Venise Evans and a few others headed to Houston for alternative Spring Break!

  Houston Texas Baby!!!! For my service learning project I got the lovely opportunity to go to Texas and do a week of service. I went to the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center and volunteered 12 hours. 

The Houston Arboretum is a huge nature preserve that sits on several acres of land. It is one of the top largest nature centers in the United States. I went with a few other students from the university and it was a privilege to work with their staff. We split our service in two days for the projects we had. We learned a lot about plants. The first day we helped out with their plant sale that they have every year and raised over a thousand dollars. The first day we also redid their rock fountain area and we truly left our mark. In the rocks we out UWF so people know that we came and did our share. The next day we helped out with the continuation of the Plant Sale and we also helped with the park. The Arboretum is a family friendly environment and it has a huge playground and park for the children to play, the group and I went to help remove waste and large rocks and sticks so that the children will not get hurt. Throughout our visit at the Arboretum, I realized how much our environment means to people and how much this world is taking away more and more of our natural land. This to me plays into Environmental Ethics. Environmental ethics is the discipline in philosophy that studies the moral relationship of human beings to, and also the value and moral status of, the environment and its nonhuman contents. We learned about this in Unit three. Why do people continue to tare down forest and use it for human consumption? How should we best use and conserve the space environment to secure and expand life? These are some things that the Person overseeing us brought up and made us all think. Why? They also expressed how much they are trying to fight and hold on to their land and keep it a preserve and a place where families can come and still have a place of peace and serenity when it comes to nature, for the people who actually care.

Marking Storm Drains with WFRPC by Stefanie Taylor

I worked with the West Florida Regional Planning Council for my second service learning activity this semester. This organization’s mission was to place curb markers on local neighborhoods storm water drains in the attempts of alerting the community of the danger in polluting the storm water. Also, the community was given pamphlets in their mailboxes that contained general knowledge about water pollution, storm water, and why those things have such an impact on our environment.
            The work I did involved the organizations second mission as aforementioned. Another student and I went to the neighborhoods placed right outside of Bayou Chico, and placed pamphlets in their mailboxes. Naturally, we ran into a few people along the way who were very interested in what we were doing, and once we told them a couple facts about water pollution, they were amazed to say the least. After walking 11 miles through side, long, and hilly roads for 5 hours, I felt an overwhelmed to know that I had given people knowledge that will last a lifetime. Thus, an experience like this was quite eye opening.
            The first lesson that this experience relates to is Chapter 12 when water pollution is discussed. A major point in this section was pathogen and waterborne diseases. This relates to my service learning experience because we were alerting the community of dangerous cases such as that. Disease-causing organisms can enter the drinking water supplies when they are contaminated with human waste or animal waste from feedlots, thus if the communities are not aware of this it could be life threatening.
            Another section from Chapter 12 talks about point and non-point sources. Point source pollution is located in discrete locations such as factories or sewer pipes, whereas non-point source pollution is located over larger areas such as farms, city streets, and residential neighborhoods. The work we did was involving these residential neighborhoods and by giving them the proper information, we were in turn notifying them that pollution from their neighborhood has the greatest impact on water quality.
            Lastly, groundwater pollution was another important noted section in Chapter 12 that was also something we were alerting the communities about. Groundwater pollution has become extremely widespread due to industries, military, and urban wastes. As we were walking the neighborhoods, there was a lot of construction taking place so we took the time to notify the workers the danger of pollution in groundwater and they were very thankful to us for that.
            All in all, this experience was extremely rewarding. Though at times it seemed like we would never stop walking and was extremely exhausting, knowing that with each mailbox we granted another person with knowledge that could affect an entire community was nothing short of completely fulfilling. 

Megan Backhaus went to Eglin AFB to help control erosion and restore longleaf pine ecosystems.

