Info on state's natural resources piques global interest

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David Lucas takes a selfie at SCDNR's Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve in Lancaster County, a 3,000-acre protected riparian preserve with great hiking trails through which Flat Creek runs. The creek is one of the few places where the critically endangere

Want a recipe for pickled shrimp? Keen to check out an archaeology internship? Interested in the state's weather?

You might not be, but someone in Wujal Wujal, Australia, is certainly interested.

That's how far the reach extends for news from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources State Climate Office.

Mark Malsick, who writes the weather bulletins, said his subscriber list covers the globe and for at least two reasons: they're informative and entertaining. A recent report states: "A quick tropical update before the July 4th exodus. Underwhelming thermodynamic ennui over the North Atlantic, Caribbean and GoMex this morning. Two weak non-descript junior varsity waves between Africa and South America pummeled by boredom, shear and dry, dusty Saharan Air. Move along folks, nothing to see here. ..."

That is the sort of dry (no pun intended) humor woven into many of his other weather alerts, a task he was assigned when he began at SCDNR in 2005. As a former U.S. Navy oceanographer and meteorologist who served on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, Malsick was ideally suited to the job.

"Having someone with tropical meteorology expertise - courtesy of my previous employer - in a state agency with a focus on outdoor activities, in a state with a 200-mile Atlantic coastline, makes some sense, in my humble opinion," he said.

When Malsick came on board, the climatology reports weren't disseminated as far as the Southern Hemisphere.

"The distribution was about 100 when I started, and most of those were internal to DNR, or other agencies such the Emergency Management Department, Department of Transportation, and the Department of Public Safety," Malsick said. The distribution for the climatology updates is now about 24,600, according to SCDNR's Coastal media contact David Lucas.

Weather, though, isn't the only story that comes from the state's official advocate for its natural resources.

"We're doing a lot as an agency for digital outreach with a pretty robust system," Lucas said. "We do all you can do to communicate with the modern world. We're in year three of being able to get people to link to the website and sign up for stuff."

That "stuff" includes more than fishing and hunting licenses, including a chance to volunteer at the Parker Annex Archaeology Center, sign up for deer- and gator-hunting lotteries, a ton of opportunities for teachers and students learning about estuaries, archaeology, essay contests and the annual Envirothon.

For full-length stories that go into depth about South Carolina's rich resources, regular blogs tell about "Standing on the Moon" at the Forty Acre Rock Heritage Preserve, adding that plant lovers will be rewarded for their efforts with the sight of wildflowers and rare plants; fishing aficionados can plan for pro-fishing events; and near and dear to local hearts, there are stories about our surprising sea turtle season.

The most popular topic is freshwater fishing - which is not surprising, Lucas said - with about 38,600 people signed up. Big game hunting and permits is also hugely popular, deer hunting in particular, with 36,500 people receiving those bulletins.

"We can hit a button and communicate with 136,000 people all at once. And there are new subscribers all the time. It's hard to overstate how practical and useful a tool this is for us to use," Lucas said.

SCDNR emails on all sorts of topics go out to approximately 136,000 unique addresses and more are added every day. The resources, information and reading material covers the spectrum of natural resources and how we can interact with every aspect.

Anyone with an interest in what SCDNR has to offer - and the list of topics is long - can sign up at dnr.sc.gov, by clicking on the email news button at the bottom of the home page.

So, if your pleasure is enjoying the outdoor life, you can get the most bang for no bucks (unless you hunt) by subscribing to any of an array of SCDNR topics, including the all-important weather.

And, as Malsick reminds his subscribers: "These updates are issued weekly by Thursday to avoid any weekend surprises. More frequent updates are issued for storms of significant interest to the bakery and dairy industries, ... and the Prudent Mariner."

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.

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