Showing posts from June, 2012

People and Place: Finding Meaning in the Everglades

What does an iconic place like the Everglades mean to people, and how does this shape their perspectives on how it should be stewarded? This is one of the questions I explore in my dissertation research on the Big Cypress National Preserve in the southern Everglades. My work documents the contemporary debates and discussions between environmentalists, the government and local people about how this stunning natural and cultural landscape of cypress strands and freshwater sloughs should be managed and protected. As part of my research, I examine how these groups’ different perspectives are tied to the ways they uniquely know the Everglades. 

Grad Student Life Beyond Fieldwork: Part 1 (Classes)

Riding in a boat in sunny South Florida, observing wildlife, being immersed in nature: all of these could describe someone’s vacation plans or a typical day of fieldwork for a FCE grad student. Although being a FCE grad student may at times sound enviable, there are numerous other aspects of grad student life, both positive and negative, which I plan to cover in a four-part series. First, I will focus on the classes we have to take.

Field work blues

Tropical storm…… slow moving…….. heavy rain……. breezy……. Not the phrases you want to hear when you need to go deep into the Everglades and do a days worth of electrofishing before June ends.  Thanks to tropical storm Debby, I am going to have to sample in an orange tropical threat level! 
One valuable lesson that I have learned over the few years that I have been doing field work is that if you wait till the last minute to sample,  super natural forces will make sure that your crucial sampling is impossible to finish.  Either something that you can’t fix will break, some plague will sweep through  your  lab making everyone too sick to help, or a tropical storm will park itself over south Florida.

Glades from Space

The Everglades covers an area of 734 square miles, which is about half of the size of the state of Rhode Island and about 350,000 football fields. This is a very large area to cover and can become logistically difficult and costly when you are trying to understand the transformations of the Everglades ecosystem with respect to the natural and man-made modifications to the way water moves through the system.  What if there was a way to measure and monitor these changes to the landscape as a whole without even leaving your office?  Oh wait, there is! Satellites!

Everglades at Night

Here are a few short videos taken at night at my research sites.  Pardon the video quality as these were taken with my cell phone.  I'm a little rusty on my frog calls so can anybody identify these sounds?  I think I hear an alligator in the background too.  Make sure you turn the volume all the way up otherwise you may miss it.  Comment below if you can identify the sounds and bonus points to the person who can give the scientific name! 

Using Sound to "See" Underwater

When I first tell people I don't need my eyes or a video camera or even light to see under water, you can imagine the look on their faces and the numerous questions that immediately follow.  Instead, I "look" at fish using a sonar - a Dual Frequency Identification Sonar (DIDSON) to be exact. Without getting into all the technical details of the DIDSON (visit the company's webpage for that), the sonar emits sound-waves that "bounce" off of objects (such as fish) and then return to the unit with information on how far the wave traveled and the "intensity" of the object it hit.  The DIDSON then uses that information to create an image.  Now it's worth noting that the image it creates does not capture information on the color of the fish it hit and it may not be detailed enough to distinguish one particular species over another, especially if the fish is very small.  However, it is useful if you want to observe fish in their natural habitat witho…