By Kenneth Rainer, Susan Van Hoek and Kathalyn Gaither
Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve is working with students at Flagler College in three separate departments. It’s a win for the students because these future scientists, educators and journalists receive college credit or practicum opportunities that will guide them in becoming the future stewards of the environment. It’s also a win for the environment because all of these areas of learning are helping to ensure that Florida’s natural resources remain sustainable and healthy.
Natural Science Department
During the spring semester of 2010, and again in spring 2012, GTMNERR and Flagler College developed an undergraduate science research partnership in which faculty members use the lands and water at the reserve for field-based research, labs and other related activities. Students participating actively develop research skills, enhance their understanding of the scientific endeavor and develop a deep appreciation for the local environment.
For a required course called Elementary Methods in the Sciences, eight Flagler College education students spent part of the 2012 spring semester at the GTM NERR facilitating education programs as part of a 20-hour practicum. The program is a national initiative to educate K-12 students about the importance of estuaries to marine species and to humans. Student practicum opportunities are similar to internships, in this case providing required undergraduate coursework for education students.
Two Flagler College communication students are the reserve’s first interns dedicated to producing video podcasts (a podcast is a digital video series that can be downloaded on the web and viewed on portable media players). To receive college credit, Kylynn Pelkey and Calla Rowell produced four podcasts throughout the semester on scientific activities occurring within the reserve. By developing the storylines for their podcasts, the interns gained a deeper understanding of the estuarine environments while helping the reserve teach even more members of the public about their initiatives.The internship provides students with practical field experience, allowing them to build on their journalistic and communicative education.
The interns covered native bees, marine debris, ecosystem services and shoreline fluctuations. The native bee podcast focused on the work of Jaime Pawelek, a GTM environmental specialist. Pawelek took the interns through her studies of observing and documenting native bees in their natural habitat, gathering data on what types of flowers the bees visit and on the biology, ecology and nesting strategies of native bees in urban environments.
Lauren Flynn, another environmental specialist with the reserve, covered the adverse effects of marine debris on marine species and estuarine habitats. She focused on the broad range of items left on the beach or washed ashore daily and described the marine debris collected and tallied one day a year on a global scale during International Coastal Cleanup Day. She showed how microplastics, which result from the gradual breakdown of discarded plastics into tinier pellets and particles, are a problem in the oceans and on shores because they never go away and are particularly harmful to marine organisms. Learn more about the other video podcasts, as well as the many other education and research programs available through the reserve.
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