Observing Flooding Extent in South Florida from ‘Super Camera’ 700km above the Earth

Author: Boya Zhang
Looking at the title, you must be thinking I am crazy. And you will confirm that I am crazy, if I tell you this will be part of my PhD dissertation. You may also be wondering what is ‘super camera’? Why it is flying or floating in the 700 km in the outer space? Even if it exists, why and how to use this strange thing to observe South Florida flooding? Let me solve the puzzle.
The ‘super camera’ is not like a Canon digital camera. Indeed, it is a radar, which is short for ‘radio detection and ranging’. Simply speaking, one of the basic tasks of radar is to detect the signal and measure the distance.But, detect what signal, and measure the distance of what? My research uses a special type of radar, and it has a very unfriendly name- ‘Synthetic Aperture Radar’ or SAR. (Let’s skip the meaning of the first two words of the name, because it may take another article to explain!) SAR is able to actively transmit microwave signal towards the Earth surface. Indeed, the signal w…

Do you know the history of your field site?

Author: Cody EggenbergerFrom nukes to murder to drug smuggling, the Everglades have had an interesting history to say the least. Since moving to south Florida, apart from the deep love I’ve developed for the recreational fish species I am lucky enough to research, I’ve developed a fascination with the history of the Everglades. Unfortunately, very few places still exist in the US that are able to give you the feeling that you’ve time traveled to a prehistoric, untouched past, where reptilian dinosaurs larger than boats and monstrous schools of fish larger than humans lurk beneath the water’s surface. Anyone who knows anything about the terrible ideas us Homo SAPIENS have had in the past regarding the Everglades knows that the ecosystem has been drastically altered and much of the beauty we see today is a mere shadow of what it once was. From experience and communication, the trials and tribulations that always seem to coincide with field research often causes graduate students conduc…

All Scientists' Meeting 2018!

Science is Collaboration

The All Scientists' Meeting (ASM) took place at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California from Sept 30th to Oct 4th, 2018. ASM is a triennial (every 3 years) gathering of all Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites and is usually very well attended. Asilomar was idyllic: an undulating shrubby terrain interspersed with pines, that raced towards the sea. The weather:a cool and crisp autumn delight - a nice escape from the humidity of the 305! Such was the weather that some attendees, including a professor from the FCE Fisheries division, could not resists a jog.  The conference halls and meeting rooms were furnished with wood and stone, and adorned with fireplaces…I could go on and on.
The theme of ASM 2018 - Next Generation Synthesis: Successes and strategies - brought together individuals involved in ecology and science outreach from the different sites of the LTER network. The goal was to reflect, evaluate, collaborate and deliberate o…

Ecological Society of America: A pathway for professional development

by Luke Lamb

Every year ecologists from around the world get together at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting for a week-long endeavor into all-things ecology. As a student whose only attended two ESA meetings, ESA2017 and ESA2018, this meeting has already been instrumental in shaping my professional perspective on the field of ecology and how its members conduct themselves. My hope with this post is to provide some evidence of the benefits that being involved within ESA as a student provides and how to make the most out of future meetings! For starters, the ESA is organized into a variety of different sections and chapters. Chapters are organized regionally while sections are organized around a common interest, like everybody is a student, or early career researcher, paleoecologist, etc. ESA says:
“[Section] activities are intended to encourage research, exchange ideas, and facilitate communication between ecologists with similar interests.”
My experience working with the ESA …

Hungry for outreach? Try a Data Nugget!

If you are passionate about the broader impact of your data, you should consider incorporating it into a Data Nugget. Data Nuggets are an opportunity for scientists to bring their data into the K-12 classroom. A Data Nugget is an activity, developed by scientists and teachers, that use real scientific data. Using real data in the classroom gives students experience working with "messy ecological data."

Two summers ago I worked with my advisor, a Research Experience for Undergraduate student, and a Research Experience for Teachers intern (RET) to complete a study investigating how gradients of salt and phosphorus influence soil microbes. Our RET, Ms. Casal, was fantastic! Ms. Casal's background is in chemistry and she teaches at Felix Varela. Ms. Casal went into the field with us to collect samples, helped run analyses on samples in the lab, and co-designed our Data Nugget.

Together Dr. Kominoski, Ms. Casal, and I selected data from our summer experiment and organized ap…

Communicating your Science

There are endless opportunities for graduate students to participate in science outreach! However, few receive proper training and are prepared to attend such events. We obviously know our research but translating that research to the general public is often difficult. Most outreach events require preparation and involve tabling. Having an activity that explains your research is essential to effective tabling. This is usually challenging to scientists who struggle to communicate the intricacies of their work to the general public.

For example, how do I efficiently explain how I study how extracellular enzyme potential in peat soil changes with saltwater intrusion. To me, that is the simplest way of summarizing my research, but only a few scientists and I would understand it. I needed help translating what I do.

If you are looking for a formal training experience to build up your science translation skills and effectively communicate your research, you should consider becoming a Scien…

What is Peat and Why is it Collapsing?

Written by Benjamin J. Wilson
For a background refresher on the impacts of sea level rise in South Florida, see my previous blog post.
Peat soil is the backbone of many wetlands. It is full of organic-rich carbon that is formed when plants perform photosynthesis: they suck up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and use it to make roots. These roots go into the soil, and because decomposition is slow in wetlands, these carbon-rich roots are stored in the soil for very long periods of time, allowing the marsh to grow in elevation (Fig. 1).
Under freshwater conditions, this carbon can be stored in the soils for thousands of years. This leads to a landscape full of pristine marshes that provide habitat for wildlife and are very efficient at filtering contaminants out of water (Fig. 2a). However, in some brackish marshes, especially in the Everglades, an exciting feature appears. From above, you can see the landscape is dotted with open-water ponds (Fig. 2b). I kept thinking, what cou…