Month: January 2017

Everglades Species Inventory

Below is an inventory of the species we encountered while in Everglades and Biscayne Bay National Park.

Plants and Algae

Poisonwood

Brazilian pepper tree

Shrub morning glory

Cattail

Coastal plain willow

Sawgrass

Spatterdock

Pickerel weed

Pond Apple

Coconut palm

Christmas palm

Bismarck palm

Red mangrove

Black mangrove

Turtle grass

Manatee grass

Bubble algae (one of the largest single-celled organisms)

Insects and other invertebrates

White peacock butterfly

Zebra longwing butterfly

Julia Heliconian butterfly

The dozens of species of mosquitoes known to occur in Florida

Lugworm

Barrel sponge

Hermit crab (not sure which species)

Speckled swimming crab

Fish

Florida gar

Tilapia

Honeycomb cowfish

Blacktip shark

Atlantic stingray

Reptiles

American alligator

Florida Cottonmouth

Florida red belly turtle

Diamondback rattlesnake

Green iguana

Black spinytail iguana

Birds

Turkey vulture

Black vulture

Osprey

Great Blue Heron (also in white morph)

Anhinga

Great egret

Brown pelican

Double-crested cormorant

Mammals

Raccoon

West Indian manatee

ASB TEAM: Please add any others that I’ve forgotten!

Knowledge is Responsibility

We began our service work early today at Biscayne Bay National Park, where 96% of the protected area is under water.  We worked with our learning partners, Arend and Kelsy, to remove trash and debris from sea turtle nesting habitat.  Today was a difficult day for me. I felt full of shame and dismay as I looked at long stretches of sandy beach and mangrove coastlines spoiled with our filth and debris. I even cried a little as we bagged soda bottles, flip flops, toothbrushes, fishing nets, tennis balls, light bulbs, seat cushions, plastic doll parts, hypodermic needles, ball point pens, buoys, and thousands of broken up pieces of plastic. Some of the plastic bits were so small that they couldn’t be separated from the sand grains, and I couldn’t help but wonder how all that microplastic was impacting the marine food chain. And the dozens of Mylar balloons we found wrapped around mangrove roots…we learned that sea turtles confuse them with jellyfish, ingest them, and die an agonizing death as a result starvation when the balloon blocks the passage of food.

But our ASB team diligently and reflectively continued to clean up the beach where sea turtles would be nesting in June until we’d managed to remove over 500 lbs of marine debris. The trash filled about 20 giant-sized trash bags, included a 150 lb drift fishing net, and covered the full stern of our boat on the return journey to the park office.

At reflection, some of the students found themselves wondering whether the work we’d done today was worth it, given that the beach would most likely be littered with trash soon after our departure. What could I say to assure them that our hard work was valuable? Honestly, I’d had the same thought multiple times today, but I also know that a defeatist attitude leads to hopelessness rather than productivity and progress. So, can we reframe and refocus our helpless feeling into one that is more empowering?

I believe we can. The truth is that this ASB experience has the power to transform us and to motivate each one of us to take positive action in our own lives. We can be reassured by people like Mava and Kelsy and all the scientists dedicating their lives to gathering data to help us find better solutions.  These people may be overworked and underfunded, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. There are other people out there who – like us – care about environmental issues. This also reminds me of a comment Dr. Hope Jahren once made in a blog about climate change. She said, “We are strong and lucky. The fact that we are a group of people with food, shelter, and clean water obligates us not to give up on the world that we have compromised. Knowledge is responsibility.” So, even as more plastic trash is drifting toward the beaches we left clean for the next generation of sea turtles, we look forward to our return journey home and the opportunity to spread the knowledge that we gained during this experience.

Team Swamped! Day 1

After a long journey from campus last Sunday,team swamped has settled easily into the cozy hostel of the everglades, a wonderdul place reminiscent of a lush jungle with a waterfall to complete the scenery. Today marked day 1 of our service trip. Following an early breakfast and a 30 minute drive across the everglades, we met with our guide Mava. She was both welcoming and engaging, providing us with a history of the national park (used to hold a missile base) and a reminder of the importance that our work holds for the future of the environment. As part of our work, we were tasked with removing invasive plants in a region called the hole-in-donut (HID). The HID is the last remaining region where invasive plants such as the Brazillian pepper tree need to be removed from the everglades. Using both clipppers and a special herbicide, we spent about 4 hours razing down the threatening plants. The work, under the heat of the sun, proved to be very intensive. However, through sheer team work, dedication, and the guidance of Mava, we were able to remove a large amount of invasive plants and exceed the target goal that Mava had envisioned for us. Soon after we finished, a group photo was taken to commemorate our work. Mava seemed very grateful which made us very happy. Afterwards, we left to go gator sighting. We were amazed to see so many alligators, birds, fish, and turtles. We took lots of group pictures with them before leaving. On the way home, we stopped at an exotic fruit store called “Robert is Here”. We had some of the best fruit milkshakes of our lives and picked up fresh produce for dinner. The day ended with card games, reflection time, and lots of night time fun!!

Intensive Caring Update

I received an update from Mary Wilford-Hunt: 

We’ve settled nicely into the beautiful town. We had a couple minor transportation glitches, but nothing we couldn’t work though.

Christiana is great and has an activity packed week planned for us.

I’ll post additional updates as I receive them!

Amber

 

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