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Arthur R. Marshall Alligator Hunt 2013

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A 12-foot alligator, nicknamed George by the community, floats motionlessly in the cool and tranquil marsh water of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

Little does George know, if he paddles his scaly body just south, he could wind up in the heart of the first alligator hunt at the Boynton Beach refuge.
Though the plan is still waiting final approval from the wildlife director’s office, controversy on the alligator hunt still thrives in the environmental and outdoorsman community.
“The first thing you have to know is that man is a part of nature,” said Newton Cook,executive director of United Waterfowlers of Florida and hunting activist. “If you take man out of the equation, you wouldn’t even have preserves.”
Hunting is a sport that has been passed on for generations, but some environmentalists still believe that alligator hunting is inappropriate for a refuge.
“You wouldn’t camp on a golf course because that land is made for golf,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. “So why would you hunt in a refuge?”
Schwartz explained that a 2011 study determined that the alligator population was on the decline in the refuge. He says that a sample of alligators in the everglades went from 228 in 2011 to 134 in 2012 and believes the proposed hunt will not help population.
Cook disagrees with Schwartz because the refuge and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has set strict limitations on the amount of gators each permitted hunter can capture and the way they will be hunted.
The hunt will be conducted in the lower thirds of the wetlands. The refuge encompasses 144,000 total wetlands, cypress swamp and tree islands, but only 30,000 acres, approximately 21 percent of the refuge, will be open to hunters. This leaves 79 percent to remain a wildlife sanctuary.
11 permits, with two gators per permit, will be awarded to hunters through a lottery from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who will also regulate the hunt.
The rules of the hunt get even more specific.
According to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge press release,each hunter may only harvest two gators over 18 inches on specific weekends from August 15 to November 1. Hunters may pursue the gators one hour before sunset on Friday night through one hour after sunrise Saturday morning, and one hour before sunset on Saturday night through one hour after sunrise Sunday morning.
The refuge requires that each alligator must not be captured using baited hooks, baited wooden pegs, or firearms. Alligators may be taken using hand held snares, harpoons, gigs, snatch hooks, artificial lures, manually operated spears, spear guns, and crossbows. Only water-cooled outboard motorboats, canoes and kayaks may be used to hunt.
Kapsch explains that the hunt was strategically planned so visitors will not witness any gore.
The idea of the alligator hunt started during the Comprehensive Conservation Plan process in 1998. There was an abundance of public interest to have the refuge open to recreational alligator hunting. Since the refuge already held waterfowl hunting, the refuge decided to hold the Sport Hunting Plan Public Meeting to discuss the proposed gator hunt.
Sylvia Pelizza, the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge manager, took each comment into careful consideration, but was specifically looking for comments with substantial, specific facts.
“This is not a popularity vote,” Pelizza said. “It’s to the science, to our development plan.”
The plan received 3,519 comments from 70 different countries.
Because hunting is one of the six recreational objectives a refuge is mandated to fulfill by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the high amount of public interest, the alligator hunt plan was set into motion.
Though the amount of actual gators at the refuge is unknown, a scientific computer model determined that there are enough alligators to spare for hunting. The model calculated that 44 was the magic number of alligators that could be hunted, but the refuge decided to lower the number.
“We weren’t comfortable starting that high,” Marcie Kapsch, a wildlife biologist at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge, said. “We wanted to open this responsibly and take it really slow. So we decided that 22 gators was enough.”
Though the harvesting procedures and rules are highly enforced, a percentage of the community still believes the refuge should be left alone.
“It’s not like there is a shortage of places to hunt in Florida,” said Schwartz. 
With approximately 5 alligators per .6 miles in the refuge canals, Cook believes 22 alligators will not change anything.
Despite the controversy, a final decision will be announced by the end of February.

Night Owl 2013

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By. Markella Haynes
2013

 
BOCA RATON, Fla.– It all starts around dusk, when the single phone line of the NightOwl’s office starts to chatter continuously as hundreds of Florida Atlantic University students call in for a safe and quick ride to their cars and dorms.
“Night Owls.”
 “What’s your name and where do you want to go?” asked Derek Smith, associate director of NightOwls to the caller on the phone.
Smith holds the phone with his left shoulder as his fingers fly furiously around the keyboard typing the caller’s information into the spreadsheet. The information is then sent to the dispatcher and Night Owl drivers, informing them that a student needs a lift. 

