Day in the Life – GALS Inspector, Alvaro Pertuz

This month in our “Day in the Life” series, we follow Alvaro Pertuz, an inspector working on the giant African land snail eradication program in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. A special thanks to Daniel Benjamin, Public Information Specialist, for following Alvaro for the day and contributing to the blog this week.

Alvaro Pertuz has worked as an inspector for the giant African land snail (GALS) eradication program in Miami for over three years. The work he has performed as an inspector has fueled his passion for the environment.

When asked how he enjoys working for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Alvaro said, “My favorite part about working with the GALS program is working outside in nature and help protect the environment.” This passion stems from the importance of not only his but also, all the team members’ roles in protecting Florida agriculture.

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Pertuz preparing his vehicle for the day.

Alvaro begins his day preparing vehicles with his team members at 7:00 AM. The preparation includes checking the vehicle for issues and loading tools for the day such as rakes, mollusciside, cell phones, tablets and water. Alvaro stressed the most important part of his morning routine is making sure each vehicle is equipped with enough water for the day.

After preparing the vehicle, inspection teams meet with Sherry Steele, Operations Manager of the GALS program, to receive their assignments for the day. These assignments include a map of the core the team will be working on and properties in need of survey and treatment. At the program’s height, 32 cores in Miami-Dade and Broward counties were identified. After hard work and dedication, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDACS have been able to decommission 22 cores with plans to decommission more in the coming year.

“Core 30 stands out to me because we were out working on our normal assignments when we got a call that a snail had been found in an area where they were not found previously.” Alvaro said. “We got into our vehicles to travel as quickly as we could to the location. If we had sirens they would have been on.”

Alvaro said this was the first time he experienced a live snail in an active core.

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Pertuz checking to see if the property owner is present.

Alvaro and the GALS team follow strict procedures when visiting and inspecting properties. The team begins by checking to see if the homeowner is present, so they can explain the purpose of their visit and to receive permission to move forward with survey and treatment. GALS inspectors begin the survey by using rakes to visually check high risk areas, where the snail may be located on the property. High risk areas are considered cool, shaded areas, protecting the snail from the hot sun. Alvaro and the GALS team check behind bushes, under brush, around air conditioning units and anywhere else snails can hide. When checking the backyard of a property, Alvaro makes sure to look carefully before entering to ensure no pets are present because they can cause issues with a survey or treatment.

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Pertuz inspecting for GALS in a bush. Snails tend to hide in the shade, away from the hot sun.
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Pertuz conducting a giant African land snail survey.

If a snail is found, like in core 30, Alvaro would immediately call his supervisor to report the finding. The snail is then collected in a specimen bag with all the information of the find. The specimen information includes property address, location on the property, time, and size of the snail. If the property is already in the system and is a known positive property, then it is already on a treatment schedule. When a property is on a treatment schedule the location is treated with mollusociside on a routine basis to ensure eradication of the pest.

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Pertuz treating a property with molluciside.

Once the survey and treatment of the property is complete, it is time to move on to the next location. Alvaro makes sure to disinfect his boots, rake, and vehicle to eliminate the possible spread of pests as he drives to the next property.

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It is important to disinfect all equipment used during a GALS survey to prevent the spread of this pest to other properties.

At the end of the day, Alvaro and the GALS team return to the base to report their progress. They make sure to charge their tablets and cell phones, as well as organize tools and materials for the next day.

Alvaro enjoys being a GALS inspector for many reasons.

“I enjoy being able to work outside in the department’s effort to protect Florida.” Alvaro said. “I also like being able to work with homeowners in the community.”

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