South Florida #4: A Change in Perspective

Miu Yatsuka ’24 and Johnnie Moriarty ’23, share a day of nature exploration at the Deering Estate.

Today our day consisted solely of visiting the marvelous Deering Estate. Here we got our hands involved by meeting and holding different snakes and spiders in the morning, a nature exploration in the afternoon, and to finish off a led squid dissection.


We got the chance to hold a Burmese Python which was the highlight of my day! Some of our crew members worked on getting over life-long fears of snakes and spiders by making friends with the misunderstood creatures. The nature exploration was filled with abrupt stops where different species would be examined and in some cases explained on how they are influential in the animal kingdom. We learned about the spider, Golden Orb Weaver, that casts its webbing which in some countries was used as a fishing line thanks to its durability and strength. We watched as nature took its course on a frog as it was fighting for survival against the Florida Rat snake. Unsuccessful in its attempt the snake was later seen with a big lump in its torso as it hung from the nearby tree branch.

As someone with an intense fear of snakes, today’s activities challenged me in many ways, but also presented an opportunity for a change in perspective. From the presentation of the different snakes and tarantulas, I learned that many of the animals I perceived as terrifying and aggressive were actually gentle creatures. Although I am still hesitant to hold these animals, Ellios’ love for the creatures and tireless enthusiasm for his job motivated me to understand and appreciate the different wildlife.

Ellios also took time to explain the different invasive and exotic species that exist in Florida. He explained that many of these invasive species were transported by humans and released into the wild for many reasons, including irresponsible former exotic pet owners. These invasive species pose a detrimental threat to the ecosystem, as many foreign predators are introduced, reducing the population of many native prey. Something that stood out to me was Ellios describing the state of the Everglades as a defining factor determining our ability to protect the environment.

On bus rides and during meals, the crew had a fun time playing “contact”, a new game that our envoys instructor Zach taught us. Our evenings were also filled with laughter as we played around in the hotel pool. Although the activities are always lots of fun, getting to know everyone and experiencing Florida with them is something truly special.