FGCU students using lessons learned in Peru to help SWFL’s environment

Published: August 8, 2022 6:24 PM EDT
Updated: August 9, 2022 9:50 AM EDT

A group of students and professors from Florida Gulf Coast University traveled to Peru to study the environment.

The lessons learned in South America are now helping right here in Southwest Florida.

The team traveled to Iquitos, Peru which has a population of 500,000. It’s the largest city on the planet that is not connected by a road.

But the city is growing rapidly just like Southwest Florida and they hope what’s happening in Peru, can provide valuable lessons here.

Ella Guedour’s love of the environment comes through in every photograph. She’s pursuing her master’s in environmental science and it took her from FGCU to Iquitos, Peru.

Her research focuses on what happens to wildlife when a large number of people move in.

“So even though people are existing on this landscape, animals can also coexist if we use the landscape correctly, and we don’t destroy their habitat,” Guedour said.

Which is a possibility now that a bridge will soon connect Iquitos to two smaller communities. She and her team analyzed the environment before the bridge opened.

They set up camera traps to watch animals, test water quality and study human interactions.

Professor of Animal Behavior Billy Gunnels said they will return down the road to compare their findings.

“We know what happens after the fact when you get people in an environment. How diversity tends to respond. Some species make it other species have a very difficult time. What we don’t get to see happen very often is in real time what goes on with this community,” Gunnels said.

And how they can bring what they learn to this area.

Matthew Metcalf, FGCU’s Visiting Instructor said, “It’s obvious, a little bit different urbanization than we have here in Florida. But I think we can take a lot from that and understand you know, to have a healthy ecosystem, we’re worried about algae blooms and water quality issues and things like that. That is a direct impact from us developing certain areas.”

The team hopes their research will help ensure Southwest Florida’s biodiversity stays strong.

“We don’t want an environment where there are no people. This is southwest florida. We also don’t want a city where there is no nature, we come here because of our environment. We come here because of the weather, the beaches, the swamp. This is what attracts us to this region. We can’t lose it,” Gunnels said.

WINK News will let you know how this region parallels Florida’s environment and what benefits we might see from this research.