Boots on the Ground

Wrapping up the first full day of ASB with the Student Conservation Association has been a blast! Here is a quick round up of my past 24 hrs: Flew into Ft. Lauderdale around 11:30am yesterday (2nd to arrive!), met some other crew members who were actually on my flight (Erica, & Alex) who are from Michigan, met one of crew leaders (Elliot), then met the rest of the crew/project leaders (Toby, & Tim), shuttled directly to our resting groups in Collire-Seminole State Park where we will be spending our entire week camping out under the stars. When others started to arrive we set up our tents and dove right into our first few games, ate dinner, and sooner than we knew it, we were resting our heads on the ground, shivering in nighttime temperatures that turned out to be somewhere in the high 30s-low 40s. Pretty cold for spring break in Southern Florida right?

The next morning, we woke with frosty toes and got started eating breakfast and milling about for the day’s tasks. We then got into playing some fun games that helped us all to get to know each other a little bit better, and stirred up some of the ideas behind why each of us was here. Side note: Some of these games were very active to get the blood flowing which was great after sleeping through a 30 degree night!

Later that day, representatives from the National Park Service & Florida Fish and Wildlife Service told us about the Big Cypress National Preserve and the important role it plays in the direct watershed and water flow for the Everglades National Park. We also learned about RCWs…..no idea what I’m talking about? RCW = Red Cockaded Woodpecker! It’s a great bird that only nests in LIVE pine trees. Cool fact that we learned was these woodpeckers build their nests in the tree and pack sap around it so that snakes can’t invade. The sap gets between the scales of any would-be intruders and causes them to lose their grip and fall to the ground! So snakes can fall from the sky?? Interesting.

In the afternoon we got our first taste of getting our hands dirty in Big Cypress, moving air plants from a section of forest set to be cleared. We relocated the plants from the clearance zone to the plantation zone which was a little bit dryer. It is important to move these plants because they take a while to regrow and sometimes may not come back in such high numbers. It is really interesting because this project was created because they are putting in a turn lane at the entrance to the oasis visitor center because they have had a high number of wrecks. This is an interesting example of human & nature interacting in complex ways. To tackle the beginning stage of this project was pretty awesome!

Looking forward, I am excited to look at how the work we are doing this week, and the second session of ASB in a couple weeks, impacts Big Cypress in the long term. More to come tomorrow!