Spotify, Google, YouTube, Stitcher more. Do it. Subscribe Inside Engineering starts right now.
    Inside Engineering, untold stories and
    fascinating people from the world of civil engineering. This is Episode 22, recorded in February 2020 Bat Exclusions and Natural Resources with Brett Berube and Tom Pride. Inside Engineering is an RK&K podcast. Learn more at Welcome back to another episode of Inside Engineering. We are once again not in Baltimore, where this is part of our South Florida road trip. We are in Lakeland. Well, not this isn't really south Florida. Central central, central Florida. Oh, yeah. I see. I'm not going to start over, but I screwed up already. That's OK. We're here for you guys. A forgiving bunch, right? We're from Tampa and the university there, South Florida University. OK. So we're good. So welcome back to another episode Inside Engineering part of our Florida tour. We started in South Florida. Now more in central Florida in in our Lakeland office. And with me today are Tom Pride sitting here to my left. Tom, thank you for joining us. You bet. We're glad you could make it. And on the end. Brett Berube Brett, thanks for taking the time out. Also, you have you have an injury to your to your foot, so I'm glad we got you a chair. Yeah, better than a stool. What do you want to tell the story? Just a softball injury. I've sprained an ankle. I feel your pain. I really do. I have a bad ankles I just a step on a sidewalk crack. Anyway, nobody wants to hear this. They want to get to the stuff we're talk about today. We're going to let first let Tom and Brett sort of talk about what they do. And then we're gonna get into an interesting project that has something to do with bats. And you guys are going to break it down for us. But, Tom, why don't we first start by you telling us what you do here at RK&K and and then you can throw it over to Brett and, you know, sort of you guys can say what your sort of going to talk about. So long as it's not a softball. It is not. No throwing softballs today. Sure. Well, yeah. Thanks for having us here today. Glad to be here. So Brett and I both are all things natural resources here in Florida. My background is biology from Tennessee. I grew up in the temperate hardwoods in the mountains up there, but twenty six years ago or so, I transplanted to Florida. Like a lot of other folks have and I've been doing sort of a jack of all trades ever since then. Down here, everything from sea grass and coastal type issues, marshes, mitigation, impact assessments to upland Florida. And, you know, Florida has a lot of different types of habitats, upland habitats. And we do a lot of work in that, too, and permitting do a lot of permitting for our clients, chiefly transportation and a smattering of other types of commercial type clients, utilities, pipelines, that sort of thing. And do a lot of NEPA work again for all client types. They're here in Florida. They're called PD&Es. The NEPA phase, but we do those assessments and and generally just have a lot of fun doing it. So a lot of folks in the company are very familiar with Pete Stafford up in Raleigh. So we'd like to think we're the Pete Stafford of Florida. So nice. We had him on a couple weeks ago. Yeah. So. So we know Pete well and certainly appreciate working with him. Absolutely. Yeah. Nice. All right, Brett. Well, I think Tom did a pretty good job of summarizing everything that we do. So I guess I'll start. I have a background in animal biology, focusing in evolution and physiology from the university, south Florida. Born and raised. Still live in Florida. Tampa area. Yeah, I do. Pretty much whatever Tom doesn't want to do. Which is in July and August pretty much anything outside. That's that's known as delegation. Yeah, exactly. And I do more more GIS stuff. And not just for natural resources, but for cultural resources, historic engineering. Pretty much anyone in our Lakeland and Tampa offices that needs something done in the world of GIS. Nice. Very good. All right. So we're going to talk about a a bat exclusion project. So, I mean, we we had Ryan Lieberher on back a couple of months ago and he talked a little bit about bats and what he does with that. We talked a little bit about exclusion. But I think this is gonna be exciting cause we're really going to look at a specific project and and how it was handled. So maybe we get to maybe give us an overview of it and then we can talk about that kind of a challenge that there was in how we came away with a solution that works. Sure. Yeah, that's great. You guys can tag team it however you want. Absolutely. Back and forth, you know, cause that's what it's all about here. Yeah. Yeah. What was it about a year ago we got a call from District 1 DOT. A little more than you're going to cause it was a late November. Yeah. 2018. That's right. They asked if we did bat exclusions and without blinking an eye I said sure. Thinking it. Might have been a culvert or something, they had a couple of bats. Well, it turned out to be the two thousand foot long, long boat pass bridge, which is the bridge between Anna-Marie Island. And Longboat Key. And Longboat Key. So just a small bridge. Is a small bridge. It's a bascule bridge. Drawbridge. OK. Very old bridge in the coastal environment. A lot of corrosion. And they're always having to do a lot of repairs on it. All right. And the long story short, there is a colony of free tailed bats living in the bridge. And the free tailed bad is the most common bat in North America. A lot of people have heard about the bats in Texas and living in the bridges and bracken cave. They're the same species here and they're very common throughout the southern U.S. especially. And they, for whatever reason, love to take up residence in the expansion joints of bridges. Not every bridge has bats, but they seem to have a few favorites are actually several favorites in this one being one of them. They have a lot of repairs that, this is February 2020, that are