Despite having an average depth of less than 1 meter, University of Miami’s Lake Osceola and its inhabitants remain an object of mystery.
“Well, obviously there’s fish,” says UM freshman Brennan Williams. “You see them jumping all the time. Nobody knows why.”
Rachel Oberhausen, a UM engineering student, jumps into the conversation: “I’ve also definitely heard something about alligators; they’re the reason you get expelled if you jump in the lake.”
In fact, neither is completely right.
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There are fish, as Williams pointed out, but to Dr. Donald Olson of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences the reason for the fish jumping is clear.
“When you see a bunch of fish scatter at the surface it is almost always predator evasion. However, one lone fish jumping straight up out of the water isn’t likely to be very successful getting away from a larger fish. Instead, studies have been conducted on the possibility of jumps for the purpose of removing gill parasites,” says Olson.
According to Olson, Oberhausen was not too far off about the alligators. Several years ago the campus had been home to several American crocodiles, a rare cousin of the American alligator. One in particular, named Donna, became an unofficial mascot.
The administration, however, was not too happy about the campus’ behemoth inhabitants and had them relocated. The stones that now cover Osceola’s banks are there not for looks, but as crocodile deterrent, making it difficult for the reptiles to bask in the sun, Olson continued.
According to UM’s Office of Student Affairs, swimming in the lake is prohibited. Punishments can include expulsion. This tough stance is most likely due, not to alligators, but to Chad Meredith’s death in 2001. The 18-year-old Miami student drowned while attempting a swim across the lake with two of his fraternity brothers.
Lake myths aside, students gave the lake a collective hug April 22 during the university’s seventh annual Hug the Lake ceremony.
The event, which is presented by the Random Acts of Kindness Club, consists of nearly 700 students holding hands around the lake in a large “hug” symbolizing their appreciation of the environment and Lake Osceola itself.
Though this year’s ceremony was interrupted by a light drizzle and participation around some portions of the lake was spotty, students who partook in the ceremony were still seen wearing their green “Hug the Lake” T-shirts with pride for the rest of the day.
Regardless, the moment University of Miami freshmen move on campus, Lake Osceola becomes the center of their world. Literally. Every trip to class requires students to circumvent its shores, dodging the spray of its 70 foot fountain as they make the daily trek to classes. It is a part of the University of Miami experience.
As Jen Levine, member UM’s Presidents 100, put it “The lake is the heart of campus life: from canoe races during February’s sports fest to the homecoming boat burning ceremony and fireworks show, it is a constant display of Cane pride.”
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