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Dave Zawada, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientist in the Florida Integrated Science Center, St. Petersburg, Fla., participated for the 20th time in a field trip to the Florida Keys with students from his old high school in Munster, Ind. During the annual field trip, the students learn about an environment that is strikingly different but also quite similar to that back home. For 10 days, the students immerse themselves in comparing the two worlds.
The Environmental Science Project was founded in 1975 by John Edington and Art Haverstock, two biology teachers at Munster High School, in an effort to give students a hands-on learning experience in the field. Dave Franklin, chairman of the high school's science department, now leads the course, with assistance from teacher emeritus Edington. This year marks the 31st consecutive year for the course, and Edington has been a part of each year's course. Dave Zawada is an alumnus of the 8th "Project Biology" trip, a popular moniker for this novel class.
Project Biology is a special elective, extracurricular class in which students apply for one of 30 spots and show up an hour early to school each day to learn about the floral and faunal similarities between the Indiana Dunes and the Florida Keys. Geologically, both settings were affected by the end of the Wisconsin glacial period.
On a chilly March afternoon, this year's group boarded a bus in Munster, Ind. (located near Chicago, Ill.), leaving winter behind as they traveled to Big Pine Key, Fla., their temporary home for the week. On the way down, they visited the Okeefenokee Swamp and the Everglades.
Dave Zawada continues to join the field trip every year, helping with logistics and teaching about the area: "One of the main reasons I continue to go is that I remember what an impression this trip made on me. I believe that I am in my present field of study because of things I learned on this trip more than 20 years ago."
This year, Dave convinced USGS hydrologist Ann Tihansky to present a talk about Florida's hydrogeology and karst to the students for an evening program. "I am always pleased to share this kind of information with students," says Ann. "Understanding the ecosystems of Florida is so tied to understanding the basic interplay of water and the geologic framework. I wanted the students to get a good appreciation of what karst is and how it can affect water availability and living systems. Dave Franklin had planned a lot of field activities that would give them the opportunity to see these things firsthand. These students really understood that, and they had a lot of thought-provoking questions, too."
While in the keys, the students visit several types of habitat and participate in field activities and experiments that give them firsthand experience with data collection in the field. They hike around Big Pine Key, where they visit Blue Hole, a freshwater sinkhole, Watson's Hammock, and a shallow nearshore karst terrace called Coupon Bight. They also boat several miles offshore for a snorkeling and diving trip to a carbonate reef known as Looe Key. On all of these visits, the students discuss ecological and environmental issues affecting the Florida Keys area.
The kids also pitch in with domestic duties. They camp in tents, which they set up themselves, and they also take turns assisting with cooking and cleaning up. Dave still helps with all of these duties too. In fact, he's known to the students for his famous garlic bread.
in this issue:
USGS Scientist Attends Annual Field Trip for 20th Year
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