Florida is Untamed and Beautiful

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.'”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I cannot believe that my internship is already coming to a close in two weeks! Oh my goodness I am just overwhelmed with happiness for having the opportunity to explore southern Florida and all the beauty it holds. I can also say that I have learned a lot about myself these past few weeks, too; for me, it was my first time being away from friends and family, truly having the freedom to find what fulfills me in life, and the importance of being happy alone. The process was lonely and hard at first, but now, I am more willing to go on trips and adventures solo, and I’m practicing how to be extroverted. This has been a very humbling experience as I have struck up casual conversations with strangers during my adventures as well as made new friends! I discovered Florida on my own, visiting places and doing activities just simply because I wanted to, which was something foreign to me at the beginning of the summer. The experience of working with the National Park Service was so much more than just an internship… I was able to find myself, take pride in being who I am, and surround myself with people and nature that I love. I can say with confidence that being in nature is when I am happiest! A million thanks to everyone that has made my experience a life-changing one.

Adventuring the hidden secrets of florida

This week, I drove 10 hours round-trip to visit Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring and Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens in Williston, Florida. WOW! I knew that the Everglades was a popular tourist attraction here in Florida, but these were very hidden gems that I never even knew Florida would have. The prehistoric spring was serene and just so beautiful. I was able to snorkel in the refreshing spring waters where I saw fish and a turtle! I was also able to look around the gardens where I saw koi fish, waterfalls, beautiful lily pads, and clear waters. These places were just teeming with life and they were privately owned by a small group. The intimate setting was comforting and I was able to see just how diverse the Florida environment was just a little ways away from where I was living in the Everglades. 

Interpretation Programs

I have been having a lot of success with my birding and fishing programs! I met a lot of intelligent and passionate adults and children that were very receptive to the programs, which was fulfilling for me to see. I have especially enjoyed talking with the locals of Everglades City, where the national park resides. I think this was especially important because the national park has had conflict with the older generation residents of Everglades City, since many of them had to move due to the establishment of the national park and eminent domain laws. The locals I talked to during the programs were very refreshed and happy to hear that I was able to have a conversation about the tense history between them and able to listen to their concerns and comments. Also, the children that were tourists had a great time learning how to fish in salt water and what kind of birds live in the Gulf Coast area. I think that I had a lot of fun with the smaller groups because it was a more individualized program and I actually could participate in the games/activities with them since I was not doing as much crowd control. One part of the programs that made me really happy and proud was being able to talk to the kids with different personalities — extroverted, quiet, restless, curious, short attention spans, etc. — and get them interested in the subject that was also curating to their qualities. I am a people person and it was so great to be that connection kids have to nature. 

flora and fauna

The Naples Botanical Garden was beautiful and I was able to see the rare Ghost Orchid, which is one of the rarest flowers in the area due to only a small amount of moth species being able to pollinate the flower. I also saw many other orchids, animals, and water flowers. I was amazed at the diversity that the gardens had and being able to see these plants in real life instead in pots at the grocery store or in pictures. 

Pythons!

I reached out to the United States Geological Survey biologists to shadow them for a day and that was a life-changing experience. I got to see two wild python nests and do egg shell counts and hold a snake for the very first time in my life! I also helped weigh and measure baby snakes while getting to see the research side of the python hunting. Apparently, there is not a lot we know about pythons besides that they are invasive. Therefore, there is a lot of initiatives to track pythons, look at their life spans, diet, habitat, and breeding habits. This was such a cool experience and I got to meet other interns my age and talk about their interests and environmental experiences. 

I will be going next week to FWC to learn how to safely handle and capture adult pythons! Stay tuned for more pictures!

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