Hillary Dye doing service learning through a love for animals!

Volunteering for the Emerald Coast Animal Allies was a great experience for me to be a part of.  After I earned my ten hours of service learning, I continued to volunteer because I enjoyed it so much.  I was able to meet new people who shared the same interest in animals as I do.  Taking care of the health of animals and being included in the adoption process has been an extraordinary experience.  Throughout this entire experience, it has made me understand the struggle that many animals have to go through.  Interacting with animals in our environment relates to several of our lessons that we discuss in class.  One of the lessons related to my volunteering experience is learning about the habitats of species.  In Chapter 8, Community Ecology, the lesson explains about the human causes of habitats and species within a community.  By being involved with animals, I realize that all animals can be disrupted by human engagement.  Many of these animals are taken from home to home.  This causes them to change environments, which is very hard to adapt.  Finding a stable home for these animals will potentially fix this issue.  The lesson also discusses the relationships of symbiosis.  For example, when a kitten gets fleas, which is very common from changing its environment constantly, the kitten is harmed.  When a kitten gets a tick, the tick is able to get its nourishment.  This is an example of parasitism.

Loved the garden so much Talisha put in extra hours!

Overall, the service learning assignment was truly an amazing experience. After working in the garden and completing my 10 hours, I came back an extra day because I had so much fun learning how to build an organic garden and meeting new people who attend UWF. The end result from this experience has made me a better individual by becoming more aware of nature and learning what I can do to make a difference.

Cleaning up a church yard for service learning!

One of the several lessons Jordyn related to this service learning project:

Chapter 6: Ecosystems and Nutrient Cycling relays the message that everything in an ecosystem replies on each other. The animals rely on the plant life, while the plant life relies on the animals. Ecosystems go full circle. While cleaning up the shrubbery and flora in the garden, this lesson came to mind. Although no animals other than birds and maybe rabbits inhabit this garden, this garden community relies on each other. The grassy areas were being taken over by weeds, the shrubs had overgrown, and the flowers had died. The bee community that inhabited
this garden had to move, due to the loss of flowers they were feeding off. The grass was not getting the sunlight it needed with the overgrown shrubs covering it up and the weed takeover. This prayer garden is supposed to be lively and a happy place to go, but it seemed more dead than anything else. After sprucing up the yard, things seem to be going much better. The grass is still alive and everything is clean. Again, this is a smaller scenario, but made me realize an ecosystem is not only a big grassland, prairie, or rainforest. An ecosystem can be in your own back yard. Everything relies on each other.

Service Learning at the new UWF garden by Monica

Service Learning
1.) I was given the opportunity to work with the UWF Garden Club. Their mission is, to build community at UWF and in the surrounding region. To promote food sustainability and security by creating an alternative to the industrial system of food production. To teach UWF students, faculty, staff and other how to grow food locally and organically. To encourage healthy eating by increasing access to fruits and vegetables. To increase respect and concern for the natural world. To help students develop leadership and community-building skills.
2.) Throughout the time that I was volunteering at the garden, I did various things. For example, all the volunteers took turns laying down cardboard to kill of the smaller plants. We also dug a trail where we would connect tubes to carry water throughout the garden. We raked dirt as well as mulch all throughout the garden to even everything out proportionately as well as create a god place for the fruits and vegetables to grow on.
3.) Chapter 1: Environmental Literacy relates to the work we did in many ways. For example, as previously mentioned, the volunteers laid down cardboard. The cardboard was used to kill off all the plants that were too small to be cut down. For example, weeds, grass and smaller plats of that sort. It especially relates to chapter 1 because instead of using chemicals to kill of all the plants, a more natural way was used to kill off the plants. The cardboard is biodegradable so it will do its job for a temporary time and then give the chance for other plants to be grown without damaging the soil and making it loose all it’s nutrients.
4.) Another way the volunteer work related to the lessons learned in this course is that the garden being built is going to be an all natural garden. Instead of using electricity they are using a one hundred percent natural source, the sun. So no extra electricity will be used. As well as they will not be using any other unnatural things like pesticides that are full of chemicals. The plants and fruits will be grown one hundred percent natural to make sure they do not cause nay harm to the environment.
5.) All us volunteers removed the invasive species that were in the environment. An invasive species is a species that is not native to that environment. Invasive species are harmful to the environment because they can over consume and/or throw off the natural ecosystem of that area. We did that by cutting and removing the larger plants and as mentioned previously we used cardboard to remove the rest of the smaller plants. The information of invasive species can be found in Chapter 10: Evolution and Extinction.
6.) During my service learning experience I developed skills like leadership and learning to commit to the work that I was doing to get it done in the most efficient way. It also helped me work on my team skills since we did have to do many things as a group to get things accomplished as fast as possible and the best way possible. These are great skills to obtain for my profession or any profession anyone decides to pursue.

