Thursday, May 29, 2014

Everglades, a LUSH environment.

Everglades National Park clings to the edge of Miami, a dramatically flat landscape that feels impossibly distant from the claustrophobic bustle of the city. As the sky opens up to reveal solitary egrets and lonely mangroves, we feel as if the miles had taken us back in time rather than down the road.

The four women I’m sharing a car with and I work for LUSH Handmade Cosmetics. As part of a commitment to ethical and sustainable business practices, LUSH produces a product called Charity Pot. Full of fairly traded organic cocoa butter and fragrant ylang ylang and geranium oil, all proceeds from the sale of Charity Pot benefit grassroots organizations around the world.

An important aspect of the Charity Pot program is partnering with local organizations to meet local needs. Nothing is more illustrative of Florida’s unique needs than a peek inside the Everglades. It is home to any number of iconic Florida plants and animals, a legitimately awe-inspiring experience of prehistoric beauty.

However, making that experience available to the students, scientists, artists and enthusiasts who visit requires a significant and ongoing effort. The caretaking of Everglades National Park is a never-ending job, full of back-breaking labor in an unforgiving environment. My colleagues and I chopped and dug and pulled and swept, swatted and knocked down various insect habitations and barely made a dent in the maintenance required to keep the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center safe and functioning for the thousands of people who come to encounter something unique to our home.

Ranger Kevin receiving a soothing LUSH spray
Service learning is about learning from the inside. It’s a pact where the National Park Service received some free - if woefully inexperienced - manual labor for a day, while what we received was so much more valuable. Rather than strolling through the park as spectators, we dug into it with a purpose, and in the process, learned a lot about the plants, animals and insects that populate our corner of the world.

South Florida is a hot, humid, bug-infested paradise. There’s a whole world outside the car window, one that we share with crocodiles and panthers and innumerable insects. The best way to be a part of that world – a world with a limitless horizon – is to dig in.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Accomplishments of Maurice Maze

Maurice installing an efficient fluorescent fixture

Maurice Maze is in his eleventh season of work at Everglades National Park. His contributions have benefitted employees and visitors in each district of the park by making improvements to communications systems, building lighting and general repair of electrical systems. Some of his major accomplishments over the years include;

        Repaired or replaced building lighting, emergency lights and installed new LED exit lights in the Coe visitor center, HQ, Bill Robertson and Dan Beard Centers and many other park buildings.
        Worked on the installation of energy efficient fluorescent fixtures in park buildings.
        Installed cellular amplifiers in Pine Island and Flamingo vehicles for better cell phone coverage in law enforcement vehicles.
        Troubleshot and repaired the LED traffic signal lights at the main entrance station.
        Maurice is always looking for better ways to accomplish the task and I use this next accomplishment as an example of his ingenuity.

Maurice solved a major communication problem for law enforcement staff. The rangers could not communicate back to dispatch from the portable radios at various locations in the park. The ranger could talk to dispatch with the mobile 50 watt Motorola radio installed in the vehicle, the problem was once he left the vehicle he could not talk back to dispatch with his portable 5 watt radio.

Maurice working on a light fixture at the Entrance Station

We requested Motorola to provide a solution which they responded with a proposal to add a digital vehicular repeater system at a cost of $1 0,000.00 each. Four vehicles would cost $40,000.00.

Maurice took it upon himself to research the Motorola manuals to engineer a system that would solve the problem at a much lower price. What he built was a system that used a second Motorola mobile radio as a receiver and connected this radio to the main Motorola mobile vehicle radio.

Now when the Ranger does a vehicle stop he calls dispatch while in the vehicle. Once they leave the vehicle he switches his portable radio to channel two which communicates to the second radio and retransmits the signal to dispatch. This solution has saved tens of thousands of dollars.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Assessing risks to humans from invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park

17 foot python found in Chekika area 2012
Reed, R. N. and (Volunteer) Snow, R. W. ‘Skip” (2014), Assessing risks to humans from invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA. Wildlife Society Bulletin. doi: 10.1002/wsb.413


Invasive  Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) are now established across a large area of southern Florida, USA, including all of Everglades National Park (NP). The presence of these large-bodied snakes in the continental United States has attracted intense media attention, including regular reference to the possibility of these snakes preying on humans.

