» Great American Cleanup: Phillippi Creek bisects Sarasota's wide residential midsection and empties into the Sarasota Bay Estuarine System at Siesta Key. The urban waterway links more than 100 miles of canals. Andy Mele of Suncoast Waterkeeper calls Phillip Creek "beautiful yet challenged." Last year volunteers fished out 600 pounds of trash, "including a TV, fishing line and lures, and a bizarre assortment of garbage," said Mele, who helped organize Saturday's cleanup. The volunteers included Riverview High's Marine Club, Suncoast Waterkeeper, SUP-Sarasota Watersports, South Gate Community Association, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and Sarasota Bay Watch. Phillippi Creek was described by conservationists as a "mini-Everglades" before drainage projects in the 1920s altered the ecosystem as Sarasota expanded. Resilient members of its habitat include osprey, wood stork, white egret, alligators, snook and mullet. "We're very involved with marine debris cleanup," Ronda Ryan of Sarasota Bay Watch said. "We're trying to monitor how much fishing litter is in the river. We will weigh and measure all of that and map it out. We do that on the Bay and on Phillippi Creek, too."
» Photos by The Daily Fray
» Captive breeding may be the last chance to save Florida's grasshopper sparrow, North America's most endangered bird. (Via Audubon)