Guest Post by Karina Nieves
As a student studying the environment, working with Florida Sea Grant has been a worthwhile experience. I have had the opportunity to assist with many projects over the past six months, such as boat ramp interviews during scalloping season and the responsible pier initiative; however, I find participating in the citizen-science water quality program particularly interesting. Not only does it give me a chance to explore something I am considering studying after I graduate, but it gives me a different perspective of where I live.
I have grown up in Hernando County and have explored most of the areas where I am taking water samples from. I remember growing up and spending my weekends playing on the beach at Pine Island and seeing manatees while swimming in Linda Pedersen park. That said, I never stopped to think about the clarity or quality of the water – “Am I swimming in dirty water?” hadn’t crossed my mind during my previous adventures. Unfortunately, our actions are impacting the environments around us. And although the water may look clean and clear, something microscopic may still be lurking.
As a volunteer with the microplastics project, part of my role is to filter the water samples and identify extremely small pieces of plastics and fibers. At first, I did not think I would find something like microplastics in the clear water that we have; I was quickly surprised. The more samples I process, the more of these microplastics I discover. It is a little sad to think that this is becoming the norm in the world, but working on a project like this gives me hope it will be fixed.
Volunteering with Florida Sea Grant in Hernando County has increased my awareness of a growing environmental concern that is occurring in my own backyard. I feel that I have become more knowledgeable and empowered to help my surroundings and I look forward to continuing to help with this project.