Lessons learned in a field ecology classroom came to life for nine Niagara students, who spent their winter break kayaking, hiking and biking at Everglades National Park. The 10-day trip, organized by Dr. William Edwards and his wife, Coleen, provided an unparalleled opportunity to experience firsthand the flora and fauna of seven individual ecosystems. “It’s everything we teach in ecology right in front of you,” says Edwards, who came up with the idea for the trip several years ago, while on his honeymoon. At the time, both he and his wife thought that bringing students to the park would be an ideal way for them to learn about the ecological concepts they studied in class. This year, they had the opportunity to do just that.
For 10 days, the group explored park trails, observing the animals and plants that call the park home. They waded into sloughs, took a nighttime hike along a trail that was inhabited by what seemed to be hundreds of alligators, swam with dolphins during a visit to a dolphin research center, and visited a marine rescue center. Each day offered something new for the students, who came away with a new appreciation for the diversity that shapes the ecology.
“The Everglades is one huge classroom,” says Dan Murphy, a senior chemistry/environmental studies major. “Everything was a new and enjoyable experience, and we all learned more than we probably could have imagined.”