Yvanna Serra: Balancing Care for Places and People

Two words capture UF student Yvanna Serra: adaptable and open-minded. From the wetlands of Panama to the Peace River in southwest Florida, Yvanna’s journey in studying water links to her goal of finding a balance between human development and conservation.  

Serra is a first-year master’s student in environmental engineering sciences and is currently researching the flow and transport of nutrients in the Peace River and creating a watershed model of the region. Modeling land use and management is particularly important because the Peace River Basin has a significant amount of agricultural and mining activity as well as residential and urban lands, and this model will allow researchers to see the impacts of land use changes on the flow of water and nutrients in the present and future, as well as give insights to how climate change will affect the river. 

“I really like studying the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor because we can figure out how we can find a balance between taking care of the environment and maintaining the quality of life,” said Serra. “I’m very passionate about that part.”

Photo credit: Yvanna Serra

Serra received her bachelor’s in Civil Engineering in the Technological University of Panama. She graduated cum laude with a certificate of recognition in the research category as a result of her work for her undergraduate thesis, where she studied the water balance in the Cienaga de Las Macanas wetland with David Kaplan, Ph.D., and members from CREHO Ramsar, a center that works to preserve wetlands around the world. This wetland is important because it is the only humid spot in a very arid area and serves as a resting spot for birds migrating from the United States and Canada to South America. Serra’s work in this wetland helps researchers and decision makers make more informed decisions to protect the area.