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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
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Registered: December 2019
City/Town/Province: Fort Lauderdale
Posts: 1
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"I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully defend from waste the natural resources of my country - its air, soil, and minerals; its forests, water, and wildlife." When I was eight years old, I recited the conservation pledge for the first time. I looked up at the striped green flag accompanied by yellow looking e, and recited the words, but I never imagined nearly ten years later I would define those words. It is estimated that by 2025, 90% of the world's coral reefs will be dead. Natures "rainforests of the sea" are being threatened by high ocean temperatures, coral bleaching, pollution, and so much more. I have lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida my entire life, which has been composed of perfect beach weather and nonexistent winters, but there's a lot to the sunshine state even locals don't know. One fact being: the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States happens to be in Florida, and where my journey began to restore coral reefs.
In December of 2018, I received my first email from the Urban Farming Institute that read "Reef Rangers and Mermaids needed." Stacy Brown, director of the Urban Farming Institute and Marine Biologist, wanted to facilitate a program where high school students could build, grow, and create an artificial coral reef, which became my reality. The project was called Reef Rangers. My first position was learning how to reach out and convey the message of saving our reefs. I organized spread sheets, directed emails, and communicated with students and faculty from several South Florida Schools. We partnered with Northeast, South Broward High, and New River Middle school to start the coral building process. What started as the hope to build an artificial coral reef, quickly turned into a plan to save a natural resource.
In the early stages, coral fragging and propagation were uncharted territory, but they developed into subjects I knew best. Saturdays became nights for coral bleaching lectures and afternoons were spent monitoring the use of bio balls in our newly built tank. Part of problem solving is addressing and bringing awareness to a solution. So, I joined other environmental organizations to learn about universal problems and observe how others advocate. I was a part of the Stoked-on Salt, S.O.S, annual shoreline cleanup, where I assisted divers in cleaning up fishing line under the pier and on the shoreline. I later went on to run the Reef Ranger booth at Lucky's Farmers Market, where I advocated for coral restoration and spoke with costumers about the Reef Ranger project. The most challenging part came we traded our notebooks in for fins and a tank. I spent my summer getting certified in scuba diving so when the time came, I could use my knowledge to dive down and monitor coral growth. During my senior year of high school, I had the idea to expand our message to kids and youth in my community. I contacted the Garden Club of Fort Lauderdale, in Birch State Park FL, and asked if I could speak to the members of the youth garden club. A few months later and in front of thirty garden club members, I gave a lecture on what being a Reef Ranger meant, the project itself, and on the deterioration of our coral reefs.
The project itself has already gained support and a following, from dive shops that administered our lessons for free to universities like Nova Southeastern who offered their coral tanks for growth. The Urban Farming Institute started Reef Rangers alongside a local eco-art company called 1000 Mermaids, which recently deployed concrete artificial reefs off the coasts of West Palm Beach & Broward County. We are now waiting for the county's approval for a permit to grow soft coral in our labs, with the hope that we can transfer the coral onto the 1000 Mermaids artificial reefs in the near future. The goal of this project is to help restore an ecosystem by refurnishing and advocating on behalf of it. The impact could potentially save South Florida's costal lines, economy, and oceans. The Urban Farming Institute gave me a platform to not only learn but shape the future of our environment. I am so grateful to show people my age, of any age, that there is a crisis in our backyard and in oceans around the world but must importantly that the solution is not unattainable. I started this project after I had just turned 16 and by today, I can proudly say I have been able to participate and educate the youth on ecological preservation. Whether it was ten years later or in ten years from now, I will always look forward to faithfully defending our natural resources.
Date: December 29, 2019 Views: 4020 File size: 22.4kb, 164.3kb : 904 x 635
Hours Volunteered: 60
Volunteers: 6
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: I am 17, the group ranged from 8-18
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