STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Notes from the field, Matt Ferris, Program Director

By Matt Ferris on 03/03/2011

Working with the National Park Service staff at Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS) on our latest Electronic Field Trip (EFT), Sea Change, was an extremely educational experience for me personally. The park unit spans the Gulf Coast between the panhandle in Florida all the way over to Mississippi. From natural and human-created events like Hurricane Ivan and the Gulf oil spill, the National Seashore has endured many changes over the past ten years. Throughout this time the park rangers have remained steadfast in their belief that the park remains resilient and will always make a comeback.

That is the primary lesson we were looking to pass on to students across the country during the Electronic Field Trip. After all, change is a constant in all aspects of life and we need to learn how to understand and manage it as best as we can. Of course, the EFT also instructed students on how we should work hard to minimize the impacts our own behavior has on the Gulf of Mexico and all ecosystems.

Before beginning the work on this EFT, I was unaware that two thirds of the United States, between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians form the watershed that eventually drains into the Gulf and this runoff creates a serious impact. I have learned how important it is to understand our personal impacts on these delicate ecosystems and participate in the science and solutions in our own communities. It’s my hope that, through the latest EFT, the National Park Foundation was able to help spread that vital message in 4th to 8th grade classrooms across the country and around the world.