Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!

Guest post today from a new member of the FCE community!
Howdy ya’ll! I’m one of the newest members of the Trexler lab, here all the way from Houston, Texas. I finished my Masters in May, which focused on reproductive life histories of small stream fishes. In addition to working in some amazing clear water East Texas streams, I have a love/hate relationship with springs in the beautiful West Texas Chihuahuan desert. But, life hasn’t all been unicorns and butterflies; I’ve worked in my share of dumpy freshwater sites. However, nothing prepared me for what I was to endure in the Everglades. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting that the Everglades are “dumpy,” but rather mysterious and frankly, comedic. This past summer I was lucky enough to (literally) get my feet wet in the Everglades. I was excited, yet terrified. In Texas, alligators eat people… or so the story goes. I envisioned myself on this amazing airboat ride, only to get my calf taken out by a man-eating reptile. My first trip to the glades was with Mike Bush, who suggested I “shuffle my feet” to avoid gators. Seriously Bush?! I doubt “shuffling my feet” is going to keep a gator from eating me!! Anyway, he may or may not have been right, but I did not encounter nor become the dinner of an alligator. Day two was much more eventful; it was pouring rain and I had no rain gear. We were setting up drift fences made of 32 lbs of rebar (this may be a slight exaggeration) and I somehow managed to step in every chin-deep hole in the Gap (area between Water Conservation Areas 3A and 3B) while carrying these fences. My waders were filled with water/mud, the rain was freezing and I had a soggy pb&j for lunch. If you can believe it, I came back for thirds. 

Setting up drift fences.  Photo courtesy of Eric Fortman.

After a couple of interesting trips, I discovered the beauty and elegance of this system. In particular, Shark River Slough and Taylor Slough were some of the most amazing sites I've seen to date. The sheer size of this ecosystem is astonishing and the more I learn about its flora, fauna and ecology, the more intrigued I become; I have even learned to befriend (but respect) the gators! I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work in the country’s most prized restoration project. I guess Marjory Stoneman Douglas had it right- “it reveals its secrets slowly…” After traveling to almost every corner of this amazingly diverse ecosystem, I came to a couple of conclusions: 1) The Everglades are amazing, and 2) The Gap must be part of the ‘Truman Show’ and Mike Bush is the main star. 

Photo courtesy of Eric Fortman.

Jessica Sanchez
Doctoral Student
Florida International University
Department of Biological Sciences


  1. Replies
    1. The soggy field food is the worst.... And it seems no matter how well you protect your food, water always seeps in.

      P.S. Mr. Bush, what are alligators like freshwater stingrays?

    2. Eric Fortman told me to do that. You and him can walk towards two submerged gators, one shuffling and one slogging normally. We'll see who's right. I'll take pictures. It's the only way to know for sure.


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