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Students explore wildlife in the Everglades

Senior Brooke Davidson has been a member of the Life Sciences Club for more than four years, but last weekend was the first time she visited the Everglades.

“I think it’s amazing,” Davidson said. “It’s good that they preserve a part of Florida, and that it’s not going to change … well, at least not so fast, because that’s how all of Florida used to look.”

Members of the USF Life Sciences Club spent last weekend at the Everglades National Park to see what they are trying to protect. They saw endless grass areas with islands of cypress trees and mangroves. They also saw alligators, crocodiles, raccoons and hundreds of birds. Club members took a boat excursion during which they listened to a lecture about the Everglades wildlife and its history. They also walked several trails. It was the group’s first trip to the park, but they said they plan to repeat that visit at least once every year.

Davidson also said she has been on many trips with both the club and geology classes, but none of them were like the Everglades.

“It’s great that we can camp at the end of November. It would be impossible in any other state,” she said.

Bill Alexander, who works in the Royal Palm Visitor Center bookstore, said that more than one million people a year come to the Everglades from all over the world to see an ecological system different than anything they have seen before.

“It’s the fascinating part of that job,” he said. “And it’s great to observe how the Everglades National Park changes with each season. In another month everything will be very different. Busy season is from December to April, when it gets drier and all the wildlife concentrates in the waterhole areas. Also, mosquitoes are not as abundant as in summer.”

Senior Sunshine Martinez, president for USF Life Sciences Club and a member of Student Environmental Association, said she wants to do research in a tropical forest. About the trip she said, “It’s my last year, and I really couldn’t leave Florida without seeing the Everglades. I think it has a great diversity of life. I was amazed at all the different types of life I saw.”

Jackie Dostourian, a park ranger working in Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, said the Everglades National park is not like any other park in Florida.

“I have worked here for two years now,” she said. “When I came here for the first time, I was surprised with the diversity of the Everglades. There’s everything here. And its vastness … I have worked in smaller parks before, but I have always loved wetlands.”

Dostourian also said, “I always tell people to go to every stop, because each place will show them different wildlife.”

Rob Parenti, a naturalist guide in the Everglades National Park, said he has worked here about seven years.

“I do boat tours down here. I also get to do some canoe trips, hikes. … I have always been interested in the outdoors. I used to go camping when I was a kid. In here, I can live in nature and make a living out of it. I don’t have to worry about traffic jams.

“When I came to the Everglades, my first impression was that it was a vast expanse of wildlife, not the most scenic park, but beautiful nonetheless. A place where something was always moving, just like the mosquitoes that are on my face right now, the wildlife is so abundant for all those birds and alligators. I think the most important thing that people come away with is that the park doesn’t have to have mountains and canyons to be important.”