Welcome to the South Florida Terrestrial Ecosystems Lab (SOFTEL) website.
SOFTEL is one of several research labs associated with the Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC). We take a field-oriented, multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the terrestrial* ecosystems of southern Florida, from the Lower Keys to Biscayne Bay, and from flooded herbaceous wetlands to forested uplands in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.
In some ways, the concept behind SOFTEL originated in the National Audubon Society’s Ecosystem Research Unit. Mike Duever (Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary) was the Director, and Mike Ross (Florida Keys) a Principal Investigator. The idea was that questions critical to natural area management are best addressed through an ecosystem approach that integrated basic and applied research. A reasonable conceptual model of the systems we were studying helped to put narrow research results in context, and encouraged collaboration with scientists across a range of disciplines.
In 1993, when Dr. Ron Jones inaugurated the Southeast Environmental Research Program (now SERC) at FIU, Mike Ross was among the first members of the faculty. Since then, SERC has grown to be a interdisciplinary unit staffed by many of South Florida's leading scientists, working together to address emerging environmental issues.
At present, SOFTEL staff work on multiple projects, including studies in the ridge and slough, marl prairie, coastal wetlands, rock ridge and Florida Keys, as well as in the urban Miami-Dade landscape. Our recent and ongoing work also includes restoration studies, field experimentation, remote sensing, and vegetation classification.* For us, the “T” (Terrestrial) in SOFTEL entails all ecosystems dominated by emergent plants, from tidal wetlands to upland forests.