Every weekday from 7 p.m. until 11:30 p.m., the six or seven golf carts are started, as the student run transportation service is open for a night of chauffeuring students safely and quickly around campus. 

Student Government started NightOwls in the early 90s when security became an issue for people walking long distances to their cars late at night. But the current employees have realized students usually use it for other reasons since Innovation Village Apartments were built farther from campus.

“If there is a lone girl that wants to go to Lot 5 when it’s, like, really, dark, we’ll take her to be safe,” said Smith, “but it’s more of a convenience service now.”  

Ryan Price, junior and just one of the service’s thirteen drivers, mentioned that although the service makes students feel safer while walking around campus at night, occasionally students still do crazy things to the golf cart that negates their safety purpose.

“One time I had a student hang on to the side of my golf cart while riding a skateboard, and decided to try to switch places with a student I was transporting,” said Price. “It didn’t end well,” he adds, while noticing a student flagging down his cart.

Students have the option to call NightOwls, stop by their office or simply wave down a golf cart down if they see one. With the golf carts whipping wind through riders’ hair at a maximum of 15 mph, Smith says from the time students call, a driver will be there in about five minutes. 

Chris Miller, sophomore and IVA resident, uses the services most nights, as the trek to and from his apartment takes about 20 minutes from the Student Union. 
            
“It’s a nice service,” said Miller, “and you get to know the drivers and get to have good conversations with them.”

Sophomore and theater major Carly Levy agrees that the service is extremely useful when you don’t have a car and the FAU trolley is no longer running for the day. 

“I take the service a lot when I go to the gym,” said Levy. “Even though it’s not that far of a walk, it gets creepy at night.” 

As it is possible to wave down a NightOwl driver for a ride, sometimes students are disappointed when a cart is full and is unable to transport them. Price advises to just call the office and someone will be there as soon as possible to take them where they need to go.

On a typical night, NightOwls moves around 300 students around campus and can get pretty busy when you have impatient drivers, according to Smith.
“I don’t think people realize how many people we actually move,” said Smith.

Follow Your Arrow

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And I’m on to my next adventure!

In the past three months, I’ve completely changed career paths and I am so happy I did so. Spending more time in the newsroom, I started to realize that I wanted to be happier. Not that there was anything wrong with my workplace, but I knew something wasn’t right.

The sad truth is this: News is depressing and I am not.

So I changed it. I saw an opportunity, did a cross-my-heart-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye kind of dance and tried something new. I am now a social media coordinator at an amazing advertising agency and once again feel my goofy, light-hearted mood coming back.

I also moved in with my best friend and boyfriend of six and a half years. I’ve never been so confident that this is the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. He surprises me with cute sticky notes, stocks the pantry full of my favorite foods, does the dishes every morning and lets me hog the bed a little too much. The warmness I feel in my heart when he comes home from work and asks about my day is a feeling I want to have with me forever. No arguments yet — just a lot of laughter, talking and watching him eat his bologna sandwich with sleepy eyes because I’ve been up since 7am and he didn’t get off work until midnight. It’s so comforting coming home to my own space and not feeling overrun by everything around me.

Casey Musgraves once said, “Say what you think. Love who you love. Cause you just get so many trips around the run. You only live once. So follow your arrow wherever it points.”

I feel that I’m doing just that. The more I learn to go with the flow and trust how I feel, the more I feel at home in my own skin and in my life.

New World

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Shoe references just seem to fit my current situation so well.

Up until this morning, I felt like a little girl wearing her mom’s big grown up shoes. I was walking around the world stumbling and trying to find my place and force others to believe that I was the owner of these beautiful, black wedges and I knew what I was doing. After every trip and wrong turn, I felt compelled to prove to others I wasn’t the little girl I appeared to be, but an adult.

I heard it so many times. “You’re SO young! You’re such a baby! Were you even born then?!” 

Being the youngest at work was usually one of my little joys. I was at the same level as all these well established men and women, but they saw right through me to who I still was. A little girl.

