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Sawmill Slough in Spring

Spring 2018

Changes to the Newsletter
After evaluating the various ways we communicate with our friends of the Environmental Center, we wanted to let you know that the format and frequency of this newsletter will be changing. The biggest change will be a switch from a monthly distribution to only once a semester. The content will likely remain the same, but the change in frequency will allow staff to focus more time on social media and writing stories for the Environmental Center blog. If we have important news to share between semesters, a news bulletin will be released, in addition to announcements on social media.

Welcome to the Environmental Center Team
John Aloszka

John Aloszka

Hometown: Jacksonville
Major: Political Science
Job title: Communications assistant

Why are you excited to work at the Environmental Center? The Environmental Center has become increasingly vital, especially as Jacksonville expands and grows. I am excited to help promote sustainability, both on campus and in the community, and to get the word out about all the amazing things the Center does! 
Brittany Wussick

Brittany Wussick

Hometown: San Diego
Major: Public Relations
Job title: Communications assistant

Why are you excited to work at the Environmental Center? I have always been so passionate about nature and our environment. I am absolutely thrilled to be involved in the implementation of eco-friendly causes, spreading awareness and assisting in making a positive impact on the environment. It feels great to be part of a group that shares my same sustainability interests. 


Environmental Leadership Program Update

ELP Applications Banner

Now Accepting Applications for Project Leaders

Do you have a passion for the environment or social justice cause? Would you like to turn that passion into action, while building your professional and leadership skills and networking with community leaders? We are looking for you! 


The Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) is focused on identifying students who are passionate about the environment, who want to implement a community project that creates long-term solutions to environmental issues and who want to develop their leadership skills. Through the ELP, student project leaders gain real-world, hands-on experience through working with community partners and leaders, faculty and the ELP project coordinator, in creating and implementing their project.


Application Deadline — February 12, 2018

Project Leader Application


Timucuan Science & History Symposium

Three project leaders from the Environmental Leadership Program will be presenting posters at the upcoming Timucuan Science & History Symposium. In addition to presenting a poster, Project Leader Bella Genta will help facilitate a panel discussion on climate change being held during the morning session. Genta's project, Changing the Climate of Conversation, aims to stimulate solutions-driven conversations related to climate change.  

  • Brandie Brooks — Beyond the Trail: The Art of Science
  • Kaley Crawford — The Untold Story of the Preservation Parks
  • Bella Genta — Changing the Climate of Conversation

The symposium, which is hosted by the Timucuan Parks Foundation and National Park Service, will take place Friday, Jan. 26 at the Ribault Club located at Ft. George Island Cultural State Park. This full-day symposium is open to the community. Visit the symposium registration page for more information.

Learn more about the Environmental Leadership Program

Faculty Seed Grants

Students conducting research

The Environmental Center is pleased to announce the 2018 Seed Grant recipients. Seed Grants are available to faculty from any college and encourage interdisciplinary research focused on the three priority areas of the Environmental Center, which are parks and preserves; rivers, coasts and springs; and sustainability. These environmental research grants are funded through the River Branch Foundation. 


This year the Environmental Center was able to offer two additional grants focused specifically on water quality in Northeast Florida. The water quality grants were made possible by the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation. Read more about the 2018 Seed Grant projects


Environmental Research Grants  

Bench-Scale Testing of Microbial Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP) Treated Sand Dunes

Raphael Crowley, Ph.D., School of Engineering

Mathew Davies, Department of Chemistry

Terri Ellis, Ph.D., Department of Biology


Living on the leading edge of an expanding range: examining the physiological response of mangrove species to temperature and environmental change

Michael J. Aspinwall, Ph.D., Department of Biology


Water Quality Grants

Perception of Drinking Water Quality in the City of Jacksonville, FL: The Influence of Consumer Location within the Distribution System

Chris K. Johnson, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Geography

Chiradip Chatterjee, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Geography

Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D., Department of Accounting and Finance

Russell Triplett, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Geography


Exploring ecological, morphological and molecular aspects of cyanobacterial communities isolated from Ichetucknee Springs, Brandford, FL

Dale Casamatta, Ph.D., Department of Biology

Alyssa Garvey, M.S. Candidate, Department of Biology

Learn more about Seed Grants

Pre[serve] Art Exhibition

The Pre[serve] Art Exhibition is a student and alumni juried exhibition featuring works inspired by the Sawmill Slough Preserve, a 382-acre natural area located on the UNF campus. The exhibition encourages artists to venture into the Sawmill Slough Preserve to find inspiration. The completed works are displayed at an on-campus exhibition as a way to highlight the importance of conservation. In addition to the exhibition, there will be series of workshops that are meant to educate students about artistic techniques and the native flora and fauna found in the Sawmill Slough Preserve. 


