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Apple snail. Photo by John Brandauer, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Students help restore Everglades

The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center entered an Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership (UWRP) and were selected as recipients of a 2016 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program grant. The grant, Apple Snail Adoption Program: Teaching Youth about the Effect of Invasives on Natural Ecosystems, will involve at least 500 students in Palm Beach County in propagating and restoring native Florida apple snail populations and removing invasive exotic snails at both the refuge and Grassy Waters Everglades Preserve. Students will also participate in the restoration of 50 acres of wetland habitat and will plant 2,500 native trees.

The students took native Florida apple snails that were at risk of not being able to hatch and raised them in their classrooms while monitoring their growth, collecting data for hatching success, keeping track of water quality, and learning about their role in the Everglades ecosystem. To date, more than 120 students from two different elementary schools have already visited the refuge for learning opportunities and planting days. Along with participating in hands-on activities for water quality, scat examination, and plant and animal identification, students have been able to plant more than 900 pond apple and bald cypress trees in the C10 impoundment.

The students have also been able to release 80 juvenile apple snails at Grassy Waters Everglades Preserve. The collaboration between the refuge and Pine Jog Environmental Education Center ensures that students are given the opportunity to directly play a role in Everglades restoration and be able to witness the investments of their efforts over time.

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