Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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Nicodemus Wilderness Project


NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Multiple Sites, Plantation, Florida, USA


Multiple Sites, Plantation, Florida, USA
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Registered: December 2020
City/Town/Province: Plantation
Posts: 2
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The pinelands of Florida are being dominated by the invasive plant Caesar's weed, and unfortunately, the ways land managers are trying to assassinate Caesar are not currently working.

As a researcher of biogeochemistry and invasive flora under the mentorship of Dr. Brian Benscoter of Florida Atlantic University, I conducted experimental research on the ecological trends of the invasive plant Caesar's weed. Specifically, my self-designed experiment observed the effects wildfires, prescribed burn land management, and novel soil disturbances have on the germination rate of this plant and the ultimate spread of the plant across the state of Florida. My data determined the ideal conditions for Caesar's weed germination and modeled what areas of Florida are projected to be hit hardest by this invasive species. My data are already compiled into a research paper and currently, I am compiling more research pertaining to the biogeochemical implications of the spread of this plant, Caesar's weed's unique biology, and alternatives to the somewhat ironic use of prescribed burning into a manuscript for publication. My findings were presented at the Florida Atlantic University Everglades Research Conference in April 2020 and I have been invited to share them at the 2021 Greater Everglades and Ecosystem Restoration Conference.

My discoveries and my newfound passion for invasive species management prompted my initiative to ensure that proper measures can be taken against Caesar's weed's spread for the sake of Florida's environment and its inhabitants. This entailed contacting government officials to get clear information on the land management they use, why it is being used, and possible alternatives. I have theorized a few new land management models that are compiled into the manuscript I described. This also catalyzed the start of the invasive species awareness program with the Everglades Restoration (ER) Ambassadors 501(c)(3) nonprofit, of which I am the current president.

In the past, ER Ambassadors spent weekend mornings doing beach cleanups or cleaning up local nature centers, but now some of these events have been replaced with events that teach how to spot and properly remove invasive species like Caesar's weed, air potato, and Spanish needle. These take place at national parks, nature centers, and beaches. Everglades National Park, Everglades Holiday Park, Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, Secret Woods Nature Center, Anne Kolb Nature Center have all benefited from my effort through invasive species removal. In regard to more hands-on initiatives that I implemented post-research; I created an educational module for ER Ambassadors to use for our outreach events that demonstrates how invasive plants spread across Florida (it was modeled directly from my Caesar's weed research). Currently, with distance learning in place, ER Ambassadors are writing monthly blog installments (some of which referring to invasive species) and are spreading awareness virtually. Tropical Elementary, Plantation Park Elementary, and Central Park Elementary have experienced the new invasive species model (as well as some others).

After my internship with Dr. Benscoter, the lens through which I see the natural world transformed. I can now see the problems that need to be solved, and then ask, experiment, and answer the questions that propel me toward a solution. Thankfully, with my efforts, I am able to provide a logical understanding of the under-researched Caesar's weed plant, advocate for and develop practical land management efforts and hands-on programs and strive for the education of others on this very nuanced and misunderstood topic.

As a child, my father took me out into sawgrass marshes of the Everglades one day and the cypress swamps the next, building my appreciation of ecology, but an overarching interest of mine is the balance that is found in nature, the understanding of how: the fundamentals of ecology. How will Canal A lead to the spread of certain aquatic plants, and how will Canal B lead to more phosphorus in the water supply? The field of environmental science is very abstract so incorporating the notions of math (precision and accuracy) into my thought process turns ideas into models. This creates environmental engineering, the perfect form of science. The intricate systems and complex machines of environmental science are achieved by the simple ones of math. That is one reason I sought out the mentorship of Dr. Brian Benscoter. The field is simply fascinating and needed. Through my many months of research, education, and service, my thoughts have developed to believe that to undo the damage done to the planet, create sustainable robotics, design cities symbiotic with nature, thinking like an environmental engineer is the only answer.

Because of my passion for environmental science, I discovered the Nicodemus Wilderness Project so creating one of my own initiatives was inevitable. As my research developed into my effort for hands-on action and then to education, I realized I already had my project.

Land managers, as well as agricultural area and nature center directors, have been positively impacted through my project. The designing of practical land management when it comes to invasive plant removal, while ever-growing, has been improved overall, especially with regard to Caesar's weed management. The multitude of agricultural areas and nature centers are continuously being scanned by our now trained ER Ambassadors, in addition to the staff of these areas, for common invasive plants. Of course, these plants are removed for the health of the ecosystems.

The education portion of my project has also left a positive impact on the youth of South Florida. Through the visitation of local elementary schools and the education of elementary students through my specific research on invasive plants, and the resulting research from ER Ambassadors, students are made aware of the environmental issue of invasive species. The creation of my education module meticulously designed to show how invasive plants spread across Florida easily educates these students on how the natural processes occur, and even better, how they can help. Through teaching students about common invasive plant species and, with parent permission, how to remove and dispose of the plants, my project's impact goes further than the school doors, and into Florida residents' homes. Not only are these young, bright students educated, but so are the students of ER Ambassadors. They have been trained on how to do the removal of invasive plants, but also how to research properly through the creation of The ER Blog.

The hands-on efforts of invasive plant removal, and the education of students (of all ages), has shown a great positive impact within the state of Florida, the ongoing conservation efforts of many, and just one of many important ways to combat the biggest environmental issue of climate change.

Something amazing transformed within me as well. Through my service, I have discovered my strongest passion for environmental science and environmental education. Yes, my project has led to the education of hundreds of students, discovered new findings of this under-researched invasive species, and continues to design novel land management practices that actually work, but the ultimate impact of my endeavor is the discovery of my calling as a n environmental engineer.

The project remains in use by the Everglades Restoration Ambassadors, with no sign of being halted in the near future. This means that invasive species removal will continue even after my time with ER Ambassadors and researching Caesar's weed is long over. Additionally, more and more ER Ambassadors will be taught how to do design research projects, and generations of elementary school students will be educated on the topic of invasive species.

Initial Caesar's Weed Research Paper:

ER Ambassadors Webpage:

All Pictures:
Date: December 29, 2020 Views: 4869 File size: 16.7kb, 1530.4kb : 1275 x 1650
Hours Volunteered: 1,489
Volunteers: 36
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 8 to 48
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