going on right now. Started a few months ago. And before they could start those repairs, the bats that were living in the bridge needed to be excluded from the bridge so that they would not come to harm during the hard core rehabilitation work that's going on. And there's their state laws here in Florida. Just about every state has laws protecting these bats. They're not listed. As I said, they're very common. But nevertheless, you can't just go out and and wipe them out and, you know, incidental take as it's called, or take of of the species. So we try to protect the wildlife here in Florida as best we can. And so following the rules with respect to exclusion is is the rules we play by. And. And I'll let Brett talk a little bit about the technicalities of what we did and how we did it. Sure we're going to get into that already here. All right. Well, you know, the exclusion seems like a simple enough process. You know, the idea is you install these these devices. And FWC, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has several methodologies that they reference from national and state bat groups. And pretty much they all come down to using a tube or some sort of plastic to put into a crevice that bats are inhabiting. They can get out of, but they can't crawl back up because it's too smooth. And you put them in such an angle so that they can't like army crawl their way back up. So and then in the rest of the gap, you put some sort of mesh or expanding foam to keep them from getting into other places where you don't have the tubes. So it seemed like it was pretty simple, but most of those methodologies are designed for buildings or houses. So we had to adapt it for a bridge with concrete expansion joints. So what about a house would make it easier to do that on? Well, your house, it's a lot easier to fix something to wood than it is to concrete. Like our panels go out there and just hold them in place with caulk, which normally would stick to like wood or or like a blockhouse,. Something that wouldn't wouldn't necessarily do damage that you could later remove once the bats are excluded. Right. I see. OK, so the what we had to be the most adaptive with was how to fix these tubes into place and have them secure enough that the bats wouldn't be able to just push them off. Without you know without screwing them into the concrete And we were we were very quick early in the project to reach out to to Ryan up in Harrisburg. Ryan Lieberher, who's done a lot of bat work as we know. And and we actually invited him down for a few days at the beginning of the project. And he helped us,
    you know, think about the best ways to to
    approach this project from from a logistical standpoint, how to do it within budget and and protect the public also. This there is a public beach right there. We've got a great photo of Ryan up on a ladder. And a lot of sunbathers were, you know, just looking up at him. It's it's just right there. Just, you know, it's right there. So we had a lot of fun with Ryan. He taught us a lot on on how to approach this thing. We're very thankful to him for that. The the working conditions under there, you're very physical. You're you're laying there literally laying on a bent, bent cap on your back, looking up into these crevices. It does what, like caving on an old or from from way back to a lot of cave exploring and. A lot of bat work when I was in graduate school in Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky, so I was very comfortable with the concept. But but I think what was unique about this one was the number of bents that were overwater. So you tell them about bucket boats? Yeah. So that was another another issue because, you know, we, uh, we figured we can get all the bents over land with a couple ladders. But something else that Ryan helped us out with, I believe, was he told us about this Harcon bucket boats. And they're basically just a a boat with a cherry picker on it. It's got a it's got a lift in a basket for a worker to work in. And they they have pontoons on them. Stabilization. Right. Yeah. And they can straddle the the columns under the bent so current won't pull them away. And that was that was the best way to get to the bends over water because we weren't allowed to use a snooper truck. Right. DOT didn't want it closed down. They didn't do want to do that here, right. Yeah. There's only a two lane bridge and it was the middle of the season. Okay. All right. Interesting. So you can't you can't shut down traffic on the bridge. So you've got to get through it from below. But there's water. All right. All right. So the key to this project and it was highly successful, I believe the DOT seem to be very happy with it was I think the key was all the planning that went into and all the questions we asked both of Ryan and other folks. And then just properly planning, Steve Young helped us out a lot with the safety aspects. We took all the online training for being up on ladders, working from a bucket that worked in over water, working over water. So a zero incident as far as safety goes there. And, you know, that's always key. So I think that's number one. And and it worked out very well. So many thanks to to everyone who helped out with that. The project came in a good bit under budget. We were very pleased with that, as was DOT. And I think we excluded somewhere between eight hundred and twelve hundred bats that we know that were there. So those bats go off and find another home elsewhere. And the bridge is being repaired today. So, yeah, very successful project. Sure. How did you know that all the bats had actually been excluded? Huh? Okay. So we when we began the project, we got pretty lucky. You know, we well, lucky we, uh, we didn't see any bats in the first few bats we inspected. And we started forming these theories that, you know, they're they're called the Brazilian and Mexican free tailed bat. So maybe during the winter months, they migrate south to Mexico and Brazil.