Every morning I slipped on a pair of heels, feeling awkward and out of place, and walked out the door trying to make others see who I felt like inside. I wasn’t the 22-year-old newbie, but a smart and ambitious young woman with goals to accomplish.

It never worked. I always got the same comments: “You were born WHEN!?” That little joy of mine started to fade and I became self-conscious and bummed out.

I was the baby. 

But today, in some odd, magical way, the shoes finally fit. 

I wasn’t tripping or dragging those heels around anymore. I wasn’t stuffing socks in the toe to make others believe I was an adult and I fit my new role. Suddenly, I just was one.

Cleaning my own apartment, cooking lunch and spying that beautiful new car in the parking lot, I finally felt settled in my new world. 

I look around and feel proud that all the finishing touches to this apartment, including the walls, water, electricity, cable, Internet (excluding this awesome couch housewarming present from my parents! Love you guys!) was all because of my hard work.

My new world is finally feeling like my own. 

And let me tell you, I am rockin’ these big girl shoes. 

 

Leaving Home

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I’m currently standing at a crossroads between what I’ve ever known to be reality and the rest of my life.

I’m wearing one bright white sneaker with pink flowers with frilly white socks folded over, ready to run out to the caterpillar jungle gym at Manatee Elementary and one black business high heel ready to take the career world by storm.

Not going away to college gave me some of the best years — being able to understand my parents at the level of an adult and spend four more years learning and growing with my family. While many of my peers chose to jump into the deep end with their floaty wings on, I chose to stay in the shallow end and learn to tread water myself.

Now here I am. 22-years-old. Awesome job in advertising making more than many of my friends. Steady, committed relationship of nearly 7 years. Ready to start making my way from the 4-feet kiddy pond to the big people 10-feet deep end.

Tonight is my last night in my childhood home with my family. I have lived on Providence Road since I was 5-years-old. And as much as I have taught myself to hold in my sadness and look for the positives, I can’t help but well up every time I hear that my parents will miss me. It’s quickly gulped down and met with laughter and a sly joke, but the feelings are there.

With great excitement and mystery comes great fear. But I’m ready to feel the fear. I’m ready to test out my strength and get moving on what Markella’s life will be like. Unfortunately that means leaving the thing I’ve ever known to be home behind, but I think I’m ok with that. It’s just unsettling knowing I won’t be coming back here.

And to look on the bright side, I know my family and I will be closer because of this change. We won’t be at each other’s throats with annoyance. We’ll have our space. It will be better. My brothers will come over to borrow movies. My mom will come over and tell me how dusty my apartment is and drink wine and laugh with me. My dad will rescue me when I’m drowning in my own life and need someone to debate things with.

I’m sure my mom is a big ball of emotions as she’s reading this. She’s checking my grammar because she’s my personal editor on this blog, whether I asked for it or not. But I just want you to know I am just 5 minutes away. 5 minutes more to get to my house after work. 5 minutes to stop by whenever you want. Anytime.

Another major positive is that I get to move in with the love my life. Since even before we were officially together, we would sit on the phone late at night, day dreaming about living together, waking up together, cooking dinner after a long day, getting mad when the other leaves the toothpaste uncapped. When one chapter finishes, another one begins. It’s just hard to turn the page when I loved this chapter so much.

I know I’m not dipping my feet into murky water, uncharted territory. I have Kyle there to help me through. And the undeniable support from my family at home.

This will be a good thing.

 

Reflect

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Question: What does Florida Atlantic University alumna Markella Haynes ’14 have in common with the television character Jack Bauer?

Answer: Markella and Jack have both demonstrated the ability to accomplish more than a few things in “24” hours.

On Monday, Kyle and I signed our lease for our first apartment together and the butterflies have yet to cease. I chose the responsible path in college, saving myself some pennies by staying home, living in my parent’s house as I finished up my education. And finally, finally we feel like we are in a reasonable financial place to make a place our own. Break out the champagne! I’m a renter!

Now it may not be the most gorgeous or the most updated, but every penny going into it is all ours and I couldn’t be more proud of us. We had to get renter’s insurance and put electric and cable in our names and it feels so right. We already started buying furniture and dipping into those savings we worked hard to maintain.

