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Everglades Perspectives: Hydrology Technician

Everglades National Park

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The water is pretty high. It is kind of average for this time of year, average level. I am basically at the ground level for upkeeping the hydrology network in the park. We take field measurements to support the measurements taken by these sensors out here in the marsh. Which would be comprised of Shark Slough, Taylor Slough, and other surrounding areas. There is probably about 60 of these stations taking physical parameters like stage, water level, rain fall… Here, we have got the difference between surface and bottom temperature. Basically, if you could imagine, we are able to generate a profile of the hydrology here in the park. We have come a long way in data sharing with lots of other agencies… Ahhh, there is a frog in there. People from lots of other agencies have access to our data. In some cases on a daily basis. Chiefly among them would be Army Corps of Engineer and South Florida Water Management District. Their concern is in operations. Those two agencies operate a lot of the water control structures that deliver water into the park. We also have park biologists who have interest in water data and drawing insights on water conditions and how it relates to resource management concerns. I have not seen one mosquito today. That is one of the things that I like about being in the middle of the slough. It is nice and sunny. There are plenty of fish to eat the mosquito larvae. There are good field conditions out here. Right now, we are in early May. This is the peak of the dry season, sooo. At this time of the year, we have to get to these remote sites by helicopter. Which is quite a costly way to access these sites. And then, once the waters recharge in the park, then our main way of access is by airboat. This is a deep wilderness part of the park. We are about thirty miles away from the nearest road. The helicopter is a very different experience from the airboat. Both have their merits. In the helicopter, you get a more panoramic view, a real landscape perspective. But, traveling by airboat is really nice because you get to feel more immersed. Although these datas are transmitted everyday via either radio telemetry or satellite, it is still necessary to come out here, verify that the sensors are accurately measuring. And also, clean them from the elements. One of my favorite aerial views is coming across the transition area of the freshwater grassy slough into the coastal rivers on the west side. These are mangrove lined tidal creeks that are tributaries that flow into Shark River. We are actually near the end of the Everglades watershed where it is beginning to mingle with the coastal area of the Gulf Coast. We measure several parameters. Water level is one of them. Right now, it is the depths of the dry season. So, at most of the sites that we will be looking at today, it will be below the surface of the ground. This is particularly important this time of the year to inventory our baseline water level before the rainy season hits. There was only less than an inch of rain over this period of time. We have been experiencing a below average rainfall for this dry season. It is very stark to see how important these residual water holes are for wildlife. It is very distinct seeing the animal tracks to and from these water reservoirs. A lot of these monitoring sites happen to be colocated in these deeper holes which in the dry season are particularly favored by alligators and other wildlife. Rain is collected into this funnel. It seeps down into these receptacles. And, the way it is calibrated is 1/100th of an inch of rain will cause it to tip. As it tips, this bar passes over this magnet which closes a circuit and the data logger will record that one tip as 1/100th of an inch of rain. Yeah, I like my job. I have been working here for over six years. I grew up in the south Florida area, studied environmental studies. And, took a particular concern to issues on the Everglades which are very water-related. And, it was kind of a natural path for me to follow. Half of my job consists of field work and the other half, I am at my office reviewing data, making reports, running the numbers. Oh look, I dumped it on top of a baby gator. I have seen a good amount of wildlife at this particular site. Alligators, night herons, soft-shelled turtles, Anhingas. So far today, we have seen a mother and two baby gators. There is probably more… Oh, there is a third right there. The Everglades is really distinguished by a dualistic climate. A really distinct dry season and a monsoon-like wet season. About 80% of the annual rainfall falls between a six-month period. This creates a really harsh dynamic of which a lot of the flora and fauna are well-adapted to. So, looking out at this prairie, it looks like vast wilderness. Uninterrupted, undisturbed, left to work out its natural processes. But, in reality, it is a very closely managed system. It is closely managed by canals, pumps, levees and other water control structures, mainly located on the periphery of the park boundary. Hold on a second, did you see the frog?

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This video features the unique perspective of a Hydrology Technician in Everglades National Park (9 min. with closed-captions).