Written by 2019 Summer Intern Juliana Navarro, with host Darlene Velez from the Suwanee River Water Management District
The Suwanee River Water Management District’s motto is
“Water for Nature, Water for People.”
The Real Florida
Florida’s water resources may seem endless, but if they are not protected, they could easily be polluted or depleted. Part of my internship was assisting the environmental scientists as they monitored the water quality of various district lands. We visited and sampled freshwater springs, rivers, wells, and dairy farms to test for various water quality parameters. I learned that water for drinking, farming, and recreation all require different chemical balances. I was very inspired by how hard the district employees work to protect and conserve water resources in the area.
I also helped to build the new water quality monitoring station at Gilchrist Blue Springs. It was interesting to work in this very popular spot because the park visitors were very curious about what we were doing. I learned that educating the public while working is an essential part of the job.
Having the opportunity to visit some of North Central Florida’s lesser-known natural areas was a truly unique experience that made me feel very connected to my home state. I have always loved springs and could not believe I was getting paid to help protect them!
The next part of my internship was an individual study of the changing mangrove population in Cedar Key. Since the 1990s, Cedar Key’s landscape has dramatically changed. Its intertidal zones used to be exclusively covered in marshlands, but now house a thriving mangrove population. I used GIS land coverage data and historic aerial photographs to uncover just how many mangroves have migrated to the area. I also examined years of climate data to try to search for a correlation. I found that while no one can say for sure how and why mangroves migrated to Cedar Key, the environment is ideal for them. I also found that mangroves provide so many ecosystem services to coastal communities. They improve fisheries, increase biodiversity, purify the water, sequester carbon, control erosion, and protect the land from hurricanes. This research project was so interesting and I was lucky enough to be able to present all my findings to the district employees before my internship ended.
Thank you to Darlene Velez, Alex Blankenship, Dr. Marc Minno, and the entire water resources team at the district for providing me with so much support throughout my internship. I absolutely loved working at the Suwannee River Water Management District this summer and cannot believe how much I learned in such a short period of time. Thanks again for this opportunity NCBS!