A five-person team, including a University of Florida professor as lead scientist, will embark on a dangerous trek through the Florida Everglades on Thursday to assess the impact of humans on the largest subtropical wilderness. of the world. The group will retrace an 1897 canoe trip that was first made by explorer and scientist Hugh de Laussat Willoughby.
Tracie Baker, associate professor of environmental and global health at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, joined the team of experienced explorers and guides on a mission to sample and test the same constituents of water which Willoughby has done more than a century since. Willoughby’s maps helped create the first accurate maps of the region, and his water sampling provided basic water chemistry for the Everglades.
“This expedition is primarily focused on applying modern scientific research to one of the most important watersheds on the planet. However, we also hope to inspire future generations of scientists, explorers, and all citizens to be better stewards of our shared environment,” said UF Water Institute fellow Baker. “My work focuses on multidisciplinary research that seeks to connect and improve human, animal and environmental health. The Willoughby Expedition will provide essential primary research on this work.
To assess humanity’s impact on the Florida Everglades, a UNESCO Globally Significant Wetland, the Willoughby 2022 Expedition team will also search for water pollutants that Willoughby wouldn’t have. been able to foresee, in particular microplastics, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pesticides, pharmaceutical products. and antibiotic resistance genes, all of which adversely affect plant and animal species globally. To help conserve wildlife, the expedition team will also document the abundance and location of apple snails, which are the sole food source of the snail kite, an endangered bird of prey at federal.
Beginning at the mouth of the Harney River in the Gulf of Mexico on October 27 and ending in downtown Miami in early November, the coast-to-coast expedition commemorates the 75th anniversary of Everglades National Park. It will traverse the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico, the brackish water of inland rivers, the pristine freshwater saw grass, the canals of suburban Miami, and ultimately through a maze of skyscrapers to at Biscayne Bay.
The Florida Everglades are one of the best known and most visited watersheds in the world, serving as Florida’s “environmental kidney” by filtering and cleaning water from all of the central and southern part of the state. The quality of its water directly impacts more than 12 million people and thousands of plant and animal species.
Historically, the Florida Everglades stretched north near present-day Orlando south to Florida Bay. Willoughby completed his studies of the Everglades before large-scale drainage and reclamation programs began in the late 19th century. Today, the Everglades have shrunk to about a third of their original size to make way for modern South Florida cities and their millions of residents.
The Willoughby 2022 Expedition will raise awareness of the key science and conservation goals of its more than 50 partners, including the University of Florida, National Park Service, Everglades National Park, Florida Power & Light Company, South Florida Water Management District, the Marine Industries Association. of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach International Boat Show and Cox Science Center and Aquarium.
To increase educational programs around the human impact on the Everglades, the Willoughby 2022 Expedition is also partnering with school districts and cultural institutions across South Florida. Live streams from the Everglades will be shared with schools and science museums, allowing students, educators and museum visitors to interact directly with the expedition team.
“Public education and live broadcasts are among the most exciting and important aspects of the expedition,” said Willoughby 2022 Expedition Co-Lead Harvey E. Oyer III, who is also an author. , archaeologist, fifth-generation Floridian, and former captain in the United States Marine Corps. “We want to share our passion for the natural world by giving the public an inside look at our work and igniting their passion for preserving the natural world.”
The Willoughby Expedition team includes:
- Harvey E. Oyer III, co-director– Oyer is a former captain in the US Marine Corps and a member of the Explorers Club. He holds an MA in Archeology from the University of Cambridge and is the author of a bestselling children’s book on the Everglades which is part of the 4th grade curriculum in Florida.
- Christophe Vandaele, co-director – Originally from Belgium, Vandaele is a graduate of the Royal Military School of Belgium and of the Special Training School for War Officers in Marche-les-Dames. He has made several tours in Africa and participated in scientific expeditions to the Andes, the jungles of Guatemala and to the North Pole.
- Tracie Baker, DVM, PhD, Principal Scientist– Baker, an associate professor at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, studies environmental contaminants. She is a former American NCAA academic swimmer and has completed four IRONMAN races and over 20 marathons. If the expedition is successful, Baker will be the first non-native woman to cross the Everglades.
- Carlos “Charlie” Arazoza, navigator – Arazoza is a Cuban-American attorney and CPA in Miami. A highly experienced Everglades paddler, he has led numerous trips through the Everglades, served as president of the South Florida National Parks Trust, and founded the South Florida Bush Paddlers Association.
- Flex Maslan, photographer and documentary filmmaker– Originally from the Czech Republic, Maslan has nearly 30 years of experience as a paddle guide, leading trips through most South Florida waterways. Maslan is also a professional photographer whose work has been featured in nature and water sports books and magazines.
Support team members include three other scientists, a chemist, a pilot and a filmmaker.
To learn more about the team, the course, the science and the man who inspired it all, visit willoughbyexpedition.org.