Why are snails so bad??

Apple Snails at Loxahatchee
            This summer I worked with an amazing group of people on a wildlife refuge called Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. It was established in 1951 under the authority the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and is managed through an agreement with the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge is part of the northern Everglades encompassing 145,800 acres of that land, providing water storage for floods and a habitat for numerous migratory birds and other native animals that call the refuge home.
            I worked with a biologist, Melissa Better, who is working to help the native apple snail population overcome their invasive cousins. I did various jobs inside, putting numbers into a computer, and outside, feeding apple snails and checking enclosures. I had to get into water proof fishing waders to wade around in alligator, snake, and insect infested waters searching for spatterdock to feed the snails. Along with that, I collected the native snail eggs to bring to their enclosure, and killed the invasive species eggs.
            One of the chapters that pertains to my service learning is Chapter 10: Evolution and Extinction. In South Florida, we see invasive species every day from lizards to snakes, though it is not more presented than in the Everglades, and this refuge is doing its best to combat the ever-present invasive species. This chapter covers how invasive species push evolution and/or extinction, which ties in well with what I witnessed. The thing that makes the native apple snails so threatened by the invasive species is that they reproduce at a much slower rate. Where an invasive apple snail can produce as many as 200 eggs a native snail only produces less than half of that. This fact makes the native snails much more susceptible to going extinct and being taken over by the invasive ones. What impacted me the most about invasive species was just how better adapted they seem to be for their environment. There I was looking for invasive eggs along the edge of the wetland area, and just seeing their bright pink coloring larger than I expected; then contrasted next to native eggs which look so pathetic and small in number. It shocked me that the native snails managed to survive for so long, because just by the look of their seemingly feeble eggs they should not have. Which may just go to show that Mother Nature can be really surprising especially with human help. Chapter 10 is about evolution and the extinction of species which is demonstrated so successfully by what I saw, it was amazing; such a tiny, slow creature facing incredible odds. Whether the invasive apple snails overtake the native ones seems to be an ongoing battle; maybe the native snail will evolve to be able to produce more eggs the way the invasive species do, or maybe it will become extinct, but for now Better is trying to further their survival.
            Another chapter that related to my service learning was Chapter 8: Community Ecology. This chapter was essentially all about the Everglades ecosystem and its destruction, and now renewal. The Loxahatchee park is part of the extricate Everglades system of managing water, which filters water and delivers it to various areas. When humans first started developing the land we got rid of a lot of this system by building right over the water ways. Now realizing what a precious resource we had, we have been trying to restore the water ways that have been damaged. This main aspect in this chapter relates directly to what Loxahatchee helps to do, which is to restore the water ways. As I discovered by working at the refuge that each wetland serves as a mini ecosystem, connecting to the bigger wetland eventually. The water is stored through a series of pumps, canals, water control structures, and levees that push the water through, filtering it as it goes eventually into the Everglades. In this chapter, it also included the definition of a community and how it relates to an ecosystem. Loxahatchee is a wetland ecosystem that provides a habitat for many species that are native to Florida. Many of these species are birds, some of which are great egrets, white ibis, great blue herons, and wood storks. They call the refuge home and thrive there. Ecosystems are delicate things, as I learned in the chapter, and even an apple snail can change the way wetland ecosystem functions. Being that invasive apple snails and native ones are in an intraspecific competition, they compete over the same food source, which in abundant numbers could endanger the plant life. Every animal plays such an important role in an ecosystem, even nonliving things such as water, that when one dies, gets lost due to development it effects the whole ecosystem structure.

            Finally, the last chapter that related to the work I was doing was Chapter 17: Solid Waste. Surprisingly, there were a lot of instances that the refuge reuses materials from past projects. There are four R’s that scientists use when being environmentally friendly. They are, refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle. The refuge defiantly makes use of at least two of these, reuse, and recycle. Since there are always many separate projects starting and ending at separate times, the refuge takes the previously used materials and puts them to use for a new project. My first day working, Better had me and another volunteer take down the former shabby enclosures that had fallen apart. We worked to take apart the PVC pipes and netting that made up the old snail enclosure, which allowed snails to escape when water rose too high. Once out of the water and disconnected, she led us to a back lot which housed thousands of pipes, netting, and other materials to be reused in new projects. The pipes that were either broken or would not come apart were put into a construction sized recycling bin, which was piled with materials that were recyclable. It was incredible to see such a large sized recycling system being used, everything that went on in the refuge seemed to have another purpose later on. Seeing that helped me to understand that point that this chapter was trying to make, that it is as much of what we do as how we do it. Buying recyclable materials or making something into something else has a greater impact for the better than condemning the plastic materials to a landfill, polluting our planet even more. 

