The Everglades is a water world — It’s the widest and slowest river in the United States. But in the heart of this great water body exist secret islands that have outsize importance for the cultural heritage of a people and for the biodiversity of this important wetland. Thousands of these tree islands dot the Everglades.
For generations, the Miccosukee people have called these islands home. And they’ve long understood that the islands are a giver of life in this unforgiving environment. The islands are some of the only dry land around and harbor a surprising diversity of plant and animal life, including: coyotes, bobcat, bear, and even the Florida panther.
But among the scientific establishment, the islands are little understood. Researchers from the Miccosukee tribe are working to understand how animals use the islands and what role they play in the larger Everglades ecosystem. With the islands under threat from outside forces, their studies have taken on increased urgency. What they’re finding could be key to preserving the Miccosukee culture and the balance of life in this great river.