What’s below the surface

Overhead view of the Florida Everglades.

Last fall, Tracie Baker, Ph.D., D.V.M., an associate professor in the department of environmental and global health at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, embarked on a historic scientific expedition of the Florida Everglades to better understand humans’ impact on the world’s largest subtropical wilderness. Baker and three teammates fought mosquitoes, thick sawgrass and exhaustion to retrace a 130-mile canoe journey first completed by explorer and scientist Hugh de Laussat Willoughby in 1897.

The water samples Willoughby collected on his coast-to-coast trek became the baseline for the Everglades’ water chemistry and his charts led to the first accurate maps of the region.

As the lead scientist for the 21st century Willoughby Expedition, Baker collected more than 100 water samples to evaluate some of the same compounds Willoughby did, as well as substances that didn’t exist then, including microplastics, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (also known as PFAS), pesticides and pharmaceuticals, as well as  antibiotic-resistant genes and environmental markers of endangered and invasive species.

This article was originally written by Jill Pease for UF PHHP. For the full article, visit the PHHP website.