Take a walk in the wild with FIU ‘Ecology of South Florida’ class


Michelle Marchante



If you came up to me last semester and told me that I would be trekking through the Everglades, climbing over fallen logs in a swamp and diving into the deep waters of the coral reefs to snorkel, I would have thought you were insane, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing this summer thanks to my Ecology of South Florida class.

I’ve always found nature beautiful and I love learning about animals but I’ve always liked experiencing it through the car window, behind a zoo railing, with some type of barrier separating me from it all.  admit it, I’m a city girl. I like the comfort of not having to stab a stick into the ground to make sure nothing’s there before I take a step, not having to worry about a snake biting me and, like most city girls, I really like my air conditioning.

When I signed up for this class I assumed the field trips wouldn’t be that wild because it was a class meant for non-science majors. Boy, was I wrong. On the first day of class, I wanted nothing more than to bolt out of the room as the professor began to list the excursions we’d be going on. I was terrified of participating in each and every one of them. I had never even wanted to step foot into the Everglades, let alone step into a swamp.

I could’ve dropped the class. It was completely out of my comfort zone – in the words of my friends, “it wasn’t me,” but I didn’t. I’m still not sure what compelled me to stay that first day. I don’t know if it was the weird mixture of fear and excitement that I felt thinking about those field trips or if it was the fact that I wanted to prove that I could, would, and was capable of participating in all of those things if I wanted to.

Whatever the case, I stayed, and I’m glad I did. If I hadn’t, I never would have been given the chance to learn from Joshua Diamond, a Teaching Assistant whose enthusiasm for his field is absolutely infectious, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know the awesome people in the class. So don’t let your fears stop you from trying something new – you might miss out on something great.

Take the SwampWalk fieldtrip, for example. We were going to go to the Big Cypress Preserve to walk through a swamp, with water up to our waists, and enter an alligator hole, a big ditch dug by alligators to store water during the dry season so it’s easier for them to catch prey – all the wildlife will go to that spot to drink water. Sounds totally safe, right?

I wanted to do the SwampWalk because, even with my fear, it was something completely different than what I was accustomed to and I wanted to try it. With our walking sticks in hand, the class and I entered the swamp. Even though the swamp was completely dry, the trail was still physically grueling. We had to walk with branches smacking our faces and climb over fallen logs. We even had a little run in with a snake, but at the end of the day, even with the sweltering heat of the sun, it was an experience worth having.

So, take a chance sometime, no matter what hapens, you’ll gain a valuable, memorable experience from it. If I hadn’t, I never would have been able to experience first-hand the wonders of nature that is in such close reach to us. We still have one field trip left, and while I don’t know if I’ll actually be brave enough to jump into the ocean to snorkel, I’m glad that I went on the SwampWalk and took the risk. I, for one, may not be an adventurous person, but at least I can say that, for one summer, I was an adventurer. Don’t just sit in a classroom to learn about something, go out there and live it – it’s not something you’ll regret.

Photo by Michelle Marchante

About the Author

Michelle Marchante
Michelle Marchante is the 2018-2019 Editor-in-Chief of PantherNOW. Majoring in broadcast journalism, she lives and breathes web, print, radio and TV news 24/7. You can connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM

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