Wandering Everglades

There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the Earth; remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them.
-- Majory Stoneman Douglas

The forecast today says 100% chance of rain. It's the end of the rainy season, but rain will spot in and out of the field week, periodically. Early on, you learn that fieldwork occurs no matter the rain or the shine. Depending on your comfort level, this may be a reality that lingers on your mind throughout the day as the clouds roll through. I've been working in the field now for over seven years, so I tend to pay no mind at all. I like the weather and I like the work.

Every field morning, the alarm rings at 4:00am... then again at 4:05, 4:15, and sometimes a reckless 4:30am. If I’m on point, my field bag will have been packed the night before with gear and other necessities: rain jacket, towel, neoprene gloves, long sleeve lycra shirt, sunblock, hat, sunglasses, tube socks, waterproof watch, and a long sleeve shirt if the morn is chilly. Out of bed… stretch, yawn, shuffle to the bathroom; to the kitchen. Twenty minutes to pack a lunch, make coffee, pull on my “uniform” and toss my hair in a hat is about it. Being prepared is sometimes nicer than rushing around the house and flipping through your mental checklist on the road, belated. Forgetting stuff can be the pits, but the way you deal with it is generally more important than the thing itself. Life motto: everything always works out. Don't stress.

Today we're working out at the Water Conservation Area (WCA), pulling 6 drift fences and conducting a series of throw traps at three sites (photos by a previous tech). These field methods help us to study population dynamics of fish, invertebrates, and other types of organisms in the Everglades. It's important that I get out in the field to see how the data I work with is generated, because most of my time is actually spent in the lab crunching numbers. It's the first time that I've seen myself on the other side of the coin--generating graphs, noting trends, and helping to construct reports that reflect the condition of the Everglades. It's through these monitoring and restoration projects (Interim Operational Plan (IOP), Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), Decompartmentalization (Decomp), Modified Water Delivery Project (ModWaters)) that transform our data into tangible information. Monitoring the restoration of the Everglades has become the lifework for our lab, and the lifeblood for the Everglades.

The morning air is chilly, and the 100% chance of rain forecast holds true for at least the first 20 minute drive to our first site on the airboat. Riding high over the sawgrass is serene, as the sun begins peaking through the gray; sun rays carouseling through the tall grass and transitioning through colors of red rust, orange-gold, indigo, and green. Senses alert to the sights and sounds; arching kites of graceful wading birds cruise between pine islands and the soul naturally becomes in tune with the surroundings. There is a peacefulness that comes with open spaces and an affinity as to why I love the great outdoors. The Florida Everglades is a magical place full of ecological and indigenous history and no amount of field labor will deter me from the importance of our work, and the compassion I have for returning the natural ebb and flow back to a land once inhabited by my ancestors.

For more photos of my wandering journeys, follow me on Instagram.

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