    But we got I
    think it was the first day with a bucket boat and it was the second expansion joint that we checked and it had probably about 400 bats in it. And. And how help me here. How roughly how big are these bats each? They're smaller than these cups. OK. Yeah. Yeah, about two thirds the size of the cup. OK. So three to four inches. Yeah. They got a really long tail and you know, they've lost. OK. freetail bat, for example. OK. Oh yeah. Their bodies probably about two to three inches. OK. So hundreds of them. And so there's an expansion. How big is this expansion? I'm trying to. I'm trying to figure out the logistics of how many how that many bats got into one space. Like how big is is there like a cavity up within the space or is the joint just wide enough and long enough that that many can fit. The ladder. Or the ladder. Anywhere from a half inch on up to an inch and a half, almost two inches. They'll fit in quite nicely. Seems to be their preferred. It is possible to have too wide of a joint and That wasn't the issue. And actually it wasn't the joints were too wide. It's just they were wide. That's perfect. The brown to keep the sun out. Keep the rain out. Right. And so they just crammed themselves up. they cramed themselves up in there. Across the whole two lanes of the. Is that the idea? They're in clusters. Various places. You know, it's kind of hard to predict exactly where they'll be, but there's certainly a lot of evidence of where they are with the guano, where a staining. And you can hear them. Yeah. You know, so. OK. So sorry. I jumped in. I start. See you right. You're in there. You're 400 bats. And we were. And the question was, how did they how do we know that the bats were excluded? Correct. Right. OK. So we installed our exclusion devices on the the joints that had the bats in them. And the methodology or FWC requires you to wait for nights with temperatures not going below 50 degrees. So once we had our devices installed for four nights and, you know, termperatures didn't drop. Right. We went back with a bucket boat or the ladders or however we needed to access. And we got back on our backs and looked under the joint and check to see if any of the bats were still in there. And if they there were still bats in there, we would install a couple more of our tubes. Help. Maybe they couldn't access the one we got without one coat and then wait another four nights. And I believe by the second time that we checked all of our joints, they were all they're all gone. So you're just checking the joints, but you're looking sort of through the mesh you've installed. Well, we would we would pull it all out. When you take it all down, just look. Check it out. Look it out and shine a light shine. We have a little peeper camera we put up in their just to see if we see or hear anything. And if it's clear, then you were leaving the exclusion devices in place, we. Well, we would remove all the exclusion devices and we would replace it with either our wire mesh or expanding foam. Got it. So you get them all out and then and then essentially close it off. Right. Tom likes to say change the locks on. Change the locks on. They come home. They went out to dinner and they come back. Alright. OK. Wow. That's all right. So what else about this project kind of stood out to you. Is there anything. It was there a part that you enjoyed the most? Or. I don't know. I just I feel like I want to know everything about this. What did we. What did we enjoy the most? I I think I enjoyed operating the bucket boat. I've never operated a piece of machinery like that. And it was. And he was very good at it. Yeah, it was. It was. Yeah. It was fun to get a handle on it and figure out exactly how you had to move it and the way that it was. The boat itself was part. So how you had to maneuver the basket around the bridge pilings. Interesting. Now it's there's definitely there's a there's a challenge there that's kind of unique to this kind of work, you know, having to make sure the boat doesn't drift away. So
    this is this is a project where you were trying
