Three weeks have come and gone, but not without several whimsical adventures! This past Monday and Tuesday were a blur of meetings, project work, and planning for our multi-destination expedition on Wednesday.
During our expedition, we visited the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge – a name that has become familiar to us in our time at the Foundation. Arthur Marshall was a renowned environmentalist and dedicated his life to the restoration of the Everglades. His nephew, John Marshall, followed in his uncle’s footsteps and became a prominent figure for Everglades conservation. In addition to creating the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation and the Florida Environmental Institute, he is the name behind this program, the John Marshall Everglades Internship!
At the refuge, we hiked through a cypress dome – a first for both Thea and I. We saw some mysterious cypress knees (their function unknown), many ferns and bryophytes. Luis also found an invasive apple snail!
We then stopped for lunch at a local Indian restaurant and squeezed in a quick trip to Blowing Rocks Preserve. Thea is from Skokie, IL, and had never seen the ocean! Luis, Adele and I were excited to show her, and we documented her first steps into the salty Atlantic. Did you know that the preserve is located near the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge? The refuge was named after yet another influential Everglades environmentalist and a Founding Director of The Everglades Foundation, Nathaniel Reed!
The day was far from over. We drove to meet Gary Lickle, a Foundation board member, who invited us on a private aerial tour of Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding ecosystem. Mr. Lickle had us rock-paper-scissors for who would be able to fly cockpit with him, and Thea won! We started off on the east side of Lake Okeechobee, flying over residential homes, and then reaching the St. Lucie Canal, a site heavily photographed during the algae blooms of 2018. We saw sugarcane farms, sod farms, the “black gold” (peat) that drew farmers to this area, and the Herbert Hoover Dike that made farming possible in the first place. Contrastingly, we also saw rookeries, gators, and the last free-flowing watercourse feeding into the lake, Fisheating Creek. Looking into the horizon, you could just barely make out the other side of the lake. On the west side, we saw the Caloosahatchee River which, like the St. Lucie Canal, receives massive amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee to divert floodwaters.
We had all fallen quiet in the plane, observing the great expanse before us, when Mr. Lickle casually told Thea she should… FLY THE PLANE?! He was controlling the plane but allowed her to keep us leveled! It was a lot of fun.
All in all, Wednesday was an action-packed, very fun and memorable day. Our adventures tired us out, and we finished up the week back in the office, working on our projects. We’re looking forward to next week, where we’ll be able to attend a South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Meeting and give our public comments on it!
The Cleverglades Interns