The past few weeks have been incredible as I’ve finally returned to the caves, camera in hand! We are currently shooting the underwater virtual tour and can’t wait to share the final product with you — 4 of the 10 spheres are now complete! Each sphere takes between 15 and 45 minutes to shoot and 6+ hours to edit, stitch, and post-process on the computer. I’m looking forward to sharing more details about our current field work as well as behind the scenes views of the diving, but for now, here is a video of a cavern that will give you a little taste of what it’s like to swim underground:
The children who will inherit our freshwater are often the most curious about it, and they play a profound role in helping inspire a new water ethic for Florida. This is why I want to give them the opportunity to explore our incredible, but fragile, freshwater ecosystems that lie just out of sight. Submerging in the springs and exploring both sparkling spring bowls and the dark tunnels of the aquifer completely changed my life; it also sparked my curiosity and led me to understand our inextricable ties to these unique places that can often seem far away, yet are integral to our daily lives. In fact, 92% of Floridians rely on groundwater for our everyday needs, but most have never seen a spring. We spend our lives walking on water that all too often remains invisible beneath our feet — now it’s time to jump in.
Beginning in June, I will create the first underwater virtual tour in a Florida cave and travel to elementary schools throughout the state to share the aquifer with the next generation. I will take the students on a field trip to the springs to experience snorkeling and try underwater photography for themselves. Back in the classroom, students will explore the winding tunnels of the aquifer via a 360 virtual tour and express what they learned through drawing and painting. Their underwater photographs and pieces of artwork created in the classroom will become part of an exhibit at a local venue, with the hopes of engaging their parents and the larger community in a conversation about water.
Using art as a means to discover the springs and aquifer will empower kids to explore issues surrounding water and will help them learn to better manage and care for the water that flows in the limestone tunnels hidden just out of sight. All of these pieces — the virtual tour, field trip, classroom visit, and art — are integral pieces of Walking on Water, an innovative approach to shaping a new water ethic in Florida, starting with the next in line to manage our water resources.
I have been dreaming of creating this project for a few years and am beyond excited to see it come to fruition, thanks to a Young Explorers Grant from the National Geographic Society and support from Florida Sea Grant and the University of Florida.
This blog is where I will share stories and photos from shooting the virtual tour in the caves, field trips to the springs, classroom visits, and details about art shows. I will also be tweeting up to date info from @amermaidlife using #WalkingonWaterFL. I hope you will follow along with all of our adventures!
Thank you for all of your continued support!!