What better way to learn about the ecology of coastal Florida than by canoe? The Digital WAVE students went to Biscayne National Park to go canoeing and meet with a Park Ranger to talk about south Florida coastal environments and the effects of climate change on the area. When we arrived, we watched a short movie about the park region, and the ranger told us there are 4 separate ecosystems in the area. There are the mangroves along the mainland shoreline, Biscayne Bay, the islands of the Keys, and a coral reef (the 3rd largest reef in the world!). Each of these environments, and all the plants and animals that live there, depend on each other. If one is affected, all the others will be affected. But we didn’t just hear about the mangroves and the turtles and the seagrass meadows. We actually got to go out on canoes and see for ourselves – but not before the ranger taught us about canoe safety. Even though we were there to learn about the amazing wildlife in this environment, we definitely didn’t want to end up in the water with them! So we definitely paid attention to that.
Canoeing was harder for some than for others, but we all managed to navigate through open water as well as narrow channels of mangroves, being careful not to bump into them. We even got to stop on an island and eat our lunches we’d brought along – making sure not to leave any trash behind. This is the kind of place where you should take only photos, and leave only footprints. This place is so beautiful, and it’s amazing how it manages to protect us from the full extent of extreme weather and storms. And the fact that this area is right smack between the ocean on one side, and the huge urban sprawl of Miami on the other side, makes it a really fragile but really important place. It is definitely somewhere to take care of!