UWF garden work

By the far the most popular service learning this semester was with the UWF student garden in partnership with MANNA. Even more popular: students learning to drive the tractor :-)

The nature Conservancy

Maygrelin Olivier did some work this semester with The Nature Conservancy: \

The Nature Conservancy is a Non-profit organization that works in all 50 states and over 30 countries worldwide with a mission “to preserve animals, plants and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.” I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Blowing Rocks Preserve located in Jupiter, Florida. The blowing rocks preserve began in 1969, when residents of Jupiter Island donated the 73 acres of their island to the Conservancy. This preserve is 73 acres of breathtaking sights and home to many protected plants and animals such as mangroves and manatees.
 The first two days that I volunteered for the blowing rocks preserve I didn’t do much as far as something that was highly relatable with a lesson. The first day at the site, I spent two hours clearing a trail for visitors to walk by and cleared the main path way of tree debris. It was also my first day on the site, so I also spend a lot of time observing and what not. The second day was a little more interesting; I spent a couple of hours trimming trees and bushes that were overcrowding another pathway of the preserve and on that day I also spend much time doing beach clean up after Hurricane Sandy ruffed up the waters. I don’t ever think that I have ever seen so much waste in a shoreline before. The shoreline clean up made me realized that we can’t just throw things away and not expect it to affect us in anyway. I picked up beer bottles, water bottles, plastic bags, garbage cans, boat seats and much more that you would not even imagine.  To me, this clean-up was relatable to my learning of chapter 12 of water pollution. Specifically, the science behind the story “Is it better in a bottle.” Majority of the things I picked up on the shoreline were indeed plastic bottles. What we don’t realize is that drinking out of water bottles is not even that great because plastic bottles contain around 38 chemical pollutants. 

 On the second day, I also did some gardening of Crownbeard in the butterfly gardening, mostly just trimming other weeds off so that they were able to grow and flourish for pollination. But of course, my supervisor and the biologist saved the best part for last! On the last day of my volunteer experience we planned to go snorkeling to look and count for the Lion fish, which I learned is an invasive species to Florida, and the state of Florida is concerned; we were to report the count. I learned that Lion fish came to be mixed into the ecosystem due to their release by saltwater fish tanks. I also learned Lion Fish are predators whom like structure and hide under the Mangroves, so we went along the Lagoon looking under the Mangrove roots for Lion fish. With our luck, visibility was horrible so we did not see any. After hours of intricate search under mangroves, we decided to Kayak and search the inlet for any invasive plant species; Australian pine, Brazilian pepper and lather leaf. After they spot areas with these plant species they mark them on a map so they can hit them with pesticides and prevent them from spreading further. This last day, I learned so much in regards to invasive plant and animal species to Jupiter Island. To me, this last experience was relatable to my learning of invasive species in chapter 4; species interactions and community Ecology. Invasive species pose threats to the community stability of plants and animals. I learned that many exotic animals and plants don’t usually become invasive but when they do, they can greatly alter a community; they can become competitors, predators, or parasites. Since I also spent much time looking and learning about mangroves, (which by the way they had the white, red, and black mangroves), this experience helps solidify my learning of Mangrove forests in the tropics in Chapter 12; Freshwater, Oceans, and coasts. Mangroves are very important because they filter pollutants, capture eroded souls and protect the coast line. 

(Fresh picked, ripe Coconuts. Before they hit the Coconut Tree with pesticides; they considered it an invasive species.)

