Thursday, 4 October 2012

Florida Fieldtrip May 2012


It may be tardy, but maybe that is representative of how crazy the past five months have been! When you left us after the last post we were sat in our optional modules, pondering the intricacies of urban flood modelling and river basin modelling. The then near-future, the now recent-past, has seen us travel to Florida, follow three more modules at UNESCO-IHE, return home for a month of holidays (or travel for the more adventurous amongst us) and spend a month studying at the Universitat Polit├Ęcnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona. But before tales of the present are regaled, let us bring you up to speed with some of the experiences from the missing past five months! Beginning with our Florida fieldtrip.

Well, where do you begin? Upon acceptance of our scholarship, the of an international fieldtrip had us excited and after the announcement of over two weeks in Florida, our anticipation rarely dropped below the ‘very excited’ level.

The fieldtrip began back in Holland, when law students from the University of South Florida joined us at UNESCO-IHE for lectures covering the environmental and legal issues facing the state. It was an insightful introduction and the opportunity to meet our host in Florida, The Florida EarthFoundation’s Stan Bronson. With the promises of the time of our lives from Stan fixed steadily in our minds we embarked on the flight over the pond. With only mild visa issues (obviously, there were still some, but these appear to be inevitable on this course).

The trip started in Tampa Bay, as we spent time with the Patel School of Global Sustainability as part of the University of South Florida. Welcomed with exceptionally generous hosting (breakfasts, juices, packed lunches, t-shirts, pens and more!), we were introduced to the recently-established school, it’s work and motivations, whilst taken on a number of site visits and trips.

Next, it was onto West Palm Beach, where we were staying for our longest stretch, in beautifully stereotypical American-motel-style halls of residence. Whilst here, we were the guests of the South Florida WaterManagement District, which saw us receiving numerous lectures, workshops, tours and site visits. The emphasis placed on research at a water management district was both a pleasant surprise and enlightening, with some impressive innovation throughout the field of water management being achieved (through novel modelling, data sourcing, management and other approaches).

After our time in West Palm Beach, with the SFWMD, we were onto Orlando and Disneyland for the Intecol International Wetlands Conference, where we were the willing guests of the United States Geological Survey USGS). For many of the course this was our first experience of an academic conference and the opportunity to step into a tight, international and innovative community was eye-opening and inspiring.
(Almost) The whole group in Florida, including our main man Stan Bronson in the centre!
It was then our time to head home, back to Delft massively jet-lagged and in a varying spectrum of tans/sunburns. Obviously, there was a lot of socialising, partying, beach-fun, travelling and assorted relaxation activities throughout the evenings and weekends and these are too numerous to mention here.
For more information of our social antics, more detailed descriptions of our activities with the Florida Earth Foundation, The Patel School, SFWMD and the USGS, please see our day-to-day diary. Written by a different student every day, it provides a detailed insight into the trip from a variety of perspectives. I would recommend reading Saturday 26th May, as it was written by myself and Siobhan and we are hilarious.

Here is the fieldtrip diary. For ease of reading, I would recommend opening the report in the following link:  Florida Fieldtrip

It must be noted that, despite being a group project, significant work was put in by Katarzyna Bozek to actually compile, format and edit the diaries! Much kudos sent your way.

On behalf of all the students, I would love to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to all of our hosts in Florida from the Florida Earth Foundation, The Patel School, SWFMD and the USGS and to all the amazing individuals we met in our time in the USA. Also, thanks must go to Biswa, Schalk and Leo from UNESCO-IHE for agreeing to come and for putting up with us the whole time! An especially massive thank you goes to Stan Bronson and Isabella Slagle who organised everything on the trip and who made all of this possible. Thanks!

by Richard Vause

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