Week 6 is now complete, and our internship experience has flown by! It feels like it was only yesterday that we walked into the office for the first time, but we’ll be graduating soon- and what a time we’ve had! Currently, my primary project is to translate our internship experience into a video that’ll remind us of our time here, and encourage future interns to apply. I have to admit, I was a little nostalgic as I compiled all our pictures and videos, remembering everything we’ve learned throughout our time with The Everglades Foundation, and especially the time we spent exploring out in the Everglades.
So much so, that by Wednesday, we were itching for a field day and eagerly clambered into our rental for a day out in Everglades National Park. Our supervisor, Dr. Kristie Wendelberger, was taking us to several stops on the way down to Flamingo- including a walk inside of a cypress dome, something I had never done before. Our first stop was Ernst F. Coe Visitor Center, where we all fell in love with colorful Everglades post-cards, prints, and pins. Leaving the center with our hands-full of souvenirs, we made our way to our next stop, Anhinga Trail. Here, we saw dozens of lubber bugs but surprisingly, no anhingas! We did, however, witness a tussle between two gators in a fight for dominance.
Our day took a buggy turn when we hiked the Long Pine Key nature trail. This area is an ecotone (a transitional region between two ecosystems) between Hardwood Hammocks and Pine Rocklands, a worthy spot to visit, though I’d advise you bring your mosquito repellent. Firefighters were conducting prescribed burns to the Pine Rocklands nearby and the firemen allowed Luis to snap photos while Kristie explained this unique feature of the Everglades. These burns are set in place to preserve native Pine Rocklands, a fire-dependent ecosystem. Fire clears the canopy and allows more sunlight to reach the floor, which boosts pine seedling growth. Prescribed burns are set in place to mimic the natural burn pattern that was disturbed by urban development.
Our next major expedition was slogging through a Cypress dome- something three of us had never done before. Kristie led us four into the marl, and we slipped and squelched our way to the dome. We noticed several changes between the dome and it’s surrounding grassland: a temperature drop in both water and air, shade, more humidity, and more bugs. It’s an important ecosystem for fish and birds and in the dry season, many animals rely on the domes for shelter. We finished up ENP in Flamingo, where we saw several manatees, and then drove back up for a snack at Robert is Here – a Homestead classic.
Only two weeks remain, and we’re eager to make the most of our final days together. As we scramble to finalize our projects, we’re given the opportunity to reflect on the unique experience we’ve been given to explore one of the most biodiverse wetlands in the world. We’ll be forever thankful as we move forward in our academic and professional careers to have gained so much knowledge in such a short amount of time.
See you later, alligator.
– The Cleverglades Interns