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April 2017

Faculty Spotlight: Joe Butler, Ph.D.

Butler, JoeDepartment and title: Department of Biology, professor


Where did you attend graduate school and what did you study? Ohio State University, Ph.D. in Zoology


When did you start working at UNF? Fall 1989


What is your favorite thing about working at UNF? Camaraderie with my colleagues, teaching my classes to students and ability to do research.


How are you involved with the Environmental Center? I work closely with Dr. David Lambert, the Center director, on my research projects. He and I currently have an Academic Affairs grant together. My students and I do most of the field work, and Dave helps us put it all together using ArcGIS. Most of my students will take his GIS class, and he has been on some of my graduate student committees.


What does your research focus on? I am a herpetologist with a focus on the ecology of diamondback terrapins. They are the only North American turtles that prefer the brackish water habitat of our Intracoastal Waterway. They are imperiled due to habitat loss, mortality in crab traps and extensive predation by raccoons.


Have you been a recipient of a Seed Grant? If so, what was your project? I received an Environmental Center Seed Grant in 2012 with Dr. Allen Harris of the UNF Electrical Engineering Department. For that grant, my students and I developed a robotic camera that could survey gopher tortoise burrows. 


Where is your favorite place to enjoy nature? I will strive to enjoy nature wherever I am at the moment. I am always looking around for something alive, whether it be a turtle, a bird, a flower, etc. There is always something to see!


What would you like to do when you retire? I have no plans for retirement at the moment, as I am enjoying my current position. My wife and I do enjoy traveling, so whenever I do retire I would plan to do more of that — always looking for animals I have not seen before!

Environmental Leadership Program Update

Project Leader, Sean Lahav, debuted his yearlong video project, "Exploring Northeast Florida's Special Places" to a standing-room-only crowd of almost 200 people on Thursday, March 2 at Intuition Ale Works.


Sean produced 20, three-minute videos of our local national, state and city preservation parks. The goal of this project was to showcase our beautiful parks, get people excited about their parks and show them how easy it is to get outside. In fact, to prove the ease of enjoying these parks, Sean used his iPhone to shoot the entire series and the results and quality were amazing — so much so, that WJCT will be airing one video per week starting in March! Check out the first video released featuring Betz-Tiger Point Preserve.


Sean hosted the event, along with community partner John November, executive director of the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute of Florida, and featured guest speakers from each of the park agencies. Whetherman, whose music was featured in the videos, also performed live. It was an unforgettable, emotional event that brought the crowd to a standing ovation for Sean!


Special Places screening collage

Textbook Collection

Textbook collection binAt the end of each semester, the Environmental Center collects unwanted textbooks from students and faculty. All collected books will be sent to Better World Books, a company that donates and sells books to implement literacy and education programs around the world. 


Join us in the effort to reduce waste and promote literacy worldwide! Donations will be collected at the blue bin outside the UNF Bookstore. Additionally, you can donate your books in the Environmental Center office located in Building 1, J.J. Daniel Hall, Room 2200. Faculty may request a pickup of textbooks from their office.

For more information, please e-mail Courtney Hogan.

St. Johns River Experience Recap and Symposium

Sponsors: Environmental Center and St. Johns Riverkeeper

When: Monday, April 17, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Where: Adam W. Herbert University Center

Cost: Free


Attend the inaugural St. Johns River Student Forum, a community event featuring presentations from students who recently participated in the St. Johns River Experience. Each of the student presentations will address a different topic related to the St. Johns River. The keynote speaker for the event is conservation photographer and Ph.D. student Jenny Adler. Coffee and light snacks will be provided. 


SJR Student Forum


The St. Johns River Experience is a transformational learning opportunity that explores the history, ecology and current issues surrounding the St. Johns River. During the course, students go beyond the classroom and gain real-world experiences collecting and analyzing field samples. In addition, they interact with a number of scientists, historians, advocates and elected officials. The highlight of the course is a spring break trip where students spend their days visiting public lands, swimming in the springs and paddling the many tributaries of the St. Johns River. 


