South Florida #7: Gratitude

Brendan Butz ’23, recounts the groups final morning activities.

Today we awoke to an unusually cool Florida Morning. What would have been a warm 50 degrees at home felt like sub-arctic temperatures compared to what we had become used to over the course of this week. After a quick breakfast, we boarded the Marine Lab boats for one final adventure. The ocean breeze made what would have been an already cold boat ride into an Arctic expedition. Unable to re-adapt to cold weather, we huddled for warmth until we reached our destination. We finally arrived at our destination; Nest Key and were finally able to experience firsthand the mangrove islands we had been learning about all week. After wading to the shore through the “refreshing” Florida Bay we began our exploration of the Island. Nest Key, which is part of the Everglades National Park, got its name from the large amounts of birds that nest there since the mangroves provide both shelter and protection from strong winds. Mangroves are able to create islands like Nest Key since they are able to trap large amounts of sediment and debris over time, while also filtering the water out. The sediment and debris is then eventually compacted into the clay-like substance that makes up the ground of Nest Key. While tightly packed in places near the mangroves, the sediment can be quite loose, as we found out after Will told us to venture out into the lake in the middle of the island. Much to our surprise, we sank almost to our knees in the sediment, which also had a very natural odor. Although it wasn’t an overly pleasant feeling, it was warmer than the air. We also spotted a snake, which seemed out of place on an island in the middle of a salt water bay.

After extracting ourselves from the water, we had time for a little more exploration. Unfortunately, due to the turbid waters, there were few critters to be seen. On the boat ride back, the end of the trip loomed over all of our heads. Although the trip had just begun, it was already time to leave the beautiful ecosystems and warm weather of South Florida behind. After a quick shower and hamburger from the Marine Lab dining hall, it was time to board our bus to the airport. Once we said our grateful goodbyes to the amazing Marine Lab Staff, the bus rolled out of the parking lot and took us to the end of our journey. As my eyelids grew heavy with sleep, I replayed the events of our trip over and over in my head, grateful to be a part of such an amazing experience with wonderful people. Without my peers, Ms. Valk and Ms. Schenck, our Envoys instructors Zach and Abi, and the staff of every place we were able to visit none of this would have been possible, thank you all so much!