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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Charlotte Harbor, Charlotte County, Florida, USA

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Charlotte Harbor, Charlotte County, Florida, USA
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Registered: December 2016
City/Town/Province: Port Charlotte
Posts: 1
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As a student majoring in botanical science and sustainable development, I'm always searching for new ways to encourage environmentally-friendly practices in my local community. I have a special passion for efforts that increase awareness of important environmental issues, as I strongly believe that education is what leads individuals to continue to take action even after a group effort has run its course.

Last summer, inspired to accomplish some exponential change of my own, I decided to schedule free community outings out into Charlotte Harbor. With the help my gracious father, his boat, and some community networking, we began holding weekly trips from the local marina. Each week, I would prepare to focus on a different environmental issue (one week it was runoff pollution, for example, and estuary health the next) and on the ride over I would give an interactive lecture on the topic. Once we anchored at that week's exploration spot, I'd have a hands-on activity set up, whether that be getting to know the local fauna/flora, testing for pollutants, conducting mini-experiments, or participating in a fun educational game. Afterwards, we'd leave time to explore and admire the area, during which explorers were encouraged to leave nothing but footprints and to take nothing but memories (and any trash they stumbled upon). We would host anywhere from ten to thirty explorers each week, with some even offering their own boat so that we could host larger groups. Both children and adults loved the chance to get out onto the water and get in touch with the local Florida ecology, and we were all a little sad when it had to come to an end at the start of the fall semester.

Besides giving me an excuse to have fun out in the familiar harbor of my childhood, this little endeavor provided a great way for me to both spread awareness for our local watershed and connect with community members. With more and more people moving to west-coast Florida (especially around the Sarasota area), it's important for locals to be aware of the effects of increased human activity on the harbor and its estuaries. Water quality and aquatic wildlife populations here have been on the decline since the immigration boom, with runoff, waste dumping, overfishing, and climate change being the key culprits. Educating community members with grassroots initiatives like this is the first step towards increasing awareness and therefore promoting a more environmentally-active community--one that will use their newfound understanding to vote in local elections, make changes in their own day-to-day lives, and even spread awareness with their own little projects.

Considering how rewarding this project was for me--all in regard to the benefit of others, the environment, and my own fruition and confidence--I will no doubt be embarking on more in the future, whether that be to continue our harbor outings or to try out some land excursions. It's reassuring to know that even little efforts like this one can make a big change, even if it's just in the hearts and minds of a few new friends.

Although I took far more than a few pictures during our trips, I've turned my favorites into a sort of environmental photography project documenting natives' reconnection with the wild Florida landscape. Attached is my personal favorite of a boy returning from our last trip. He sits on the bow of my father's boat, gazing off in deep thought as we pull back onto shore.
Date: December 27, 2016 Views: 918 File size: 19.1kb, 2103.2kb : 2717 x 2944
Hours Volunteered: 60
Volunteers: 2-5
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 20 & 16-60
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