Naturalist for Office of Sustainability takes students on eco-excursions

Nia Young/Panther Press

Nia Young/Entertainment Director

Graduating senior Aleme Benissoit reminds students that FIU is home to much more than just teen spirit and stray cats.

Benissoit, a sustainability and environmental studies major, is rounding up his experience at FIU. As he prepares for graduation this May, he takes time out of his schedule to care for FIU’s diverse and unique ecosystems.

“We have three main ecosystems [at FIU]: A wetland ecosystem, a Pine Rockland  ecosystem, and we also have the [Tropical] Hardwood Hammocks… Mainly, we have the preserve and most of the students use it for outdoor classes. They can have hands-on activities, and learn about different ecosystems in South Florida.”

Benissoit continues explaining that the nature preserve is like a piece of the Everglades. “You will find native plants, wildlife, and things that are very important for the environment.”

Benissoit works on campus at the Office of Sustainability as a Naturalist.

“A naturalist is someone who can tell you about plants, animals… anything that you can find in nature,” said Benissoit

His job at the Office of Sustainability requires that he leads visits to the nature preserve for biology classes and other groups, as well as train interns about environmental education and conservation.

“I enjoy working at the preserve with volunteers. When they come I learn something from them and I give something as well,” Benissoit said. “This morning we [had] a volunteer [group]… probably every week we have a volunteer [group] but we have a different topic. Today we call it invasive removal; so we remove those plants that are not native to Florida.”

One example that Benissoit ask students to consider is to plant pollinator plants.

“Pollinator plant will help us get more food… bees pollinate half of the foods that we eats, like fruits and vegetables,” he said.

Considering the reduction of the Nature Preserve that was approved in 2016, Benissoit is not discouraged saying that “in one week more than 5,000 students signed the petition to stop it and that was a big discussion… they finally won but at the same time… I hope they don’t really come in the future and do more things like that.”

Benissoit looks to the future planing to take his knowledge of agriculture and the environment back to his native home, Haiti.

“My goal [was] to come here and get more experience, more knowledge, and then go back and improve [Haiti], said Benissoit. However immediately after graduation Benissoit plans to “do more work in the environmental field… probably conservation or environmental education; I can also do an internship.”

Benissoit encourages students to be environmental leaders, saying that “ the little things that you do make a big difference.”

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