Brendan O'Brien helped propogate seagrass

Journal: Lab Assistant at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Brendan O’Brien

            I had the great experience of working the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. I worked with Jason Purdy and Marshall Chislom at the 160W Government street lab/office. These gentlemen are in the business of regenerating sea grasses around the gulf coast and many other conservation efforts as well as permit enforcement. The sea grasses help support ecosystems and prevent erosion and thus are the reason for their efforts. The purpose of my visit was to assist them with the different seagrass projects they are currently working on. The first project was to change the water on the Thalassic t. species of sea grass. Their experiment had 2 batches one cleansed with ethyl alcohol and one with bleach. We were to drain the tubes, fill them with their respective sterilizing agent for 30 seconds, drain again and fill them with a solution of water containing penicillin streptomycin for 10 minutes, and drain them again and fill them with salt water. This experiment was not going as well as they had hoped, the seedlings weren’t responding as they usually would, exhibiting odd behavior such as being dormant when believed to be dead. 
 The second task I had was really interesting, I was to help Jason subdivide and propagate the Ruppi m. species of sea grass. Essentially this process I like cloning. You are to cut the plants every 3-4 nodes to ensure new growth, the cuttings are placed into growth media which prevents root growth but not tissue growth, labeled and return back into the grow room. These grasses come from different local areas, and will be returned with stronger more diverse grasses as Jason explained to me.
This was much easier to relate to course work, as we learned how important certain elements are in ecosystems, this sea grass is a huge player. It can prevent erosion which will lead to preferred levels of feedback. It can create a habitat for the sea life as many of these beds have disappeared over the years.

Perdido Riverwalk Trail

Tiffany Nelson spent some time on Perdido Riverwalk Trail for her project:

Perdido Riverwalk Trail Volunteering

Walking in the forest all alone, gun shots echoed in the distance as I tried to stay warm in the blistering wind, when I finally took a moment to just stop. The leaves of fall spread around me in a magnificent array of colors. Trees of astounding height soaring high above me. All of these brilliant wonders that I recently uncovered right in my backyard, well maybe not literally, however they are pretty close to where my house resides. The name of this glorious place is The Perdido Riverwalk Trail, a “part of a conservation easement for the Perdido Landfill.”  During my visits there I participated as a volunteer at a 5k run that held every year called the Dump Dash. This event supports organizations with a cause, while also increasing awareness to all the sumptuous beauties of the forest. During the Dump Dash I was involved, in setting up for the event and cleaning all the trash that might have been left behind. And all though I did enjoy volunteering for the 5k run, I have to say my favorite part of volunteering was when I went on the trail myself to remove the fallen branches that were on the trail path. The removal process literally consist of a worker picking up branches and casting them back off into the forest where it can decompose and become part of the soil once again. This sounds easy enough, but as the hours go by it does become quite tedious. However, I have to admit, all the annoyed tendencies that usually come over me did not even come to mind. I was just completely enamored with this forest aesthetic beauty, a beauty that gives people an incentive to not tear a forest down, as talked about in Chapter 2. If more people get an emotional attachment for a certain natural beauty, they are more than likely to doing anything to preserve or conserve it which in turn will help out our environment while also helping out the economy due to all the tourism While on the trail, I also discovered deer trails all around the forest. I instantly thought how amazing this was, how animals and humans could almost come together to equally share a highly prized treasure, which touches on Aldo Leopold’s philosophy that there is no “good” or “bad species. I think the book says it best in Chapter 1, “a healthy ecological system depends on the protection of all interacting parts (p.17).” In order for us to sustain life on this Earth, we have to be conscious and rely on one another (living, non-living, animal, or human). We’re all specific vessels with a purpose, all of which come together to sustain our well being and further growth as one. If everyone kept that in mind, imagine how far we would evolve. I can honestly say I’ll be back to visit this trail, especially when I want to wind down. I can express how thankful I am for this experience. If it wasn’t for volunteering, I probably never would have “discovered” this beauty that’s 3 minutes away from my house! To think I lived here for 7 years, and I have never noticed it! It really makes you think about what else you may be overlooking throughout your life.
Just a little side note: The gun range mentioned in the beginning was only used for the fire range. Theirs is absolutely no hunting allowed on this trail…unless they want to be persecuted by law.

