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stormwater pond in Gainesville, Florida

Soil and Water Summer Experience – Paula Sanchez Garzon

The UF/IFAS soil and water sciences department is offering students the chance to blog about their summer experiences. The students enrolled in one of three courses over the summer, for which they received credit: SWS 4905-Individual Work, SWS 4911-Supervised Research in Soil and Water Science, and SWS 4941 Practical Work Experience. This is Paula Sanchez Garzon’s summer experience:


college student outside county extension office building

Paula Sanchez Garzon outside the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County office (photo provided)

My name is Paula Sanchez Garzon and I am pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Management in Agriculture and Natural Resources. During my internship, I was at the UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County office as a water resources summer intern. I worked on an investigative project in copper concentration in stormwater ponds. This took place in different communities around Sarasota County under the supervision of Dr. Abbey Tyrna. I also worked on the design of an algae photo manual.

Scope of Work

The main project was studying the relationship between organic matter and copper concentrations in aquatic plants, sediments, and water. We did this to better understand the behavior of copper to promote healthy stormwater ponds in the county. We also want to research copper toxicity and promote best management practices when it comes to using copper sulfate to treat algae.

student working in soil laboratory

Paula processing soil samples in the lab. (photo provided)

I took soil and water samples in two ponds per community by the outlet and the middle of the pond. Additionally, I collected aquatic plants from every pond to study the species that could best store copper for remediation purposes. Also, I worked on a photo algae manual. This will help identify the different microalgae found within stormwater ponds. Ultimately, managers will use this to properly manage algae within stormwater systems in residential areas.

Learning Experience

The experience was rich in knowledge, rewarding,  and memorable. I gained a lot of hands-on experience when taking soil and water samples. It was really exciting to take my first soil sample and filter water samples for the first time. I became familiar with organisms found in stormwater ponds and their role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. I learned how to conduct stormwater pond assessments. This included identifying characteristics that make a pond healthy or unhealthy and what recommendations to give.

student sorting plants

Paula collecting and sorting plants from a stormwater pond. (photo provided)

It was also wonderful to see that extension agents are super passionate about their area of expertise and that there is always something new to do and learn every day. From the algae manual, it was exciting to set up for the first time a microscope with a camera attached to it to look at microalgae on computer screens. Last but not least, I was fascinated when I identified and saw Euglena for the first time at the pond and under the microscope.

SWS 4244 Wetlands and SWS 3022 Introduction to Soils in the Environment taught me the fundamentals to understand and apply concepts during my internship. My previous work in soil and water allowed me to understand the behavior of soil and understand why soils have different characteristics depending on vegetation and the water table. I was able to physically identify the different types of soil based on texture and physical characteristics. Also, previous knowledge on biogeochemistry in wetlands allowed me to understand in-depth why algae are present on ponds and how nutrients loads contribute to their presence in the ponds.