Hi everyone, Olivia reporting,
For as long as I can remember, I have had two very prominent interests—nature and the environment. That is why when I was invited to participate in a class entitled “Environmental Journalism” last fall, I jumped at the opportunity.
The class revolves around a trip we as a class took over Spring Break to the Everglades in South Florida. Previous to our departure March 11, however, we were still busy bees! Our class read many texts about environmental reporting, including my professor, Robert Wyss’ own textbook, “Covering the Environment: How Journalists Work the Green Beat.” In addition to learning how to write like an environmentalist and thoroughly cover environmental issues, we also learned specifically about problems facing the Everglades right now. As a class, we watched videos pertaining to the loss of land and various plant species in the Everglades, talked to scientists for their individual perspectives from both UConn and surrounding universities, and anxiously awaited our departure.
However much I learned about the Everglades previous to the trip’s beginning, I was still in awe from the moment I stepped foot off the plane. The first day we interviewed an environmental journalist whose beat specifically focuses on covering environmental issues in the Everglades. This was especially interesting for me because, while previous to the trip I did not have a great interest in reporting about environmental issues for a career, I realized just how pertinent having such a job could be. Of course, we also got to check out the Florida beaches and went swimming even though a storm was rolling in!
The next day the storm cleared up and it was perfectly sunny for our adventure on Lake Okeechobee. “Lake O”, as it is normally called, was much bigger than I could have ever imagined. We had the pleasure of talking with a number of experts on the Everglades, including Stu Applebaum, who was an integral part of the Army Corps of Engineers when helping redirect water flow from the lake into the plains a number of years ago. Not just all talk and business though—we also went out with Stu on an air boat and saw our first tropical birds, fields of grass, and of course…alligators!
Later that day we also had the opportunity to tour the U.S Sugar Corporation further south in Florida where we learned that this company tries to be as energy efficient as possible, while still producing a great amount of sugar to deliver to companies! We even saw a barn almost entirely filled with sugar—talk about sweet!
The next part of the week was devoted to not only finding out information about the Everglades through interviews and presentations by scientists, but also through hands on experience. My great appreciation for this national park stems from the amount of hikes, bird and wildlife trails and air boating all throughout the Everglades. Perhaps one of my favorite parts was when we went to Big Cypress swamp, which is a national preserve, and we took a hike through about 7 inches of mud through a cypress forest.
As I am writing this entry, I am very reminiscent of my week in the Everglades. I still get to think about the trip on a daily basis, however, because now it is time for me to begin my reporting assignments. The last half of the class is devoted to taking what information and stories we collected in the Everglades and help educate others. We hope to get our stories published in a multitude of southern Florida newspapers and magazines once they are complete as well!
I could not think of another opportunity that gives me so much “real-life” experience as the Environmental Journalism trip that I participated on. There was nothing like spending almost a week in a sub-tropical location, making friends from my class who I know I will be close to for a very long period of time. I learned how to write for a different beat than one I had written for in years past—the Environment. I learned just how important this “big swamp” is for all of America and how critical it is to protect the land, water and wildlife so that future generations may enjoy a trip like the one I took. But most importantly, I believe, I learned something about myself: I learned that I am capable of learning and writing about an issue I previously knew little about, and I am more willing than I once believed to take on challenges in the journalistic field.