How do scientists study the south Florida Ecosystem (Everglades, Biscayne Bay, and Florida Bay)?

Scientists travel to Florida several times a year to collect samples. In the Everglades, peat cores are taken and modern pollen traps are set throughout the area. The cores are cut into 2cm pieces. Each piece is treated with strong chemicals in a lab to dissolve the remains of any organisms and to leave only pollen grains. Pollen grains are then mounted on slides and looked at under the microscope. Scientists can recognize pine, oak, and many other pollen types to determine which trees and plants existed in the past.

In Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay, 1-2 meter cores are taken from mud banks, and areas of sediment buildup to examine materials deposited over approximately the last 100-200 years. Scientists also collect samples from modern sites around the bays to show current distributions of the plants and animals. After the samples are taken, the mud is washed off; leaving the remains of tiny organisms that lived in the bay. These organisms are mollusks, ostracodes, diatoms, and foraminifera. The bottom-dwelling or benthic organisms can provide information about the floor of the bay and whether or not seagrasses or algae were present.

All of the organisms can provide information about the salinity of the bay waters so scientists can tell how salty the water was. In addition, pollen grains that were carried by the wind or currents are deposited in the sediments. These are examined in order to tell what was happening on land at approximately the same time.

Learn More: South Florida Information Access