    to exclude bats after a bridge was built. Are bridges? I don't know the answer to this question. So our bridges, when they're now being designed and constructed, are they taking this into consideration in advance? Well, like in terms of keeping bats, making sure bats don't get into them so that they don't need to be excluded. They're just excluded from the get go. Right. Not really, although they are starting to look at that for other critters like pigeons, because, you know, the pigeons and other roosting birds can cause a lot of issues, you know, with with bats and or with bridges. You know, the guano and everything. But it's it's difficult to I mean, there there are things you can do to put in from the get go for to exclude bats. But bats don't inhabit the majority of bridges, they just just actually a small fraction of them. So it's not really a problem that that needs fixing. Got it oK. So it's a rare occurrence that just needs to be addressed. Statistically rare. Right. I mean, there's you know, there's several bridges out there with bats, but it's not a big issue. We are starting a project in a few weeks down for the city of or excuse me, Sarasota County. There's a bridge down there with a lot of free tailed bats in it. And they're they're doing some rehabilitation work on the bridge. Similar story. Not much of the bridge is over water, but.
    They did ask us to, if we could develop
    a way to permanently keep the bats out and you know, we're working on that. You know, nothing is permanent. You might last a few years. And, you know, so we're we're kind of putting our our brains together, trying to come up with some ideas for a more permanent fix there without affecting the integrity of the bridge. I was going to say it's an expansion joint for a reason. An expansion has to expand and contract with the temperatures. So any kind of device has to be worked into that. And then you're looking at expenses and stuff. So again, it's not really a problem that has to be fixed. OK. Interesting. Yeah.
    You guys are also working on a sort of
    switch gears here for a second, because unless there's something else about the bats that you want to hit on. . FDOT was the one that recommended us for that Sarasota County Bridge. Right. Right. I'll see you got here. OK, so you got a reference from from FDOT for the project we just talked about in order to this this one in Sarasota County. Yeah. That's nice. Yeah. And we did a, uh. It was supposed to be about exclusion, but it was just sort of like a bridge inspection. It turned out to be a bridge inspection on another bridge, the Addison Bridge down in Fort Myers Right over the river there. That's a even a larger bridge than than the long boat pass. And spent a couple of nights down there in a snooper truck. But there were no bats. You know, we were allowed to close down lanes on that one, but it had to be night work. OK. And FDOT had been told that bats inhabited the bridge, but when we got there and we were talking about this earlier, the size of the gaps, the size of the expansion joints on that bridge were probably 8 to 12 inches wide. And I noticed it because I did some reconnaissance down there before we started and accepted the job. And it's a there's a northbound bridge and a southbound bridge. And we were working on the northbound bridge. And when I was doing my recon, I drove the southbound bridge and looked at the the northbound bridge from the other side. And I could see all the way through all the expansion joints. I'm thinking myself, man, those those are really wide they let in a lot of light. And I got down there a few nights later and I could stand up inside of them. And just too big for the bats right there or anything. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. OK. But that's I mean, that's a valuable service. I mean, you know, we're able to go down there and and assure the client that I say we RK&K. But if you're out of an opportunity to go down. You know, it's exciting. That's really cool. You guys have also been doing some stuff with mangrove mitigation. Am I right? That's correct. Can you tell? I don't I don't know what that means. You don't have to tell me you know, I know mitigation. That is the mangroves. I get that. But tell me about it. Right. Several species of mangroves here in Florida and throughout all tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Just about. And, you know, they're a coastal swamp species, estuarine habitats like we have around Tampa Bay. FDOT District 7 has a lot of bridge projects going on right now and coastal roadway projects that every now and then they nich a little bit of of mangrove habitat. And of course, that's protected. It's a wetland type habitat. So that's covered by all the the mitigation rules and avoidance and minimisation rules under the Clean Water Act and permitting and state and federal permitting. Long story short is they need they're constantly needing a supply of credit for for mitigation of these unavoidable impacts when they occur. The problem