Internship Brings Environmental Studies to Life for FSC Student
Keri McClure, a second-year student at FSC and a member of the water-ski team, can't imagine being stuck behind a desk just reading about plants and wildlife. She prefers life in the trenches – literally.
Keri, a biology major with a focus on environmental science, interned over the summer at Crystal Springs Preserve, a 525-acre sanctuary owned by Robert Thomas in southeastern Pasco County. Crystal Springs, which funded the internship, is devoted to environmental education and dedicated to preserving Floridas natural environment. Within the preserve lies Crystal Springs, a magnitude 2 spring system that discharges 40 million gallons of 72-degree water every day.
Working with Karen Pate, director of the preserve, Keri spent much of the summer identifying and collecting native plants and clearing out invasive plants. The Honors Program student, who has her eye on a future in environmental engineering, says she was surprised how quickly she was rewarded for her hard work.
"I started out clearing invasive plants that shade the shoreline, because it keeps the wading birds out. They don't feel safe enough to land there because they can't get their wings out far enough," Keri says. "But about four weeks after I started, I was walking down the boardwalk and saw the wading birds! It was exciting to realize I had already had an impact on restoring their habitat."
In addition to some tough habitat work, Keri helped lead sessions with summer campers at the preserve and completed Florida Master Naturalist Wetland Certification. She is hopeful that in the coming year she can complete the certification for Uplands and Coastal areas, as well.
Keri even found time for a little adventure. "I saw my first bobcat, stalking a sandhill crane," says the Ohio native with a broad smile. "I also saw some wild turkeys."
In addition, she took a canoe trip down the river, and through rapids, with Karen Pate, several preserve staffers, and Dr. James M. "Mick" Lynch, FSC's clinical education coordinator, who helped arrange the internship. "It was amazing!" Keri says. "We could see the clear water from the spring and the tannin water from the river flowing side-by-side, because it didnt mix right away."