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.
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Inside Engineering, untold stories and
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This is Episode 22, recorded in
February 2020 Bat Exclusions
and Natural Resources with Brett Berube and Tom
Inside Engineering is an RK&K
podcast. Learn more at
Welcome back to another episode of
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
That's OK. We're here for you guys.
A forgiving bunch, right?
We're from Tampa and the university there, South
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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
from the university, south Florida.
Born and raised. Still live in Florida.
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.
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.
All right. So we're going
to talk about a a bat
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.
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.
just a small bridge.
Is a small bridge.
It's a bascule bridge.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
And how help
me here. How roughly how big are these bats
They're smaller than these cups.
Yeah. Yeah, about two thirds the size of the cup.
OK. So three to four
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
And if it's clear, then you were leaving
the exclusion devices in place,
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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.
Right. I mean, there's you know, there's several
bridges out there with bats, but it's not a big
We are starting a project in a few weeks
down for the city of or excuse me, Sarasota
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
You know, it's exciting.
That's really cool.
You guys have also been doing some stuff with
Am I right?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
How so in terms of the
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
They are very much
salt and and elevation
specific. So the species that are there, the
main one is Brazilian pepper, followed by
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
So how deep are these dredge holes?
I mean, on average, I don't know if they vary,
Anywhere from eight to 15 feet deep.
OK. And the grass just won't grow
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
However, so you can see the dollar signs
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.
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
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
Yeah. You got a tool belt that's filled
with lots of different tools.
What's something you wish you had known earlier
on in your career?
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
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
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.
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
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.
All right. Start that part again.
So that experience allowed me to get
registered and permitted as a gopher tortoise
So the Gulf tortoise as a state protected
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
Both of those are very important in wetland
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.
Well, so if you're if you're listening or
watching now and have an interest in
wetlands, take those soil classes.
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?
You guys are good? OK. Yeah.
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
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.
In my mind.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
I'm terrified right now listening to you tell
But yeah, I loved everything about South Africa,
the food, the.
When you were in the cities, you could walk
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
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.
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
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.
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