The exciting Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration (GEER) Conference was held from April 17 to 20 in Coral Springs this year. This technical forum showcases the latest in ecological research by the best scientists, engineers, and environmental managers working on the largest ecosystem restoration in the world. Scientists presented their research findings and addressed complex challenges for the region, including climate change, sustainable development, and invasive species pressures.
Several Audubon Florida staff presented this year, including Jerry Lorenz, PhD, Director of Research at the Everglades Science Center in Tavernier. Dr. Lorenz discussed how an invasive fish species, the Mayan cichlid, has made survival more difficult for Roseate Spoonbills.
Alexander Blochel, Senior Biologist at Tavernier, explained research on coastal mangrove zones, specifically on the connections between underwater plants and fish communities. Two sessions organized by the Snail Kite Coordinating Committee included Audubon’s Everglades Science Coordinator Paul Gray, PhD.
Audubon staff from the Western Everglades Research Center at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary also attended, including Director of Research and Interim Conservation Director Shawn Clem, PhD. Dr. Clem moderated a session on how a native-nuisance shrub, coastal plain willow (a.k.a. Carolina willow), is taking over freshwater wetlands across Florida. She highlighted both the challenges and successes of restoring the marsh and wet prairie habitat at the Sanctuary. During this session, Jacob Zetzer, Research Technician, summarized Audubon’s ecological monitoring program that is using data to evaluate restoration success and develop best practices.
During the poster session, Dr. Clem and Research Technician Alex Meinders shared their research: Spatial and Temporal Trends in Mammal Communities in an Ecologically Important Western Everglades Sanctuary. Mammal population baselines are critical at locations like Corkscrew where invasive pythons have not yet been documented.