Photo: Air plants
So today was our ﬁrst day waking up at the campsite in Collier Seminole Park. I must say it is a bit chillier than I anticipated, or packed for. After waking up and eating breakfast we played a couple games and got to know the friendly faces we have the pleasure of sharing this experience with. There are so many different kinds of students here, I am amazed.
After a few games and safety talks we headed out on our ﬁrst work day. The land here is beautiful in its own way and just driving through it is a treat. When many people hear the word swamp they think of a dirty, grimy wet place. Little do they know Big Cypress is a luscious environment that is home to many different animals and plants, such as the Red Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW), alligators, and what are called “Air Plants,” which are a part of the Bromeliad family.
Our ﬁrst stop was the Big Cypress Visitors Center where we were welcomed by the Acting Superintendent of Big Cypress National Preserve. I was surprised to see manatees that swim into the canal to escape the cold of the ocean. We also met with who they call the RCW expert Ross Scott, who told us a little bit about the work we will be doing in order to help the woodpeckers.
After lunch we headed out to the Oasis visitors center where we started on our ﬁrst project. So Bromeliads are a species of plants that grow on the sides of Cypress trees and other things such as power line poles, street lamps and pretty much anything off the ground. They are not parasitic and do not cause any damage to trees or wildlife. The visitors center has had some traﬃc problems with the Cypress tree growth that surrounds the facility. In fact two years there was a car accident caused by impeded visibility that resulted in a fatality, and today we helped make sure that that never happens again.
Problem: A large number of Cypress trees around the center interfere with driver visibility at the entrance to the parking lot. Solution? Cut ‘em down. Now, being the conservationists that we are, this is the last resort, but when it comes to the lives of human beings we must do what is necessary. To lessen the ecosystem impact and save the “air plants,” we harvested and replanted them in a different location so a crew could come in and cut down enough Cypress trees to increase the visibility of the upcoming turn by 500 feet. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say I feel really good about the work we did today. It’s a beautiful thing when you can help save wildlife and human life at the same time.