Mad design skills!!

Joe Griffin used his excellent design skills to help Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission educate the public. Check out the pamphlet he created:

Giving back to society over Spring Break!

I had several students spend their spring break helping with the Hurricane Sandy recovery. Audrey Freeman did an excellent job relating her service to course lessons AND professional development! 

I went up to New York to perform disaster relief inside a home that was hit by hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. We were given the opportunity to serve Remi and Lilia Linauskis for an entire week. Their basement had been flooded with water during the hurricane, filling the room with nearly eight feet of water. The basement had been stripped of all dry wall and flooring. When my group came to their home, we replaced all the drywall and broke away the remainder of the tile that was still on the floor. As we moved from one portion of the room to another, we began mudding the area where drywall had already been put up. My part in all of this was to help drill ray wall in place as well as measuring and cutting out all the sections of drywall to fit. This included measuring around holes and outlets.

This relief project can most be related back to the lesson on climate change. We learned in class that the climate change can affect different areas in different ways. One example of this would be the glaciers in the north. While the glaciers is a source of more than half of the word’s fresh water, the melting of the glaciers into our oceans are causing massive disturbances in our ecosystem. In relation to my service project, climate can be seen through Hurricane Sandy. Places like New York are not used to storm as large as Hurricane Sandy, and therefore are not even close to being prepared for them. The fact that Hurricane Sandy touched down at such a location as New York only goes to demonstrate the Changes in our climates across the globe. 

Another way I can relate my New York service to our lessons is through pollution. As we know here in Florida, a natural disaster such as a hurricane causes massive amounts of pollution to enter into the environment. It was evident as we drove through the city how much trash and debris still lingered in the streets and in the houses even eighteen months after the hurricane came though. A big part of was people had to do was clean up a basement or house of the damaged debris cause by the extreme amounts of flooding. All the floors of the houses had to be taken up and replaced, as did most of the drywall and insulation. As we would travel through the city, large piles of debris could still be seen on the street sides from continuous clean-up efforts, such as that by SBDR or by individual house and business owners. All of this trash and debris is pollution to the environment. Unless it is disposed of properly, it all gets taken away and dumped into an overflowing dumping ground where it is left to sit. And the trash that has been dumped into or has fallen into the rivers pollute the water even further. The already polluted rivers have suffered significantly from Hurricane Sandy because of how little effort people have put into cleaning up the rivers of the waste. 

My final tie between our lessons and my New York trip is through clean energy. Because most rooms we worked on had been completely filled with water and had to have been stripped entirely of all thing electric, we took this opportunity to replace all light bulbs in the houses where we worked with energy efficient ones. Clean energy is a way to help lessen the amount of pollution we put back into the environment. Most of the houses we worked in did not have energy efficiency. By replacing all the light bulbs in all the houses we worked on, we have made significant progress in helping introduce the house owners into moving towards becoming environmentally friendly. Every light bulb we replaced in every house we worked on pushed the local area up onto a small step of becoming more environmentally friendly as a whole.

I did not learn the types of skills I was expecting to. Going up to New York, we had no idea what we were getting our hands into aside from the fact that it would be manual labor and could possibly be outside in thirty degree weather. What I did learn more on was how to work together with a team. In the beginning, the twelve of us had absolutely no idea how to measure, cut, or drill in drywall. By the end of the week, however, not only did we know how to do all of those things individually, but we all learned to work together as a team while doing it. We were able to put together a system where four people would measure and cut for six others who were set and ready to lift and rill the drywall in place either in the ceiling or on the walls. The remaining two people were our official “mudders”. As we moved from placing drywall in the first half of the room to the second, two of our people came behind us and began taping over the cracks between pieces of drywall and mudding over our beginners’ mistakes. As the room progressed and fewer and fewer people were needed to help with the drywall, the jobless people would move to help the mudders, coming behind them and sanding over the dry mud. Everyone had their job, and everyone’s job worked together in a system of harmony. We not only learned to work together, but also to hold our tongues when a sharp word was said or a thoughtless move would cause us to start the system over again. Harmony is a wonderful lesson to remember for later in life, no matter what the job description is. A workplace works only as well as its employees, and where dysfunction cases chaos, harmony allows for success.