October kicked off with an adventure to Crystal River, FL. Students from The Pine School explored caves and swam with manatees. The trip began with cave ecology. While spelunking in the Dames Caves, students learned about the four distinct zones that make up the cave environment. Students learned the importance of preserving the surface and how surface changes will directly affect their subterranean habitat. They saw plants and animals that dwell in the caves because of their stable environments which are strongly buffered against the daily, seasonal, and even longer term surface climatic changes. The group learned how the caves, and the plants and animals that call them home, directly affect the quality of our aquifers and the nutrients in them. They participated in a clean-up program to help preserve the caves and the forest above them!
Also while in the area the students patrolled Kings Bay looking for the gentle and unique manatee. Swimming with these gentle giants was the highlight of the program for many of the students. They learned that food, water, space, and shelter compose the four necessary elements of their habitat and how they can help preserve these elements so future generations can enjoy them as well. The students studied everything from their anatomy, behavior, breeding and reproduction, habitat range, and diets. A visit to a local underwater observatory also enlightened the students on other marine animals that call the springs home during certain seasons of the year. Many were amazed at the amount of saltwater fish that frequently visit the springs.
The program was very exciting and educational, and one that will live in the memory of those involved for a life time. Snorkeling next to a 1200-2000 pound mammal leaves a strange but exciting feeling in ones stomach! Three Sisters Spring was amazingly beautiful. The group saw an abundance of wildlife while snorkeling in the crystal clear springs.