One of our prime locations for the South Florida travel experience is the Mote Marine Laboratory Center for Tropical Research on Summerland Key, Fla. The Center is in the "Lower Keys," only 24 miles from historic Key West. It is situated on the southern (oceanside) portion of the island with easy access to the habitats of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
While based in the Keys, we will explore the mangrove islands, patch reefs and turtlegrass beds of Florida Bay and the reef tract. We will hike the hardwood hammocks on Big Pine Key and snorkel over sponge-soft coral communities. Students will learn about the rich history of the area, a history that chronicles both the impact of humans on tropical shores as well as the devastation that hurricanes can wreak on societies that inhabit such areas.
While at the Center for Tropical Research, students will be introduced to aspects of geological and physical oceanography as well as marine ecology. Much of our time will be spent "learning by doing" in the lab and on the water.
Increasing development in the Keys has led to unintended environmental degradation of the area's beautiful natural resources. A decline in reef health is a good case in point. We will study, first-hand, such issues as the impact of the ecotourism industry, land-use regulations and solid waste and wastewater management.
The study of South Florida would not be complete without an understanding and appreciation for the ecosystems of the Everglades, a "River of Grass" that historically fed the Florida Bay Estuary. Students will learn about the water management decisions of the last 60 years that have drastically altered this system as well as plans for its recovery.