A Day in the Life of the Indian River Lagoon

Nov 20, 2018

Students from Vero Beach High School collect water samples as part of the multi-county A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON. A total of 1500 students participated all along the Lagoon.
Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan

Last month, 1500 students ranging from elementary to high school, descended upon the Indian River Lagoon, testing water quality, and taking count of plants and animals, as part of a-multi county event called A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE INDIAN RIVER LAGOON.

MW: “Such a nice way to have an impact on so many different students at one time and to give them the opportunity to get their hands wet, feet dirty, collect that authentic scientific data.”

That’s Missy Weiss, founder of the non-profit S.E.A. a Difference …

‘S.E.A.’ as in Ocean, and an acronym for Stewardship, Education and Action.

To pull off the event, Weiss, by herself, contacted every teacher from grades 2 through high school from the northern limits of the lagoon in Volusia County to the southern end in Palm Beach County.

Red tide came into play, limiting some of the schools’ participation…. but the effort paid off and 33 school groups signed up. She then paired them with 35 local environmental partner agencies.

MW: “We knew that an important part of this program was to get the collaboration between the environmental partners and organizations and the schools because we want to give that partnership a chance to blossom between the two of them.”

And so, on October 4, 1500 student scientists spent several hours at 36 different sites doing their important work.

MW: “So once the teachers send me the data its uploaded onto our website so it is public and then teachers and environmental partners, the public can look at those numbers, compare and contrast  different sites along the Lagoon and get a good glimpse of what the snapshot of the lagoon looks like on October 4, 2018. A Nice comprehensive look at the Lagoon.”

We visit 3 sites.

First, we meet 40 fourth-graders from Sebastian Elementary School at Riverview Park, which is a wide-open area of the Lagoon. Their agency partner is Alexis Peralta of the Indian River County Storm Water division.

AP: “It’s these projects that the kids are doing right now – especially in 4th grade that is out here today with me – and that’s when they are going to decide to be environmentalists and really make an impact on the world.”

We ask the students to describe the Lagoon.

STUDENTS: “Beautiful! Nice and blue. It’s precious to the animals. It is Home Environment. There are some different plants that you don’t see in other places. Oh, that’s right! And there’s a lot of plants here that we don’t know of…”

Next, we head south to Round Island Park. In contrast to Sebastian, this area is more protected and hidden away.

There we find Dr. Nicole Mosblech from Vero Beach High School and 30 of her Environmental Science students. They are partnered with fish biologist, Dr. John Galvez of the US Fish and Wildlife Service…

We tag along as Dr. Mosblech help students test the water.

NM & STUDENTS: “All the other tests are done? Did we get them at least. (inaudible)? Yes. I think. Wait. How many? Which ones are we supposed to do? Nitrate, phosphate, Ph, salinity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen.”

NM: “We know of what’s here today as the normal. But what used to be here in the past was very different and so we want to capture the normal is now so that as we move forward, we don’t forget about the current quality and whether we are doing better or worse.”

Our last stop is St Andrew’s in Fort Pierce. The Lagoon here is open, with a rocky shoreline. A group of Middle School students are partnered with Brandy Nelson and Jessie Stevens of Harbor Branch Oceanographic.

Science teacher Roxanna Vega sees great value in the experience…

RV: “I’m just glad we could take what we’ve learned at school and apply it to something really meaningful.”

Weiss plans to hold A DAY IN THE LIFE annually. Learn more and see the data at https://seaadifference.org.