Wistride Lumas spent her early years in Haiti, witnessing the environmental impacts of natural disasters and knew she wanted to understand the science behind natural systems. Her curiosity led her to major in environmental science, with a strong interest in studying abroad.
Living in Haiti, Lumas experienced both hurricanes and earthquakes, wondering why these occurred and what could be done to mitigate the impacts to the communities. After moving to the United States at 11 years old, Lumas started learning more about environmental management and she knew she wanted to find a way to incorporate this knowledge into her future career.
“I want to bring the knowledge I have into my home country and use it to create environmental policies to ensure we’re using all the resources that we have sustainably,” Lumas said. “Haiti is a beautiful country with amazing resources and I think that we could do a better job of using those resources better.”
In addition to sustainability, Lumas also has an interest in learning about different cultures and the beliefs people have. She recognized college was a place where she could combine her interests in culture and the environment and explore the world through a study abroad program; however, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed these adventures.
After applying for two different study abroad programs that were ultimately canceled, Lumas applied for the UF in Costa Rica Tropical Ecosystems program. The group eventualy received the green light from the university, so Lumas spent her last spring break week in Costa Rica, learning about eco-tourism and recreation in a tropical environment.
“It wasn’t until I heard somebody speaking Spanish that I was like, oh my gosh I’m actually in a different country,” Lumas said. “It’s like my dream was fulfilled.”
While traveling across the country, the study group visited eco-tourism sites and saw coral reefs, Volcano Arenal, national parks, a wildlife refuge and the Caribbean lowlands. The trip encapsulated both the tourist side of visiting the country while also being able to see the areas where locals live and work.
“Costa Rica was interesting because they’re kind of one of the most biodiverse countries,” Lumas said. “Being there and hearing how people are wanting to preserve the forest and ecosystem, but at the same time struggle because the locals need to make a living and [eco-tourism] is one way to do that.”
Lumas applied many of the concepts she learned in classes to examples she studied in Costa Rica.
“It got me thinking outside the box, because when you’re learning in the classroom, it’s like we should do this or that but it’s not necessarily what it looks like in reality,” Lumas said. “I really want to explore how people interact with the environment, so we can still preserve those ecosystems and allow people to make a living.”
Lumas recognizes the complexity of this issue, but also understands the importance of studying the interactions between communities, humans and the environment. Her goal following graduation is to take a gap year and then obtain a master’s degree to find ways to manage climate change and other environmental factors. This summer, Lumas will be working with Florida 4-H at an environmental education summer camp.
“I’m just honored to be a part of CALS and study what I study, and to have the professors that I have had,” Lumas said. “And I know one day I am going to be able to contribute.”