Reporting on the Everglades

Cypress trees thrive in pools called cypress domes. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

Cypress trees thrive in pools called cypress domes. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

The students who enroll in the spring semester environmental journalism course taught by Bob Wyss all have some reporting background. But that doesn’t forestall surprises.

Nine students traveled to South Florida for four days in March to report on environmental issues, with the challenge of gathering enough information to each produce two print stories and two multimedia reports when they returned to campus.

The seren­ity of a morn­ing on Nine Mile Pond in the Everglades is bro­ken by an alligator. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

The seren­ity of a morn­ing on Nine Mile Pond in the Everglades is bro­ken by an alligator. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

Within the group, one student had done internships with Fox CT and NBC Connecticut. Others had contributed pieces to Connecticut Woodlands magazine, the Manchester Journal Inquirer, the New York Times, Daily Campus, and student television and radio stations.

Even with that range of experience, a few things surprise students, according to Wyss, associate professor at UConn and longtime newspaper reporter.

“One is that the only way we can accomplish what we do is through team work. Students share all of the reporting assignments,” says Wyss. “Second, what happens is that the students bond, they come together and form alliances and friendships unlike any other course.”

A bromeliad air plant bloom­ing deep in a cypress dome, a pool that col­lects in a lower ele­va­tion of the Ever­glades. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

A bromeliad air plant. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

Green sea tur­tles are now being treated at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Cen­ter in the Everglades for tumors that may be linked to pol­lu­tion. (Mar­vin Williams/UConn Photo)

Green sea tur­tle. (Mar­vin Williams/UConn Photo)

The exotic apple snail is larger and more durable than the native snail, which can be good for snail kites but not for some aquatic plants. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

The non-native apple snail. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)


This year was the second time UConn students learned about the mechanics of beat reporting by taking a trip to the Everglades. Wyss, who has taught the course for seven years and published a textbook, Covering the Environment: How Journalists Work the Green Beat (2007), covered the environment for more than 30 years, mostly for the Providence Journal. He also plans to take a class to Louisiana to cover environmental issues within that state.

“The reporting and the writing are less of a challenge than the multimedia requirements, because some have never even heard the term B-roll,” says Wyss, referring to the supplemental footage that supports the main interview. “They have to prepare for the reporting, and do intensive reporting in just a few days – knowing that if they miss something they cannot re-shoot it.”

“So far this has all worked,” he notes. Read the student coverage of their journey at Everglades 14.

Bleu Waters, a ranger at Ever­glades National Park, leads a “wet hike” so that vis­i­tors can dis­cover the true Ever­glades. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

Bleu Waters, a ranger at Ever­glades National Park. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

Patrick Boyce, a sea­sonal ranger at Big Cypress National Pre­serve, teaches by hik­ing into a cypress dome. (Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

Patrick Boyce, a sea­sonal ranger at Big Cypress National Pre­serve.
(Kait­lyn Carroll/UConn Photo)

Kirt Rusenko, marine con­ser­va­tion­ist at Gumbo Limbo Nature Cen­ter, dis­cusses yet another haz­ard fac­ing sea tur­tles. (Marina Cinami/UConn Photo)

Kirt Rusenko, marine con­ser­va­tion­ist at Gumbo Limbo Nature Cen­ter. (Marina Cinami/UConn Photo)