is there are no commercial or private mitigation banks in the area that currently have credits for mangroves. So about a year and a half ago, District 7 approached us and said, hey, you know, we need we we need mangrove credits. Go go forth and find.So we did have done some mitigation projects in the past. Mangrove projects in the past and a former lifetime. And and so the permits person districts 7 approached and said, what are your ideas? So Brett and I put our heads together. We scoured the countryside here or near the coastal side, and we came up with some options. And the long story short, the option that was accepted by the DOT. is areas within their existing right of way that currently have a heavy cover of exotic species of exotic vegetation down here in Florida that the DOT and others literally spends millions of dollars on every year trying to eradicate. So we had the idea, gee, if we lower these elevations, excavate these areas because they're right next to the bay and bring the the tide in so that there is a daily tidal fluctuation and get the grade right, get to put the proper plants in there, we can develop a mangrove swamp. And so that's exactly what we've designed. It was important to do it within the D.O.T. right away because acquiring land and going out and buying land to do this type of work is extremely expensive. If you can imagine the cost of excuse me, of coastal properties. Sure. Sure. And, you know, developers buy it up whenever they can and then to buy it from a developer is just prohibitively expensive. So anywhere in the D.O.T. right away that they can do their own mitigation is is preferred. So that's what we did. Joe Baan here out of the Lakeland office, was our engineer of record on that. And he was very instrumental and in making sure all the engineering was correct and everything and a lot of coordination with the county, the city over there and of course, the D.O.T. and the final plans were just submitted a few days ago to the D.O.T. and it's going to construction in June. Shout out to Daniel Vasquez, the designer that gave life to our our designs. Right. He was our cat operator. So wait, you know, it's quite a it's like a 78, 79 page construction plan set. So it's it's no small feat. Wow. How long will that take? How long will construction is a plan to take? We're estimating about six months, I believe. Or four to six months. Yeah. Six months. And then how long after that? Until sort of the ecosystem is high and thriving. Yeah. Yeah. So it takes time. At that point it's pretty much up to God. Wow. That's nice here. We're looking for a right to to put quantities to that it. The mangroves will come in and actually establish themselves naturally. There's very plantings of mangroves. We do plant a lot of spartina in there to act as a as a seed trap or a seed filter. So there's millions of seeds out there from, you know, adjacent mangroves. Those seeds get washed in, trapped by the spartina plannings that we have. They take root. Eventually they grow up and they they overtake the spartina and then you've got a mangrove forests. So you're looking at two to three years for initial establishment of some good coverage of the seedlings and then probably 8 to 12 years for a maturing of the mangroves. The credits, and we worked out of a rather unique credit generation method with the water management district in the core. And proposed something pretty innovative there. Yeah, I only worked it out. Yeah, it was really cool. Where where the we didn't ask for the credits upfront, which is typically the way it's done. But if you do that, you have to apply a risk factor that severely erodes the amount of credits that you get. And we wanted to maximize the potential credit availability to the D.O.T. So the idea was we're not going to ask for credits until the D.O.T. actually needs them for specific projects. So if the D.O.T. needs credits, let's say, six years from now for a project. Well, those mangroves should be several feet tall by then. And it can be seen that they're nice and healthy. Fingers crossed that they are at that. Right. And and they'll they will be evaluated at that point. And then the value, the ecological value or credit value will be assigned by the agencies at that time. And theoretically, it will be higher because there's less of a risk. Right. They're already established already for the. Right now there's a risk of it. They're not taking or not working, essentially. Right. That's it. That that is an innovative approach. That's interesting. Yeah, that's a good idea. Yeah.
