Thursday, July 31, 2014

NPS Academy Intern, Dario Pedrajo

Dario Pedrajo is studying at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL, with a dual major in economics and environmental studies.  Growing up in Miami, Dario visited Everglades National Park (ENP) many times, but now he has a deeper understanding of this complex and fragile ecosystem through the National Park Academy and the Student Conservation Association partnership.

As an intern, Dario is involved in ENP’s day-to-day operations, and sees first-hand how the park is managed to protect the natural environment while encouraging public use. “I didn’t have much experience with public speaking before this, and was close to shock when forty people were waiting for one of my first interpretive talks,” remembers Dario.  After several occasions to practice and enhance his tour, Dario’s fear evaporates when he shares his knowledge of, and passion for, this amazing ecosystem.  “I may not be able to answer every question, but I am able to engage the interest of park visitors in how important their support is to the future of ENP and other natural areas.” 

When telling his South Florida friends where he works, Dario is dismayed when they do not show much enthusiasm to visit.  However, Dario knows it is somewhat uncomfortable with summer heat, humidity and bugs. “But summer in the Everglades is unique and awe-inspiring,” exclaims Dario. When not at the Visitor Center greeting guests, or answering phone calls at the Reception counter, Dario can be found on the trails trying to outpace a growing cloud of mosquitoes, or on his motorcycle trying to avoid collisions with swarms of dragonflies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Voluntourism, a partnership with a Hotel

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in partnership with Everglades National Park, essentially created the term voluntourism.

A letter to guests of Mandarin Oriental reads:

"Mandarin Oriental (MO), Miami is a member of the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism, created by the United Nations Foundation and Expedia, Inc. to engage the travel industry to promote environmentally and economically sustainable business practices around UNESCO World heritage sites. Through our partnership, we are working closely with Everglades National Park (ENP) to learn about the challenges they face and to develop opportunities for the hotel to help through voluntourism programs. These interesting and fulfilling day trips include tree planting, recycling projects and weeding out exotic plants. We hope you take some time to learn more about this important World Heritage site during your visit with us. Please speak to the concierge if you would like to participate in our voluntourism program or to arrange a trip to the Everglades just to see this wonderful World Heritage site."

Below is an edited excerpt from an article in Points North Atlanta magazine, March 2011, as a result of the Everglades and Mandarin Oriental partnership. (

A Mission to Do Good in the Everglades and Feel Good in Miami.
Written by Heather KW Brown

“In my mind, I was bushwhacking through unchartered territory while alligators lurked in the thick soupy swamp around me. In reality, my biggest challenge was trying to keep oversized work gloves secure on my hands as I clipped overgrown palm fronds along a 1-mile asphalt trail. Precarious, it was not, but I had successfully immersed myself in Miami’s other “wild” side. It all started when I learned the Mandarin Oriental, Miami, located just an hour’s drive from the Everglades, had launched a voluntourism program, I couldn’t resist.

This is precisely how I found myself beside a knowledgeable park ranger and several other volunteers, all of us armed with shears and dutifully clearing a trail. We talked. We discovered new creatures. And when quiet settled in among our group, I’m inclined to think each of us was processing the experience. Truth is, I’m a beach girl whose love of nature previously didn’t include relinquishing a place in the sun or swapping a swimsuit for shears. That was just one of my pleasant surprises to come from my stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami.

Partnering with Everglades National Park, isn’t limited to the park itself. With my hands out, palms down, a masseuse pressed what she described as weighted tea bags made of naturally therapeutic ingredients up and down my back, legs and arms. And from this pampering came preservation: one live oak, bald cypress or gumbo limbo tree gets planted in the park for each guest who books the Herbal Thai Compress Ritual here at Miami’s only Five-Star spa.”
As a result of customers being pampered, on June 28, 2011, eight associates of MO spa braved thunderstorms and insects to volunteer, and successfully planted fifty-three trees.  A blog was subsequently posted about MO’s voluntourism on an online travel agency for the world's best hotels.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

NPS Academy Intern, Tricia Morgan

Tricia Morgan is interning at Everglades National Park for 12 weeks. From Richmond, Virginia, she will be a rising senior at Sweet Briar College to get a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Ms. Morgan’s internship is a partnership with the Student Conservation Association and their National Park Service Academy program.

For the NPS Academy’s orientation week, Tricia went to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. This was her first time visiting a national park and Everglades National Park became the second park. Placed in the interpretation division, Tricia assists visitors in various ways. As part of her internship, Tricia leads interpretive programs along the Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm Visitor Area.

“I help them plan their day, and educate them on and off the trail,” explains Tricia. “For most visitors, it’s their first time seeing the park for themselves and to be a part of their experience is an honor to me.”

Tricia has learned how important it is to make someone’s visit as pleasant and memorable as possible. Her absolute favorite part of the job is the kids that visit Everglades. They are excited to get out, go exploring, and become Junior Rangers. “It is an exciting experience to work here and to be the reason for someone’s smile is the cherry on top!”


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The EverGreen Partnership

Angelina Guerra is a volunteer intern at Everglades National Park via the Greening Youth Foundation for the summer of 2014. Currently in her fourth year at Florida International University in Miami, Ms. Guerra is majoring in Earth Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Studies. Ms. Guerra will graduate in December.

The Greening Youth Foundation’s (GYF) mission is to work with diverse, underserved and underrepresented young adults in an effort to develop and nurture enthusiastic and responsible environmental stewards.  GYF believes that youth and young adults from diverse backgrounds can greatly benefit from the career opportunities presented within federal land management sectors.  Accordingly, GYF and Everglades National Park developed a partnership to provide service and internship opportunities for young adults thereby creating pathways to conservation careers.            

To better understand the perspectives of how to use and manage the Everglades, Ms. Guerra visited one of the Airboat Companies that operate along the Tamiami Trail, near the entrance to the Shark Valley District of Everglades N.P. 
            Assigned to the Division of Interpretation, Ms. Guerra will be actively involved in providing guided interpretive tours on the Anhinga Trail, working behind the scenes on special interpretive projects, and greeting visitors in the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center.

“My experience at the Park so far has been awesome!” expresses Ms. Guerra.  “Everglades National Park is a truly beautiful and amazing place; I feel everyone should visit at least once in their life if they have the opportunity!” Come visit Everglades and Ms. Guerra and enjoy the splendors as she has, plus meet a future steward of our National Parks.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July Artists in Residence

For the month of July, we have two AIRIE artists, Daniel Dugas and Valerie LeBlanc. Dugas is a poet, videographer and musician. LeBlanc is a pluri-disciplinary artist. Her creations travel between poetry, performance, visual and written theory. Together, they work collaboratively on media projects, performances and writing.

“At the heart of our activities resides the desire to establish a rapport between what is experienced and what is imagined. We are interested in reaching out to involve people, in establishing links between artists and audiences. We see the Everglades National Park as an ideal setting to further explore this form of creative involvement.”

Specifically, LeBlanc and Dugas are interested in investigating the poetics of the Everglades as well as the history, changing territory of the natural world, and evidence of the presence of human activity there.

During their residency, LeBlanc and Dugas will develop Flow, a sound walk project. They plan to map out a series of walks, to gather field recordings and to create an aural archive of the environment. Upon completion, Flow will offer listeners poetic narratives to follow while walking through the park. A Google Guide Map will be designed and eventually made available to park visitors who will have the opportunity to experience the various sound walks through use of their phones.
Learn more about LeBlanc and Dugas at