Changing Planet

Exploring Everglades National Park by Kayak

Gregg Treinish and his team at Adventure Scientists bring us stories from around the world about adventuring with purpose. Here, Jordan Snyder and Martina Sestakova describe their experience kayaking in the 10,000 islands area of the Everglades National Park, Florida, and collecting microplastic samples for Adventure Scientists’ Global Microplastics Initiative

By Jordan Snyder and Martina Sestakova

It was our second day out and we had over six miles of open water traverse ahead of us. We clawed our way directly into oncoming waves, wind, and a flood current as the elements battled to restrain us.  Waves washed over our 21’ tandem sea kayak as it crept across the Gulf of Mexico, making no more than two miles per hour of slow and challenging forward progress. We were paddling from Jewel Key to Pavilion Key in the 10,000 islands area of the Everglades National Park, Florida. This was our first wilderness adventure in the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states.

sunset in FL
Sunset and low tide on Rabbit Key in Everglades National Park

Our plan was to explore as much of these pristine waters as possible, backcountry camp on the uninhabited keys, and gather water samples for microplastic analysis. Partnering with Adventure Scientists, we have gathered over 30 water samples while under sail in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean and thought that data from this national park could be a valuable addition to their Global Microplastics Initiative. We wanted to help fill a tiny gap on Adventure Scientists’ large and detailed global map with our results, especially since our location was so sensitive to water pollution.

Endless mangroves as Jordan and Martina make their way back to the mainland and Everglades City via Sandfly Pass

In Everglades National Park you are surrounded by a unique and beautiful marine ecosystem that relies on clean water for survival and prosperity. The enormous population of fish, dolphins, native and migrating waterfowl, the largest mangrove system in the western hemisphere, and the threatened manatee all depend on pollution-free water.

We collected one-liter water samples in varied settings ranging from deep main channels to shallow, tranquil coves. We quickly learned that sampling at water level from a kayak was much easier than off the bow of our 31’ sailboat. We followed Adventure Scientists’ simple protocol including not wearing fleece (comprised of thousands of microplastic fibers), which could contaminate the data.

collecting microplastic water sample from kayak
Martina collecting a water sample on the south side of Jewell Key

Martina took one sample in the center of Chokoloskee Bay moments after a close encounter with a pair of dolphins. We could see them in the distance heading directly towards our kayak. They seemed to be feeding on fish. We held our location as they approached closer and closer. Sitting motionless and in silence I prepared my action camera to capture whatever was about to happen. Two dolphins swam and splashed within a few feet of our kayak as they gracefully trapped a mouthful of fish. Witnessing this grace and natural beauty up close solidified for us the importance of clean water here and everywhere.

We added purpose to our Everglades kayaking adventure by planning our route to include unique collection spots. We hope no microplastic pollution is found in the pristine wilderness of Everglades National Park!

Jordan Snyder is a lifelong explorer and sailor who runs expedition style multi-day sailing adventures and photography workshops aboard his boat Base Camp II. Martina Sestakova is a textile/pattern designer who runs her company RADOST out of Bethesda, MD. Martina loves traveling, photography, and art, which inspire her design work. Learn more about Base Camp Sailing and their sailing adventures while collecting water samples on the Chesapeake Bay.

Find out more about the Global Microplastics Initiative  and other Adventure Scientists projects by visiting their website, and by following them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Gregg Treinish founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration. National Geographic named Gregg Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor's 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine "hero", in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men's Journal's "50 Most Adventurous Men." In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow. Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Read more updates from Gregg and others on the Adventure Scientists team at Follow Adventure Scientists on Instagram @adventurescientists, on Facebook @adventurescientists, and on Twitter @AdvScientists.
  • Martina Sestakova

    So great to see our article on National Geographic. Indeed, collaborating with Adventure Scientists added much purpose to our travel adventures. We learned a lot about the environment and its protection. Thank you for sharing our work with the world!

  • Dave K

    Overnight Everglades Kayak Camping Tours
    Come kayak, explore and truly experience the REAL Everglades! We offer fully outfitted and guided 3-5-8-day overnight kayak camping tours in the backcountry of Everglades National Park. You can find complete details at Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
    Dave Kochendorfer, Owner/Guide
    Florida Outdoor Adventures – Everglades Kayak Tours

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