    How so in terms of the
    the exotic species that's there now that we're trying to get rid of is it literally just ripping that all out? How are you ensuring that it's not going to take back over? They are very much
    salt and and elevation
    specific. So the species that are there, the main one is Brazilian pepper, followed by Australian pines. Neither can survive, inundated with saltwater. So you get them out. You lower the grades to where the tide comes in twice a day. And that assures that they will not be there. Okay. And a part of the mitigation plan of D.O.T. is going to has to maintain the sites in perpetuity and that'll involve them going out and making sure that no invasives are popping up anywhere. Got it in it. Yeah. And given that they haven't received their credits yet, it seems even more of an incentive to make sure that it thrives. Yeah, that's right. So that's a that's a good partnership between the client. And does it seem it seems like a good a good way to do it. That's right. This is this project is part of what's called the TB next project. It's a huge of over a billion dollar, well over a billion dollar project, multi-year project that that is improving the interstate connection system throughout central Tampa area and surrounding areas like St. Pete Clearwater. So it's, uh, it's pretty exciting. That's really cool. We also do you guys do a lot of stuff with seagrass as well. Am I right? Oh, we do. I've heard rumors. We talk to Pete. You know, a couple of weeks ago and obviously a lot about sea grass and and a one specific product project, you know, which is still in progress. So, you know, we're we're kind of light on details on some of that. But what. Tell me about seagrass and what you guys do. A lot of sea grasses here in the Bay Area. We've got a three, three species, right. Right. Okay. So there's not even one seagrass. There's multiple kinds of seagrass. Multiple three or four species right here in the Bay Area. And it's
    a huge success story for the bay.
    Thirty years ago, when I close to when I moved here, there were the seagrass coverage was much reduced compared to what it is now, water quality improvements, especially with improvements in the infrastructure for sewage and wastewater handling in the area. In other words, they're no longer no longer dumping raw sewage every day into the bay like they did 40 years ago. And so seagrass has really rebounded, but it's kind of plateaued. And, you know, one of the major threats to seagrass is now, of course, is just development. And while a lot of permitting rules very much restricts that. But again, the D.O.T., when they're building a bridge, approaches causeways, that sort of thing, there are unavoidable impacts to seagrass. So here again, both District 1 and District 7 are continually in need of seagrass mitigation. There are no seagrass mitigation banks currently. There's one in the process of being permitted. But there they're always looking for the next source of credits. And it's it's it's very problematic to mitigate on a project by project basis. The D.O.T. seagrass mitigation is not easy. And I think people in Raleigh will agree on that. It's very labor intensive. It's very expensive. Nothing about it is is is cheap. So we're with that in mind, we look to get the biggest bang for the buck. How much credit per acre, which which equates to dollars per credit. And so that's you know, that's our focus as we look. I've been dealing with seagrass now for close to 30 years. And and one of the more cost effective ways, although still very expensive ways of doing it down here is filling dredge holes. There there's a lot of dredge holes in the Bay Area, places where developers and even the D.O.T. back decades ago dug out these big holes in the bay to use the sediment for fill up landfills to raise the elevation or roads and and causeways and developments. And if these these areas were excavated in areas of really nice seagrass historical areas. So the idea being if you fill it back in to the historical elevation and there is immediately adjacent seagrasses, they will naturally recolonise. And that's been proven successful on on several occasions. Again, it's not cheap and it's not a it's not a preferred method, but it's sort of the best bang for the buck right now. And that's actually been done not just in the Bay Area, but down in Miami and several other places also. And so we've we've developed some concepts. Brett has gone out and done some surveys, looked at several dredge holes and that sort of thing. And and we've got some recommendations that have been made to the D.O.T. They they'll eventually they'll run with them as as far as authorizing the design and eventual construction. So how deep are these dredge holes? I mean, on average, I don't know if they vary, but. Anywhere from eight to 15 feet deep. OK. And the grass just won't grow down. That means and they needs a. Its very sunlight sensitive. OK. So it really has to be a certain distance from the surface of the water. That is one of the first things I see. OK. So once you go down and there it just two does not happen. Right. And these these holes, they they act as a trap for for muck and flocculants. And so it's just all kinds of nasty down there. And the seagrasses. It's just not a suitable habitat for them.
    And so where do you have
    to fill that with similar type of sediment? Where are you getting that from? Like. Are we like playing the cup game take it from this hole to fill in this hole...
    You have to rob Peter to pay?
    That's right. Yeah. OK. So you are some sort of.