Along with this, it’s been a month since I started my full-time job at the station. I haven’t started training for the associate producer side of things, but I am getting used to being an assignment editor while it lasts. I know being an AP and an AE is not where I want to stop. I’m not in my dream job just yet, but I am on the road to learning necessary skills that will lead me to a succScreen Shot 2014-07-16 at 1.36.35 PMessful future.

On top of all this, I was reminded just how grand my university was to me. A couple weeks ago I was offered to tell my story and how I got into my current position, and now it’s the homepage success story! My big, tired face is plastered on the FAU.edu homepage as soon as you press ENTER. My story goes through my day-to-day activities as a studio camera operator, while being a full-time student and navigating clubs and honor societies. I wish you could truly put how hard I worked into words, but I think this comes pretty close to it!

If you told me to wipe this smile off my face, I would say it can’t be done! Everything is falling into place so gently and I can’t believe how things have worked out. It hasn’t all been cake and I know it won’t be in the future, but so far things have been so smooth. In my new job I’m learning more about myself and my skills than I ever knew before. My new home will be such a sigh of relief to finally make things my own. And being able to this all with the support of my healthy, loving family is more than I could ever ask for.

 

What I Learned from the #100HappyDay Challenge

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Can you be happy for 100 days in a row?

That was the goal of the #100happyday challenge.

On February 23 2014, I wrote an article for WPTV on the #100HappyDay Challenge explaining a new social media phenomenon where users are supposed to document one thing that makes them happy everyday for 100 days. According to 100happydays.com, the purpose of the movement is this: “We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about. While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long-term happiness of any human being.”  

By noticing what makes us happy and documenting it, it claims that finishers will:

” – Be in a better mood every day;
– Start receiving more compliments from other people;
– Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
- Become more optimistic;
– Fall in love during the challenge.”

(You can read my entire WPTV article here: http://www.wptv.com/news/local-news/water-cooler/100happydays-challenge-encourages-users-to-record-what-makes-them-happy-for-100-days)

As of two days ago, I successfully documented 100 days of my happiness. On the 101st, I was a little confused about what to do with myself. I was so used to sharing the joys of my everyday life with my friends and family, I felt like the last one had to mean something. But as I mentioned in my last posting, my life is super calm and I find such serenity and bliss in everyday life. I laugh throughout the entire workday, even if I have to wake up at 2:30am to get there. I unnoticeably stare into my boyfriend’s eyes and wonder how I became so lucky. I smile and call my mom without hesitation every time I get into the car. These things I do everyday. MarkellaHaynesThe first day without the #100happydays was a strange day. I continued to take pictures of little things that made me happy, like the coziness of the blanket in my room, my boyfriend snuggling in to kiss our cat on the head, a giant salad my family made for dinner.

And it made me realize something.

The #100happyday challenge didn’t make me happy, but made me want to share my happiness with others. I don’t claim to ever be the type of person who never has a speck of disappointment or failure because believe me, I do get annoyed and irritated and down. But the #100happyday challenge helped me to realize the small daily things that make me happy. The little things that build up the castle that protect me against the deafening punches life throws at me. It’s all about seeing the good in everyday. I didn’t post the photos to be boastful, but to express my gratitude for the things in my life that keep me positive.

Being able to recognize the things that made me happy made me want others to be happy with me. I wanted them to feel my excitement of getting a new job, or be able to watch the sunrise every morning or my cat’s sleeping face. I wanted them to see that being happy in your current situation and in your daily life was possible.

Some of the more memorable #100happydays were days like #day86 when Kyle and I were able to sit at an outside bar and enjoy the sunlight together over drinks and turkey sandwiches. Or #day60 when I handed in one of my last college finals of my life. And #day35 when my two good friends and I had wine and pizza night and chatted and I got no sleep before work the next morning. Life has been fantastically magical.

If you could place check-marks next to those benefits of completing the challenge, I would definitely have most of them tallied off. I didn’t even have to “find the time” to document these things, but it became a natural occurrence to notice the beauty of the day, whatever it may be.

