Anna Buntova is an international student from Novosibirsk, Russia, pursuing her degree in Behavioral Neuroscience at Florida International University’23. As a child of the world, she has always been mesmerized by the dynamic culture of the U.S.A. which spurred her desire to study abroad. First, she received her high school diploma in Saint Johnsbury Academy located in VT. Anna’s passion for connecting and bonding with people of various cultures dictated her fate of studying in Miami, FL, to get her college degree in hopes of becoming an explorer of uncharted areas of human cognition. Through Miami in Miami Honors course she wants to get closer to the idea of the melting pot where many cultures embrace their unity despite their differences as opposed to her homogenous birthplace.
Deering Estate, the historic landmark of Miami, marked the beginning of the 1920’s era. It is nestled and tucked away from the busy Miami roads in Palmetto Bay, FL. This cultural destination is an honorary National Register Historic Place since 1986, thanks to the renowned Charles Deering – the philanthropist, industrialist, and the first chairman of the International Harvest company – who commissioned in constructing the Deering Estate. Deering Estate is not only a prior home of the wealthy executive but constitutes a national museum and an environmental preserve. It is the best spot for canoeing and Moonlight kayaking and is the holy grail for naturalists and environmentalists. As a matter of fact, perhaps, the most important mission of Deering Estate is the conservation of nature and sustainability. As a means of preserving the natural environment, Deering Estate partnered with Deering Estate Foundation to protect the natural ecosystems, native plants, and wildlife through smart contemporary methods and stewardship for best conservation management practices.
I regarded this opportunity as an act of charity and kindness which was both spiritually uplifting and very unique. I have never done beach cleaning or anything similar to it before. Cleaning up a whole remote island seemed to be very enthralling and adventurous to me. Cleaning an island was the way for me to de litter my own mind from intrusive thoughts and unnecessary stress. I also have kayaked before and I greatly enjoyed canoeing during this trip to Chicken Key. Even though it was slightly harder to canoe, I had a lot of fun with my canoe partner Paola which made the time fly by. This trip suits best for people who consider themselves athletic. I am competitive in healthy dosages and it made it even more fun to swim and splash in water and do canoe race.
Since 2017 Professor John Bailly has been involved in cleaning up the Chicken Key Island in a bid to preserve the natural habitat of flora and fauna of the island. He incorporated this project in his Honors course curriculum to engage students in educating themselves on the importance of saving nature and the greatest asset of The Floridian flora – mangroves. The cleaning of the island has come a long way and made a major progress in its execution ever since Professor Bailly encourages his students to participate in the island cleanup. It is visible how the beauty of the island is starting to uncover from the layers of trash it has accumulated.
WHERE & WHAT
Our journey began from the Deering Estate boat basin. All students were equipped with paddles and vests. Each of us made sure to bring some food and dorm people thankfully brought mosquito repellent and sunscreen. We paired up in order to be able to sit in the canoe and have one person in the back and one person in front to cooperatively navigate and direct a canoe. We started by going through a pristine mangrove forest. I felt very tranquil paddling over the soft sea-grass beds and being surrounded by overarching mangroves. We continued our long way across the Cutler Bay Channel we were the most challenging yet the most memorable part. Professor gave me advice on how to use the paddles to properly row since I was sitting in front and served as a motor of the canoe. As we reached the island, we tied out canoes to the shore and went for a little lunch break. We went to cool off in the water and learned about how mangrove pods proliferate and become mangrove trees. Mangroves serve an essential purpose in the ecosystem of Chicken Key Island. Mangrove tree roots purify the water and keep the soil of the island together. The leaves that fall off the mangrove trees into the water become food for marine microorganisms and in turn, render food for larger ones. Mangrove tree branches become home to nesting bird species such as brown pelicans and mangrove cuckoos. Afterward, we started the process of cleaning and picking up trash on the island’s shore. Some of the items that we encountered the most were plastic bottle and caps as well as styrofoam. More rarely, we found hair combs and toothbrushes. This is indicative of how frequently and for how long some people visited the island. Apart from that, we encountered the remnants of some species of crab and also a lot of kermits inhabiting the shore which was fun to observe. We collected the trash in the reusable bags. After the bags were filled, we loaded them in our canoes and sailed back to the Deering Estate. The garage was disposed of in the truck at the end.
Looking at the image of what Chicken Key used to be when the cleanup mission merely began, I can surely say that the collective effort of the Honor students and other people in charge of cleaning the island was not in vain. A major headway in maintaining the island has been accomplished to make it look as the nature created it originally. I hope the Chicken Key Island will render a nationally registered nature preserve. I still feel like I was not able to do as much for the island, yet, I still have the craving to return to engorge the enigmatic aura of the island even more.