Florida: Day four (FGCU research centre & Naples botonical gardens)

Day four: FCGU research centre, Naples Botanical Gardens & The Everglades (26/02/2019).

Temperature: 35°c.

Location: FCGU research centre & Naples Botanical Gardens, Naples FL.

Acknowledged species behaviours:

  • Resting Alligator.
  • Alligator locomotive behaviour (swimming).
  • Brown anole locomotive behaviour (running).
  • Standing Pied billed grebe.
  • Black racer locomotive behaviour (slithering).

Figure 45: Group photo outside the colourful floral arch soon after entering The Botanical Gardens. 

Our first stop included a visit to the FCGU research centre, which moved from its original location at Ohio State University a number of years ago. The FGCU research centre was proudly home to The Everglades Wetland Research Centre. 

We firstly entered the lab, located in Naples, taking our time to look around the immaculate room whilst then being given a talk regarding the lab machinery (including dry ovens) and about the past and present research projects being carried out there and in other countries: Cuba, The Bahamas, Scotland and London.

The research lab was supporting a student project, looking closely at the levels of methane occupied from cypress trees and swamps – Similar to those spotted during our visit to Corkscrew Swamp during our third day. Additionally, a staple isotope study was carried out in order to allow the student to understand, in depth, about the levels of carbon which accumulate in the soil. 

The Everglades Wetlands Research Park is a facility to provide teaching, research and service related to wetland, river and coastal science and ecological engineering. 

Source: https://www2.fgcu.edu/swamp/

A plant biomass study was also conducted at the centre, which included the processing of a soil sample which could then be analysed in the lab. 

It was during our time at the research centre, listening to gripping talks about studies and research, that we learned more about the pollution of The Everglades, which happened to occur due to agricultural activities (I.E: Fishing and the production of methane gas from land mammals, which had drastic impacts in lakes, such as Lake Osborne. The farms also work to produce a range of fruits and vegetables, including sugarcane, which can grow efficiently due to the common use of fertilisers. 

This also creates further data and knowledge about the wetlands. A second study carried out in Spain studied and reared fishes, leading to the cycling of the waste water through the wetland system to understand how nutrients can be reduced. 

Man made measures have been implemented in order to assist with the removal of nutrients from the water found in wetlands, and masses of data and expert knowledge enable the process to run as smoothly and effectively as possible.

Figure 46:  Group photo taken during our visit to the research centre, an interesting component of Florida Golf Coast University. 

The alluring Botanical Gardens sat closely to the research centre, since both centres were collaborated, and it wasn’t long before we wandered inside excitedly to gain a look at the high diversity of brightly coloured, and dazzling, plant and flower species planted around the nature attraction. Species from all across the globe, with some species native to Florida and others that were not. 

People from London worked on plant conservation projects, who hypothesised to collect plants which they aimed to use for the creation of a garden – Naples Botanical Gardens. 

Throughout the gardens, the range of plant species are marked with either green or red labels. The labels give an indication into whether or not the species is endangered. Conclusively, species with red labels are listed as globally endangered species as per the ICUN, who also help to identify an assortment of plants located worldwide. A handful (5%) of species, including trees, are assessed through the list. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development have 17 goals to enable our humanities to coincide to become more sustainable across the globe. 

The plants possess their own unique, individual data sets which imply their age and the place they came from. The data applied to each species makes the plant worth more in terms of an increased value. 

For more information of The FCGU research centre, please visit the following source:

https://www.fgcu.edu/cas/centers/

Figure 47: Jesters on a branch:

Figure 48: Chinese plant.

Figure 49: Orchid garden.

At 2pm, after leaving the botanical gardens, we ventured down Loop Road Scenic Drive on our way to The Everglades, with the aims of spotting alligators and more wildlife species along the duration of the trip. 

The Everglades is a unique wetland area situated in Florida.

Loop road is a 24-mile-long popular tourist attraction in Southern Florida, well established for the spectacular abundances of wildlife you can encounter there. The drive lasted for a 2 hour duration past our previous location in Naples.

Figure 50: Alligator spotted during our drive through Loop Road upon our journey to The Everglades.

Figure 51: Second Alligator spotted during our drive through Loop Road upon our journey to The Everglades. 

The Everglades and Airboats review:

After a joyous and scenic drive through the infamous Loop Road, we arrived at Coopertown The Original Airboat Tour. A popular attraction based in Miami for both local people and tourists, with promises of encountering masses of wildlife throughout the tour. 

Figure 52: Welcome sign located at the front of The Original Air Boat Tour, FL. The attraction in which we visited The Everglades with the assistance of an air boat tour of the waters. 

A ranger at the attraction lead a talk to which he handled reptiles: A Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) and a Python (Pythonidae) to allow the audience to gain a closer view. The terrapin was cruelly tormented for the sole purpose of human entertainment as he was forced to snap – a behaviour exhibited through periods of stress and protection, which I believe not to be an action encouraged in front of curious visitors since it can only result in harm and the normalisation of threatening behaviours.

The centre offers an airboat ride, allowing groups of up to 20 people to drive through The Everglades. 

The airboats achieve movement through the usage of the rudders located at the back of the mechanism. The rudders steer the air that proceeds to be pushed out by the fan. Assuredly, this minimises the use of sharp propellers which have been known to cause harm and contribute to manatee (amongst other marine animals) deaths, which is a topic covered in J.Mullet’s case embedded in the Day 6 Ding Darling blog post

Whilst sitting on the airboat bench surrounded with other individuals, I began to understand the harsh impacts the boats were playing on species of wildlife, through causing them unnecessary stress. The animals were quick to flee from the area after the loud sounds of the airboat flooded the environment and frightened them away, or following bouts of being hit directly by the boat.

I began questioning whether a more environmentally friendly method could be used to withstand a view of the wetland ecosystem.

We acknowledge private airboating and commercial airboating is an important way for people to experience The Everglades. And there are people who want to experience it in a more wilderness way.

Source: Sue Cocking (2017).

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article1958799.html

The airboats cause unnecessary noise pollution aswell as contributing to the destruction of vegetation and the constant disturbance of the soil beneath the water.

The impacts of airboats: Airboats carve channels through the sawgrass, changing water flows that impact the ecosystem 

I believe that the trip to Coopertown Airboat Tours was necessary, although not particularly pleasant, as it allowed me to gain a better understanding of the impacts and threats lead by airboats which can assist me in my further research and studies as a Zoologist. 

I also understand and acknowledge the importance of the airboat industry to local people, in the sense that it issues them with a reliable source of income whilst also providing jobs to people. The centre could also be educating people into a vast amount of conservation topics alongside animal and environmental ethics.

In hindsight, the trip allowed me to expand on my knowledge of animal ethics and welfare, to which I can compare to other areas across the globe.

The trip enabled me to gain an interest into the impacts of airboats on the environment and in the ethical aspects of many of the animal species exposed to the issue. The research I carried out lead me to believe that a current Everglades restoration project is active, named ‘The Everglades Restoration Project’ which stands with the aims of restoring areas of the unique Everglades that have been exploited due to human activity (such as regular airboat usage).

For further information on the FCGU research centre, please visit the following source:

https://www.fgcu.edu/cas/centers/

For further information on Naples Botanical Garden, please visit the following source:

https://www.naplesgarden.org/

For further information on Coopertown Airboat Tour, please visit the following source:

http://coopertownairboats.com/

For further information on The Everglades Restoration Project, please visit the following source:

https://www.captainjacksairboattours.com/12-environmental-impact-the-everglades-restoration-project/

Reference list:

Cocking S. (2017) Iconic airboats won’t be part of Everglades culture much longer.

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