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horizon of the everglades

Joining FAESS for a Trip to the Hole in the Donut

By Michael James

Soil and Water Sciences Ph.D. student

new plant shoots growing in restored everglades areaOn November 14-16, 2019, I led a small group of students to the Florida Association of Environmental Soil Scientists (FAESS) 2019 general meeting. The association, largely comprised of Soil and Water Sciences MS distance education graduates, warmly welcomed us. They extended their invitation through Dr. Allan Bacon. With the gracious support of our department chair and help from the administrative staff, I headed south from Gainesville. My trusty co-pilot/navigator was Madelene Clark, an undergraduate in the Soil and Water Sciences Department who works with us in Dr.Gabriel Maltais-Landry’s Soil Fertility Lab. Along the way, we picked up Rachel Fenn, a master’s student working with Dr.Davie Kadyampakeni at the Citrus REC.

map of hole in donut restoration areas in evergladesThe professional meeting included a field trip to the Hole-in-the-Donut (HID) Restoration Project at the Everglades National Park followed by the business meeting. During our field trip, we learned about the theory behind restoration credits. This is a form of evaluating and monetizing the existence of natural ecosystems. We then had the privilege of driving through the “hole” – a former agricultural area, in the “donut” – the wider Everglades. A restoration specialist was our guide. Moving through the restoration chronosequence, I was amazed by how rapidly native vegetation reclaimed the area. This occurred after crews removed surface soils with invasive seed banks.

At the conference, we learned about the other events FAESS hosts and about the variety of ways to get involved. Current students need only email the group using the link on the website to join their mailing list. This is the main way to hear about future events and be counted as a student member with no fee. The members were excited to reflect on their time as students together and advise us on potential career paths.

three students at the Subsidence Post in Belle Glade, FL.

Students (l to r) Madelene Clark, Michael James, and Rachel Fenn at the Subsidence Post at the Everglades REC.

On the way back to Gainesville, we stopped by the Everglades REC. There we met with some agronomy students on-site and took some iconic photos at the Subsidence Post. From there, we traced the border of Lake Okeechobee and finally made our way back to the UF campus.