Historic Everglades Conservation Expedition Complete
A team of four explorers made history this November after completing a daring, nearly 130-mi. canoe trek across the Florida Everglades to assess human impact on the world’s largest subtropical wilderness. The 2022 Willoughby Expedition team retraced a canoe journey that was first completed by explorer and scientist Hugh de Laussat Willoughby 125 years ago in 1897.
The explorers started at the mouth of the Harney River in the Gulf of Mexico on October 27 and ended in downtown Miami on November 2. They traversed the saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico, the brackish water of inland rivers, pristine freshwater sawgrass, canals in suburban Miami, and, ultimately, through a maze of skyscrapers to Biscayne Bay. The coast-to-coast expedition also commemorated the 75th anniversary of Everglades National Park.
The 2022 Willoughby Expedition team also tracked water pollutants that Willoughby couldn’t have foreseen, including microplastics, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pesticides, pharmaceuticals, environmental DNA (eDNA), and antibiotic-resistant genes, all of which could adversely affect plant and animal species globally. To help conserve wildlife, they also documented the abundance and location of apple snails, which are the primary food source of the federally endangered Snail Kite, a bird of prey.
The water samples collected by the explorers will be researched by scientists at the University of Florida. They hope to gather initial findings in the next few months.