Science has given me a perspective of living in Southwest Florida – Travis Edwards, FGCU Student

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Travis loved the beach in South Jersey as a very young child. He found the beach and its tidal pools fascinating. His mom and dad took him to the shore often and he was curious about sea life, geography and the water itself.  He went to summer camp where the focus was on the sea. His parents didn’t push him to pursue science. Rather, they nurtured his passion for the ocean.

The Travis family moved to far-eastern Lee County, Florida while Travis was in middle school. In attending Lehigh Acres Middle School he was required to participate in a science fair as part of the set curriculum. He won his school’s science fair, which he says “blew him away”.  Travis advanced to the Thomas Alva Edison Kiwanis Science and Engineering Fair. He was awarded a Summer Research Opportunity at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) where he worked, side-by-side with a professor doing applied research.  Travis said this practical experience “brought me to study the local Southwest Florida environment.”

In high school, he developed a project on water quality that was a continuing project for four years.  His focus was on the Caloosahatchee River, which passed by his neighborhood.  Since he couldn’t drive yet, he relied on a golf cart, a rowboat and his parents driving him to get to scattered spots along the river. He would fill his parent’s freezer with bags of water samples to be analyzed later. He was very successful competing at the regional science fair. He won multiple scholarships to FGCU and competed at the state science fair. His senior year he observed the international science fair in Phoenix, Arizona.

His project led him upriver, downriver, to the locks along the river where he studied salinity and the chemical changes in water in the various seasons. He expanded his research to include sea life.  He found that applesnails {Pomarcea) were good indicators of water quality by studying the strength and form of the snail’s shells at a local laboratory. He also concluded that some plant species provided important filtration to river water and he tested various species for effectiveness.

His strong interest in science and the local ecology led him to use the scholarship to FGCU, where he is a sophomore pursuing a degree in Hospitality.  He envisions coupling that study with science so that he can work in the eco-hospitality industry.  He sees his future job combining hospitality and eco-science.  He has particular interest in mosquito and hyacinth control and showing others how all of us are “stewards for the earth and sea.”

Science is part of his everyday life and class work. He said “It’s given me a perspective of living in Southwest Florida” and many of his studies continue to be focused on the local environment. He is an avid sailor and loves being on the water, whether on a motorboat or sailboat. He and his parents have long been volunteers for the Thomas A. Edison Regional Science and Inventors Fair.

He said he found the friendships he formed with his peers from Lee and Charlotte Counties while participating at the state science fair to be the most rewarding science fair experience.  He thinks that the school-level and regional fairs are very worthwhile, but at those levels, the focus is on advancing to the state science fair. Competing at the state science fair allows a fellowship to form.  He said some of his peers  from the state science fair continue to be his friends today.

His advice to those considering a science project is “run with an original idea. Find your passion, whether it’s human health, the environment or engineering.”  He also recommends considering a continuing project so that the work done builds on itself and leads to new and deeper discoveries.

Travis said he hopes others can share his experience of walking the beach, navigating a river, going on a hike in the woods or marshlands and grasping the science of the items that compose the scene, as well as the aesthetic artistry of the landscape.

Authored by Jim Helms, Thomas A. Edison Regional Science and Inventors Fair Steering Committee

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