    Maybe not taking from his deep from somewhere
    else. Well, you know. Right. You can't excavate it from elsewhere within the bay. That's gotta be a permitting nightmare, right? OK. So it comes from some upline source somewhere. And that usually the contractor has to find that. So the contractor, when he bids on the job. He's got to know his sources and then somehow get it there via truck or barge or. OK. However, so you can see the dollar signs adding up. Yeah, absolutely. Well, yeah, that's it's cool. I mean, it's it's like you're putting things back the way they should be. Well, you know, that's it. It is a habitat restoration type of project. It is. And it it's kind of exciting to to see and especially when they're successful. And you know, you can go on to Google Earth and look at what you've done throughout your career. I did that today. We did this. We did so. Well, speaking of your career. Was a great, great segue, by the way. Well done. Tell us about how you — we'll start with you, Tom, and then you Brett, how you kind of got to where you are in your career. Oh, boy. How did how did I get here? We've got we've got about ten minutes, OK? I think I think my never saying no. Take advantage of every opportunity. When I first started in in the mid eighties, there was a little bit of a recession going on. The environmental and or the ecological side of the industry was was not what it is today was wasn't hot, but that that buzz word, superfund sites and hazardous waste was very hot back then. And somehow I got stuck in there, haz waste industry right out of right out of school. And it was not very appealing. You know, I had to wear the Tyvek suit and stand behind a drill rig and count blow counts. But I did it because there was not much else to do. But I sure learned a lot. And, you know, I I feel a kinship with my geotech brethren. Now, you know, after having served those years, but that, you know, just staying in it and always volunteering for that next job and and never saying no to going someplace. Learning something new. Meeting new people, I think got me to where I am today and and, you know, sort of made me a jack of all trades. So nice. Yeah. You got a tool belt that's filled with lots of different tools. Yeah. What's something you wish you had known earlier on in your career? Oh, boy. How to listen more attentively. And I you know, when you're when you're young or at least when I was young, I would think I was listening to a client or a coworker and and thinking I immediately knew the answer. Well, you know, as you get older, you realize maybe I should listen a little bit more carefully and maybe I should think a few moments longer before providing an answer, you know, and coming up with a with a with a better answer than I would have just off the cuff. So take the time to listen. Listen well and and take your time in responding. Nice. That's great. Great advice for anyone listening or watching. Yeah. Good stuff. All right. Brett, you went through you went there a little bit of your education earlier. I did. Tell us how you got to where we are. So while I was in college, I had an internship and another engineering company. Over the summer and winter breaks. Got some experience there doing CAD, GIS, field work for for other mitigation sites. And some water quality for various rivers throughout Florida. And then when I graduated, I started I got a job at a company doing gopher tortoise surveys and excavations. And in that experience, I was able to get permitted as a gopher tortoise agent through the, uh, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Alright hold on. You're gonna have to explain this as a what? A what agent? So. They call themselves gofer tourtois agents. It's a gopher. Gopher tortoise. Gopher tortoise. Yeah. They're like literally a gopher like the animal. Actually. You all. Yeah,. But it's a tortoise. It's a tortoise. It's a type of tortoise called the gopher tortoise. Right. For like the animal. But it's a tree but it's a tortoise. It digs holes. It digs holes. It takes all it's related to the desert tortoise out in Texas I had no idea this exits. All right. I've I've learned something. So I'll be all right. So gopher. All right. Start that part again. Okay. So that experience allowed me to get registered and permitted as a gopher tortoise agent,. Which means? So the Gulf tortoise as a state protected species. OK. And their burrows are particularly protected because they provide habitat to hundreds of other species. And in Florida, you're not allowed to have earth impacts within 25 feet of a burrow. OK. So. For tours, agents are people that are permitted who have had either enough experience or training that can identify gooher tourtoises burrows know the survey methodology and can positively I.D. one as either potentially occupied or abandoned. Got it. And in excavator, right? Yeah. And then and there's two different types of permits for excavation. I have the one for bucket trapping in hand shovel. And then there's another one for mechanical excavation, which is where you're watching someone with an excavator dig out this tortoise. Got it. Wow. OK, so that . OK. So I'll let you. Are you still. I'm still. I still hold that. OK wow And it's funny because it's actually on a it's on the FWC public website. So probably at least once a month, I'll get a call