Skip Snow doing a necropsy on a python

Over the course of a decade (2003–2012), we solicited reports of apparently unprovoked strikes directed at humans in Everglades NP. We summarize the circumstances surrounding each of the 5 reported incidents, which occurred between 2006 and 2012. All strikes were directed toward biologists moving through flooded wetlands; 2 strikes resulted in minor injury and none resulted in constriction. We consider most of these strikes to be cases of “mistaken identity,” in which the python initiated a strike at a potential prey item but aborted its predatory behavior prior to constriction and ingestion.

Alligator eating a python on famous Anhinga Trail

No strikes are known to have been directed at park visitors despite visitation rates averaging over one million per year during this period. We conclude that while risks to humans should not be completely discounted, the relative risk of a human being killed by a python in Everglades NP appears to be extremely low. Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Maintenance Volunteers in the Gulf Coast are inventors

By Bill Wagner, Maintenance Supervisor, Northwest District, Everglades National Park

Linda and Lee Abrahamzon are full time RV’ers who have been traveling around the country volunteering at various federal, state and local parks.
We were fortunate enough to sponsor them this winter.  Linda and Lee hit the ground running. They are great organizers. They have organized the whole maintenance shop including our numerous plumbing and hardware bins. They inventoried all of the tools and labeled the proper locations for the tool storage.  During the process I was asked several times to look over ‘remnants’ after their organizing forays.  Needless to say, we got rid of a lot of residual junk!
The team then started organizing my file cabinets.  Linda took the lead in inventorying our many blueprints rolled up or folded up haphazardly in one of the cabinets.  Lee spear headed the fabrication of a blueprint storage case.  Providing me with a list of materials for print cases and wood for the case, I made haste to get it purchased. The result was a furniture grade case with room for expansion and a easy to follow inventory sheet. 
There was no job too great or small or distasteful for this great team.  They both jumped at the chance to supplement us on the ‘poop’ barge in the back country on several occasions. 
Lee is especially good at coming up with solutions for the many nit-noid problems that plague us annually and that we just can’t seem to get to.  He and Linda completely rebuilt two dump carts purchased for visitor use in 2004. The support carriages for these two carts were severely corroded making them a hazard to the visitor. Lee rebuilt both carts using schedule 80 PVC.  He also replaced rusted bearings on the cartwheel shafts.  The ‘new’ units should now be able to serve the visitors for years to come.  Lee and Linda also replaced bearings in four canoe carts which were out of service.
I presented a rough sketch to Lee and asked him to come up with a safe way to dispense material from a 13 foot long roll of non-woven material used to wrap 16 foot long 4X4’s.  The roll weighs in excess of 300 pounds from the factory.    Prior to this project, the roll was on the ground and rolled over to cut 3 foot wide strips from it to wrap pilings.  The whole process was being done stooping over and working on the ground.  Using non-usable warped treated 4X4’s, Lee put together a roll spindle which not only allows safe removal of the product, but it is adjustable to the diameter of the roll as material is removed from it. 
During Linda and Lee’s last week of volunteering, they worked on a couple of other projects such as installing new personnel lockers, building a sink side cabinet from left over wood, and a much needed shoeshine box for the shop.
Linda, Lee, we’re going to miss you!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The 'Elite' Everglades

For the month of May, we welcome Elite Kedan, an architect, educator and visual artist based in Miami. She explores how technology and production methods intersect with human behavior, public space, historical context and meaning.

Kedan explains, “AIRIE is a rare opportunity to take an idea and expand it, deepen it, and ventilate it in a unique environment - one whose wilderness of landscape might also inspire an artist to confront new and unknown territory in her own work.”

Recently, Kedan displayed and evaluated work in a show called Unbuilding, which described a process of unraveling and disruption that are central to making new things.

“I undertook a series of open-ended investigations with the goal of achieving a serious state of play,” says Kedan, “which explored instinctive making and challenged my own cognitive resistance to the process.”

Kedan’s goal at AIRIE would be to continue the line of investigation begun in Unbuilding towards more specific projects and techniques relating to the layered contexts encountered in the Everglades. “I would hope to conclude the residency with a compelling process that can be understood as a coherent body of work equal to the physical artifact(s) or outcome produced.”

Learn more about Elite Kedan at