MarkellaHaynes

Calm Life

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Image It’s not that I don’t want to move mountains or feast on the riches that the world has to offer. It’s not that I’m scared to leave or be alone. It’s not even the money because that could all be arranged. But the more and more I meandered through college, the more I realized that I didn’t have big dreams like my classmates. They would talk about heading to the big apple after graduation, or backpacking across Europe as a graduation present. Their eyes would light up as they spoke about moving to L.A. to pursue Hollywood. And there was me, trying to think of a dream that seemed big enough to live up to their standards of living.

As I grew more confident in myself and who I was, really was, I figured out it’s ok to want a calm life. I want to have an exhilarating job, that I go to everyday and people say “just ask Markella! She knows everything!” I want to plant some roots in a city where I can point out where my first kiss was, where my brothers and I went to the park and flew kites with friends, the house where my Nana would take us the pool in the summer. I want to be married and have children and fall into our lives. I wouldn’t quite say that mediocrity and routine is what I’m looking for, but comfort and calmness. I want to come home on Friday nights and kick off my shoes, call my mom to come over for a chat over a glass of wine. I want my dad to be nearby when I have a nervous breakdown and need his constant and continual sense of “you’ll make this work” despite the situation. I want to watch my brothers grow, start their own families and lives. I want to be close to my family, who I grew up with just a stone throw away from my house. I don’t want to have to go to someone’s funeral someday and say “wow. I hadn’t even seen my grandma in seven years.”  I want to be close and familiar.

I want to see more Grecian sunsets, but maybe on my honeymoon or on a family vacation. I would love to visit New York someday and look up at the pretty buildings and imagine working in one of those windows. But not as my life, just part of it.

It’s ok to be happy with a calm life because that’s who I am. I am calm and I crave calm. I love to be challenged, but I love the still of the morning when I can hear those annoying birds chirp on the lake or the early 3am hours when my house is sleeping and I’m tiptoeing around getting ready for work.

It took me a while to get used to wanting this kind of life. It’s hard to listen to friends talk about dreams of moving and having careers that take over their lives, but that’s just not me. I love being comfortable in my town. I like seeking adventure in that comfort and making the best of little situations.

I applaud those who move far away to pursue their dreams, but I am finally settled in the fact that I am who I am and that’s ok.

Nostalgia

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Nostalgia,  noun \nä-ˈstal-jə, nə- also nȯ-, nō-; nə-ˈstäl-\ Meaning: pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again.

I have some fantastic and life changing news that I haven’t officially revealed to the world yet (and by that I simply mean I have only told family and some friends, but haven’t revealed it on social media thus far ((which is basically everything nowadays))).  On Friday May 16, I was offered and accepted my first full-time job at WPTV NewsChannel 5 as an Associate Producer/Assignment Editor. My duties will include assisting in the writing of the nightly news, creating graphics, running the front news desk, deciphering breaking news and story ideas, organizing the newsroom story assignments, listening to police scanners and watching social media like a hawk for news. 

I could not be more excited or proud to be only a couple weeks out of college and have landed this job at a top-rated station in South Florida, where I grew up and spent my life and hope to stay. I can’t wait to tell everyone when I officially sign the acceptance papers, hopefully this week! 

It couldn’t have been better timing that my brother tells me he has a surprise for me and plops down a blue folder with that familiar handwriting with “Markella Haynes” written at the top. He found some old T.V. Production papers in my old studio/classroom from high school. Papers with essays describing how magically frightful I was about my future as a journalist and working with the media. How job shadowing at the Palm Beach Post and my first internship with Clear Channel made me giddy for my career. In four or five short years, I went from being a starry-eyed high-schooler ready to take on college and hopefully land incredible internships to a full-time employee at WPTV. 

What a rush to think back to making goofy music videos from local bands, to winning video contests about fair housing and making serious mini-documentaries about my ill brother… that was all the beginning. Spending hours in the edit bays, getting Bs in my other classes to focus on TV Production, sticking with TV despite my unapologetic, discouraging control-freak of an instructor; It all lead to where I am. It was all in the divine plan. 

My life has only just begun but I now know that hard work does pay off. If you keep your head held high, feet planted firmly on your ground and humbleness in your heart, you can achieve anything. As I wrote previously, this world is so amazing. No matter what obstacles life throws at you, anyone can achieve greatness. My parents taught us that it’s only up to ourselves to make things happen, and I think this signifies that I’m on my way.