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Divine learns more, so he can share more with Sanibel visitors

By Staff | Aug 5, 2015

Chuck Divine earned his Florida Master Naturalist certification after taking three core module class through the University of Florida Extension. Divine is a Tarpon Bay Explorer employee and a “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge volunteer. PHOTO PROVIDED

There isn’t a statue of limitations on learning, as retired teacher Chuck Divine has proven.

Working as a volunteer at “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge and an employee of Tarpon Bay Explorers, Divine wanted more knowledge about the area’s environment to share with visitors and tourists he helps on a daily basis.

So Divine worked his way to earning his Master Naturalist certification from the Florida Master Naturalist Program, which is offered by the University of Florida Extension program.

Taking three core module classes over a course of year, Divine gained a bevy of knowledge of Florida’s biospheres and environment. His three courses included Freshwater Systems, Coastal Systeams and Upland Systems.

It was time well spent for the “Ding” volunteer.

“Being a retired teacher, I am always in the process of learning,” Divine said. “I wanted to learn a little bit more about the environment here and wanted more information of what’s going on and what’s exactly out there.”

Divine has shared his love and knowledge of the Sanibel wildlife as a four-year veteran at “Ding” Darling, working at the Fee Booth, where he greets each visitor, who are entering the Wildlife Drive.

He is an outdoor enthusiast, so sharing his excitement with island visitors has been a simple task. But he wanted to share more about what exactly each visitor will potentially experience while exploring what the refuge has to offer.

Each module course Divine took consisted of 40 classroom hours and three field trips, to enable the hands-on experience to each student.

“In our Coastal class, we took a trip out to Ponce DeLeon Park, we sailed in Charlotte Harbor and also did some kayaking at Stump’s Pass,” Divine said. “We also had field trips to Corkscrew, Six-Mile Cypress Slough and learned about the different plant species at the Edison Estate.”

Divine also had to present an individual or group project, in which he chose to latter. The group project was entitled, “You Eat What You Are,” which was a concise birder guide.

“We wanted to take the project a step further than just bird identification of what kinds of birds you see in Lee and Charlotte Counties,” Divine said. “We wanted to ID and also identify the different types of bills birds have, which determines what kind of food they eat.”

Some examples include the White Ibis’ down-curved bill, which probes for crustaceans, insects and frogs by touch; the Roseate Spoonbills’ spoon-shaped open bill which is used to strain for invertebrates and small fish; the Great Blue Heron’s long, narrow and sharp bill to spear its prey, such as fish and the osprey’s curved, compacted bill to help tear its food for consumption.

“The osprey also has the little black lines underneath its eyes like what football players use, to help reduce the glare from the water so it can see the fish better,” Divine included.

Divine completed all three modules and his group project in just over a year.

The Florida Master Naturalist Program is an adult education program provided by Extension offices for those interested in learning more about the state’s environment or wishing to learn more for education programs, such as volunteers, employees, ecotourism guides and more.

“It’s good for anyone who is concerned about the environment and wants to teach about the preservation of the environment,” Divine said.

Each module is $225 and includes detailed course manuals and after completion, an FMNP certificate, patches and pins denoting their area of expertise.

Those who choose to complete all three courses will become a certified Florida Master Naturalist, like Divine. The FMNP does not provide university credit toward a degree-seeking program.

Divine’s new title is not only a personal accomplishment for the former teacher, but it will benefit the thousands of visitors to Tarpon Bay Explorers and the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge he will encounter during their vacations to Sanibel.