 For part of my service learning hours I volunteered to help plant 150 longleaf pine trees. It was for the erosion control tree planting in Niceville Fl. All the volunteers helped set out 75 bags of pine bark mulch, operated tillers and weed eaters and used shovels and rakes to remove vegetation and roots from 150 planting sites and then we started to plant the 150 longleaf pine trees. We were planting the trees in inactive borrow pits (which are areas where the clay has been mined out for road construction) and also on roads that have been closed due to high erosion and washouts - now known as Erosion Control Sites. During heavy rains, the water flows rapidly through these erosion control areas and carries sediment into the nearby streams. The sediment smothers the stream vegetation, changes the stream flow and reduces critical habitat for the threatened Okaloosa Darter – a protected species of fish found in Eglin streams. So why did we remove the vegetation that is already in place just to plant trees there? As we learn in Chapter 9 forest management helps stabilize soil and also helps prevent erosion. So we planted the trees help to stabilize the soil even deeper than just the groundcover vegetation alone and the planted trees provide for a greater diversity of plants, habitat and a potential food source for wildlife. The tillers and weed eaters remove the nearby vegetation and roots so that the trees do not have to compete for nutrients - once the trees are planted, we do nothing else to help keep them alive. Other than the amendment bags containing mycorrhizal fungi, fertilizer packets and the soil moist that we incorporate into the soil and root ball before we plant the trees. The trees are now on their own and we will go check back up on them in about 6 months and hopefully a little more than half are still alive! Megan Backhaus
Lana Chechack worked at the Landfill recycled garden to fulfill her Service Learning hours this term. Check this out:

I worked with the Solid Waste Management, Perdido landfill. They aim to provide society with exceptional waste collection, recycling and disposal services that protect, preserve and improve our environment and the quality of life in our communities. I worked with the recycled garden at the landfill to find alternate uses for items that were supposed to be dumped, but were comprehended by staff before they could be disposed of. It use to be a drainage ditch, but with reconstruction of paths with old bricks, tractor tracks, and blocks, we were able to control how the water flowed to the drain. I maintained the tires that were overrun by weeds, so the pre-existing plants were more appealing and future plants could be added. Being in a landfill there was always trash and maintenance to maintain on the area.
Even though we have these landfills, the process of decomposition can’t keep up with the growing human population. In Chapter 6 we see how uncontrollably fast the world is repopulating. We see the IPAT model, a formula that represents our total impact (I) on the environment results from the interaction among the population (P), affluence (A), and technology (T).Pollution has a direct correlation with people. Seeing as we are the one with the technology to build, the more we create, the more we throw our trash around. Depleting our resources and animals.
    Since I was working with a drainage ditch, spraying reused pesticides on ants, and seeing how the water flowed through it made me think of all of the contaminates that our water has to go through. Chapter 12 states that groundwater pollution is a serious problem. Surface water may be slightly easier to deal with, but once it seeps underground the treatment process becomes much more difficult. It shows how we are trying to treat the wastewater. We had an in class activity on this, and concluded that even though we can treat it, certain standards allows unwanted substances in our “clean” drinking water. With huge landfills what kind of harm is it backlashing against our water?
    While volunteering at the landfill I was able to observe the processes they go through with the waste. I knew from prior knowledge that the stacked up trash emitted different gasses, but in Chapter 16 I learned they harness biopower for generating electricity, and use the “landfill gas” to burn at power plants. We can substitute biomass for up to 15% of the coal with only minor equipment modification and no appreciable loss of efficiency. With other biomass options it helps, but the book states it wouldn’t be a sufficient energy source to provide for the whole globe.
    Waste generation is in no doubt rising. The U.S has been coined “the throwaway state,” because of the nondurable goods packaged to be disposed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states, “U.S. citizens produced 251 million tons of solid waste, almost 1 ton per person. The average American generating 4.6 lb of trash per day.” Chapter 17 dumbs down the regulated sanitary landfills, where waste is buried or piled in large to decompose. Bacteria controls the major process. The bottoms and sides of sanitary landfills must be lined with heavy duty plastic and 2-4 ft of impermeable clay to help prevent contaminants from seeping into aquifers. They also have systems designed to collect and treat leachate, the liquid from dissolving substances mixing with rain water.
    After putting my time into the Perdido landfill and observing everything going on around my surrounding I learned more hands on about the world than just reading it through my book. It caused me to ask more questions and understand it more. I still am left wondering why the blackbirds and white birds don’t alternate seasons, instead they coexist.