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Thea, Natalia, Adele and Luis after a long day on Florida Bay

We began our week driving up to West Palm Beach to have lunch with board member Nancy Marshall. Now that we’re in our fifth week, our projects are really starting to come together and we were excited to share our experiences and projects with Mrs. Marshall in between bites of burgers and fries.

Luis, capturing the sights of Florida Bay

Luis, the Science Communication intern, is writing a paper on Burmese pythons and is also creating a pamphlet with wildlife pictures that he’s acquired over the course of the internship. Adele, the Education intern, is wrapping up her Everglades history timeline for the Everglades Literacy Program. On Tuesday, she joined the education team in Broward and gained hands-on experience with the Everglades Literacy teacher trainings. Thea, the Science Communication intern, is interviewing stakeholders, scientists, and real estate agents for her explanatory video about the Central Everglades Planning Project. She’s also working on her first draft of The Science Insider. I (Natalia, the Digital Communication intern) am drawing Everglades birds (stay tuned to see the final product), working on the weekly blogs, and creating a video about the internship program. I’m also extracting core information from Everglades-related scientific papers to use in an infographic.

Dolphins in Florida Bay

Throughout our time at the Foundation, we’ve been able to observe different perspectives – from stakeholders, policymakers, scientists, locals, and indigenous people – of the Everglades. We’ve also seen different geographical locations of the ecosystem – from the canals connected to Lake Okeechobee down to Water Conservation Area’s 2 and 3. On Saturday, we were given yet another opportunity to see a new region of the Everglades and to hear a new perspective – a tour of Florida Bay by Captain Xavier Figueredo.

Did you know that most of Florida Bay is part of Everglades National Park (ENP)? The Bay is highly dependent on freshwater that flows down from ENP, and is struggling with high salinity levels because of a lack of sheet flow. Captain Xavier took a salinity sample which recorded at 40 parts per thousand (ppt) when it should normally be around 34 ppt. If you look at this paper published in 2007, you’ll see that 40 ppt is nearing “very high” levels of salinity, when we’re seeing it as the norm for this time of year. Every year, the baseline for salinity keeps getting pushed higher and higher. However, these problems are not going unnoticed and policy is being pushed to restore the natural sheet flow of the Everglades. In particular, the C-111 South Dade Project that I spoke in support of last week would benefit the Bay by increasing water flow into Taylor Slough which then empties into the region of Florida Bay that suffered massive seagrass dieoffs in 2015.

Captain Xavier letting us touch a blacktip reef shark

We drifted quietly in the Bay and took a moment to appreciate the paradise around us. Wild dolphins played around our boat, and double-crested cormorants nested in the mangrove islands. Luis caught a juvenile blacktip reef shark and Captain Xavier pointed out the shark’s pores, that allow it to pick up electrical activity. We then headed out into the Atlantic, to snorkel at Alligator Reef. I’ve been to Alligator Reef several times before, but only on a kayak. A ride that usually takes me an hour and a half was completed by boat in just over 15 minutes – which made me think that it’s time to get a small boat. When we got there, Luis flew his drone around the lighthouse while Thea, Adele and I snorkeled underneath. We saw dozens of purple sea fans, trunkfish, yellowtail snapper, and parrotfish and by the end of the day, we collectively agreed that this was one of our best days yet.

Signing out much tanner than before,

The Cleverglades Interns


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