from someone in the area because they can see where I live and they see that I'm a gopher toirtoise agent. And FWC says, hey, call these people if you have a gopher tortoise. And usually that's just as simple as well, you can't move the tortoise without paying for it unless you move it to your front lawn. And then you have to have a special reason for needing to move it. Because because landowners can can move the tortoises, the FWC is recently allowed that, but they can only move it to their front lawn or a fenced area away from where the problem is currently being caused. Like if they're digging underneath their home or if they have a dog that's harassing them. Interesting. Wow. I there's the whole world of gopher tortoises that I did not know existed, and now I know. All right. So is there anything you wish you'd known earlier in your career? Well, I'm still I'm still pretty early in my career. I wish when I started or when I'd been in school that I'd taken more plant or soil classes. I only took one botany class and school was only one offered to undergraduates. And there I don't think there are any soil, classes, soil. Both of those are very important in wetland delineations. Mm hmm. And I think what have given me just one more strong tool to use earlier on in my career rather than having to work to build it up late throughout my career. Indeed. Indeed. Well, so if you're if you're listening or watching now and have an interest in wetlands, take those soil classes. Absolutely. Is there anything we haven't talked about that you guys want to mention real quick before we, uh, we move into the final segment? Right. You guys are good? OK. Yeah. All right. Now, did you get the thing about the pick of the week? Wow. So it looks like Brett is going to go first. Well, OK, here. Here we go. Several years ago, my wife and I went to New Zealand. And if you ever if you're an outdoorsy person, if it if you love the outdoors, your life will not be complete until you go to New Zealand. And that was that was 13 years ago. We went and we we still dream about it and we still think about it. We spent three weeks on the South Island, and. I'm imagining it right now. Yeah,. In my mind. Yeah. The beauty. You know it. I don't know why I just started out, but that's the first thing that popped into my head. Right. It's probably not a day goes by that I don't think of New Zealand. Wow. And and just how wonderful it was. I'm almost scared to go back because you know how things are. They're never. Right. The same the second time. So maybe I can, you know, leave the good memories right there. But if you're a natural resource person, save your money. Do it. Nice. That's a great pick. Well done. All right, Brett. I think I'll stay with the the world travel theme if. Absolutely. When I was in college, I went to South Africa. I was at the advisors, always sending out e-mails like, you know, do this internship and travel the world. And they were very big on international connectivity. So I got one that said a work on a great white shark tourboat. And I grew up loving Shark Week and, you know, looking forward to that every year. So. So I saw that I was like, OK, yeah, look, I'll make this happen. Uh-Huh. Went that down there for one month out of one summer. And you know, in South Africa, it was great. Not just. It was amazing to get into a cage and see these these great white sharks that I've only seen on TV or or in movies before getting to see them up close. You know, they're they say they're only three meters and, you know, it's like 12 feet, but it's still pretty big when you're right in front of them. I'm terrified right now listening to you tell this story. But yeah, I loved everything about South Africa, the food, the. When you were in the cities, you could walk everywhere. The the places to visit. Like we went to vineyards and beer tastings. Cheese tastings. And I made it down to Cape of Gullies, which is the southernmost part of Africa, where you can see the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Wow sweet. Well, guys, I feel
    sort of depressed. You guys like now I want to
    go travel somewhere. Well, my wife like to travel so she would anywhere. Yeah. She she would be on board in a second. So what? All right. Well, that was good. You guys both had good picks. Thank you for coming up with those on the spot. I'm glad Tom went first. Yeah, it was good. it was good. Well, thank you guys both for joining us. Well, thank you. It's been a lot of fun. I think I've learned a lot. So hopefully everyone's learned a lot. And thank you all for watching and listening to another episode Inside Engineering comes out on Tuesdays. And you can check us out at our home at where you can stream on demand both audio and video versions of the podcast and or you can catch us on any podcasting platform where you can subscribe, subscribe. You can also subscribe, but you could also like rate review do all these things also at our website, we have a short survey if you want to give us some feedback. We'd love to hear how we're doing. You can suggest questions that we ask in the future. But we really appreciate you watching and listening. And we'll see you next time on another episode of Inside Engineering.

    Show Notes

    This episode was recorded in early February 2020.

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