Jenny Adler will be the keynote speaker at the forum. Jenny is a conservation photographer, cave diver and National Geographic Explorer. Her current work is focused on reconnecting the next generation of Floridians to the aquifer beneath their feet using photography and immersive education. This work is part of her Ph.D. at the University of Florida, which includes developing and implementing an environmental education project called Walking on Water. This project immerses elementary school students in the springs, cameras in hand, and teaches them about the aquifer via the first 360-virtual tour of the Floridan aquifer, which she developed last summer.  

Student Coalition Update

Student Coalition BadgeThe Environmental Center Student Coalition is for students who have a passion for adventure, nature and conservation. This club enables them to volunteer and participate and plan environmental-based events. Participation in the club provides like-minded students with the opportunity to contribute to campus sustainability and gain leadership experience.


If you are interested in participating in the Environmental Center Student Coalition, join them at the monthly general meeting. All are welcome! The last meeting of the semester will be on Tuesday, April 11, at 8 p.m. in Student Union, Building 58W, 3804.

Keep up to date by joining their Facebook page!

Natural Wonders Continuing Education Course

Have you ever wondered what sorts of creatures live in the marsh down the street, or who is making all of those peculiar singing sounds in nighttime trees and bushes? Are you curious about how the local landscapes were formed and why certain trees and plants grow here, but not there? If you want an introduction to the diverse habitats and landscapes of Northeast Florida, then this is the course for you!


Your instructor will guide you through a concise survey of plants and animals of the Florida flatwoods, tidal marshes, cypress forests and coastal marshes. You will spend three sessions in an interactive, enjoyable classroom format. There will be two Saturday field trips. The first, on May 13, will be held at the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve. The second outing, on May 20, is a half-day trip to Fort Caroline National Monument.

Natural Wonders collage

The instructor for the course is Jolie Schlieper, an environmental educator and lead park ranger for the City of Jacksonville. Schlieper has years of experience leading educational programs among Jacksonville's local flora and fauna, is also Northeast Florida Sierra Club's conservation chair. 

The cost of the five-session course, which includes two field trips, is $109. There is a required textbook, "Sandhills, Swaps & Sea Islands: Environmental Guidebook to Northeast Florida." The textbook is published by the Environmental Center and costs $24.99.

For more information and registration details, visit UNF Division of Continuing Education.

Community Corner

(v) indicates a volunteer opportunity 


Diamondback Terrapin Monitoring Opportunity (v)

Sponsor: North Florida Land Trust
When: April through September
Where: Various locations in Northeast Florida

The North Florida Land Trust, a nonprofit working to preserve lands in North Florida, is looking for volunteers to help with diamondback terrapin monitoring. The program runs April through September. It is a great opportunity for students to gain ecological field experience and network with one of the Northeast Florida's fastest growing nonprofits. For more information, contact Emily Dunn, stewardship coordinator.


Sierra Club Monthly Program

Sponsor: Sierra Club Northeast Florida
When: Monday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Lakewood Presbyterian Church
Cost: Free

Lisa Blizzard, from the Jacksonville Chapter of Sea Shepard Conservation Society, will give a presentation on "Protecting Biodiversity in Our Oceans." She will discuss the current campaigns, a brief history of Sea Shepherds' protection of Marine Mammals and give an overview of current vessels on campaign. Refreshments provided, please bring your own cup to reduce waste in landfill. Learn more.


Camp Cooking Basics Workshop

Sponsor: REI Jacksonville
When: Thursday, April 13, from 6:30-8 p.m.
Where: REI Jacksonville
Cost: Free

Are you planning an overnight backpacking trip and have questions about how and what to make for your meals? Experts from REI will cover equipment (stoves, cook sets and fuel), planning and preparation along with some tips and tricks to make your meals the hit of the trip. For more information and registration, visit REI Jacksonville website.

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