Panhandle Equine Rescue

Camille Dauchez Did her service learning at Panhandle Equine Rescue: 

My environmental class has taught me valuable lessons about where I live, the Earth. Environment includes all living and non-living things around us with which we interact. People get too caught up on their own life that they forgot that we are part of the natural world and the interactions with its other parts matter a great deal. Understanding the relationship with the world around us including air, water, shelter, is essential. As we saw in class, human impacts are the major sources of disturbance of ecological communities worldwide. Contributing to animals that need help because of the neglected environment caused by humans is an important issue and cruelty in our world is not acceptable. The environment where the maltreated equines were rescued had their habitat fragmented: without grassland, in dirt, without food, and without attention. Horses might not be an extinction species. Nonetheless, every human that decides to have the responsibility of any animal needs to treat the animal. I value the people and scientists that save endangered species and preserve a healthy habitat for all animals.
Being connected with our environment is the key for the future health of the mother Earth. If all the population would give some time every week to be connected in their community and give help for the species in need, we will start to live in a better place. Earth has experienced five mass extinction episodes and humans are setting the sixth mass extinction. Let’s not forget that habitat alteration is, by far, the greatest source of biodiversity loss today.
My service-learning requirement was interesting. I have always enjoyed being part of my community and offer my help to people or animals in need. I have exceeded my expectations and my perceptions. I did not realize how many equine owners mistreat their horses. By helping this organization and spreading the word, I contributed to the environmental assistance for one species on earth. In 2012, any help to non-profit organizations to help the environment and stop cruel acts conducted by humans is a step forwards a better future.

Dump Dash

Kelley Bahn did some of her service learning hours helping out at the Perdido Landfill's Dump Dash:

The Perdido landfill is an integrated Municipal landfill. Their job is to reduce the amount of waste generated and manage what is generated in a environmentally and economically friendly way. In order to minimize odors, a layer of dirt, grass, ground glass or tires is placed over the waste. The Perdido landfill also runs several environmentally friendly organizations such as Drop off Recycling, End of Life Electronics, Yard Trash, Waste Tires, Household Hazardous Waste and Paint Reblending. We have discussed recycling in class and it is very important in keeping our environment clean. When I volunteered at the landfill we made the awards out of recycled soda cans. The landfill had children with special needs help cut out the circles from the cans and we put the circle son beaded necklaces. Making the awards out of recycled material showed the children that you can be creative and help out the environment.

Florida's Water and Land Legacy

A handful of students took advantage of election day to help gather signatures for the Florida's Water and Land Legacy Campaign to fund the Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.  http://floridawaterlandlegacy.org/

Brittany Angles submitting the following reflection on her experience:

For my service learning project I worked with Florida's Water and Land Legacy to gather petition signatures. Florida's Water and Land Legacy is working on getting an amendment on the 2014 ballot to conserve water and land in Florida. “Florida's Water and Land Legacy is a coalition of the state's leading conservation organizations,” (floridawaterlandlegacy.org). What this means is that the leading conservation agencies have gotten together to try and get more funding to keep Florida beautiful. They want to take a small portion of funding we already have in Florida to work towards a cleaner, better Florida. My service learning opportunity relates to our class because it has to do with conserving the land and water in Florida, which will help protect and restore biodiversity in Florida. Although my part in helping the organization was small, the more signatures they get, the more likely the amendment will make it to the ballot, and if it passes, the funding will help them protect Florida's natural beauty and conserve the biodiversity which has many benefits for people. A strong biodiversity can help purify air and water, stabilize the climate, provide aesthetic and cultural benefits, and cycle nutrients and renew soil fertility. So not only will this organization clean up the state, it will also help preserve this biodiversity which will help us out in the long run. Give to the environment and the environment will give back. Florida's Water and Land Legacy are geared towards making sure our beautiful state will still be beautiful for future generations, as well as conserving our water systems to help us get clean potable water. Another good thing about conserving the water and land in Florida is to help our tourist economy. Cleaner water and cleaner land means more tourists, which is very important for our state. In conclusion, the organization I worked with for my service learning project relates to our class by their efforts towards conserving our water and land and the promotion of biodiversity that will entail.