View the digital collection and map from the 2016 Pre[serve] Art Exhibition. 


2018 Call to Artists

Submissions are now being accepted for the 2018 Pre[serve] Art Exhibition! The juried exhibition is open to all types of media. Participants must be current or former UNF students. The exhibition features cash awards up to $1,000. The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 2. Click here for more details on submissions


Workshop with Artist Andrea Frank

When: Friday, Jan. 19, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Where: UNF Gallery of Art


Artist Andrea Frank is head of the photography program at State University of New York at New Paltz. Her creative research and artistic work focuses on a systems-related approach to questions of sustainability, collective responsibility and psychological aspects of individual and collective human action. During the workshop, Frank will share information about her creative process and teach students artistic techniques she regularly employees through a hands-on activity that allows participants to have a direct experience with the campus Sawmill Slough Preserve. 


Opening Reception

When: Thursday, March 29, from 5-7 p.m.

Where: Lufrano Intercultural Gallery 


Come enjoy the opening reception for the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery. The event is free and open to the public. Beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served. 

Learn more about the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition.

Student Spotlight: Bella Genta

Project Leader Bella Genta Where are you from? I grew up in Sarasota, Florida. 


What is your job title and what do you do for the Environmental Center? I am a project leader within the Environmental Leadership Program. Currently, I am working with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens on a project titled, "Changing the Climate of Conversation." The project seeks to train young professionals on how to most effectively communicate climate and ocean science surrounding climate change.


What is your major and why did you choose it? I am doing interdisciplinary study in International Conservation. I am also minoring in Biology and International Business. I have always been passionate about marine science and the natural environment, but wanted to understand both the science and the human dimensions behind environmental issues. By pursuing an interdisciplinary degree, I have been able to take classes and learn different methodologies of thinking. 


What is the environmental issue you are most interested in? Climate change, because of how encompassing and devastating the effects are. If you are passionate about the deforestation, pollution, clean water or even just humanity, you should be interested in climate change and its various effects. 


What makes you passionate about the environment? I feel a connection to the environment, as I have been fortunate to be able to spend a significant amount of time in nature around the world, and also because of our intrinsic dependence on it. I think being passionate about the environment is really easy. All it means is that you respect and care about things apart from yourself and realize this dependency. Not to get up on my soap box, but what has propelled humanity forward evolutionarily is our ability to care for one another and work together for a common good. Without this collaboration, a single human is pretty useless against any large threat. I think being passionate about the protection and conservation of environment speaks to what people should be good at. Combining our shared knowledge with our emotional intelligence for a good that benefits all. 


What are your hobbies? What clubs and volunteer activities are you involved in? My hobbies include traveling, painting, paddle boarding, hiking, and organizing. Additionally, I serve as the student representative to the Presidential Search Committee. While I am not currently a part of any other student groups, I have participated in student government, Marine Biology Club and Model United Nations. 


What are your plans after graduation? I plan to pursue a master's degree in sustainable development practice, concentrating in fisheries science and management. 

Faculty Spotlight: Kelly Smith, Ph.D.

Kelly Smith, Ph.D. Department and title: Department of Biology, associate professor


Where did you attend graduate school and what did you study? Rutgers, the state of New Jersey, where I studied salt marsh fish community dynamics. 


When did you start working at UNF? I began working at UNF in the fall of 1999. 


What is your favorite thing about working at UNF? I like the collegiality of the faculty and the enthusiasm of the students. The university is just the right size for me – not too big, not too small. I especially love the close proximity to nature trails and lakes. 


How are you involved with the Environmental Center? I have participated in activities with the Environmental Center since it was founded in 2004. I often involve staff from the center in my environmental classes so that students can learn more about the Environmental Center and the programs offered. 


Have you been the recipient of a Seed Grant? If so, what was the project? My recent Seed Grant award was titled: "Spartina alterniflora floating plant nurseries: growing plants to reduce pond nutrient loading and enhance coastal shoreline restoration" and addressed my research on using floating wetland treatments to remove nutrients from retention ponds as well as grow plants for coastal restoration. 


Where is your favorite place to enjoy nature? One of my favorite locations is Theodore Roosevelt Area, which is part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. There is excellent bird watching in the extensive salt marsh. 


What would you like to do when you retire? I expect I will be one of those folks who volunteer at the local nature preserves. 

Community Partner Spotlight: Timucuan Parks Foundation

Logo: Timucuan Parks Foundation


Mission: The Timucuan Parks Foundation (TPF) serves to preserve, promote and protect the Timucuan Parks through advocacy, fundraising and marketing.


Partnership description: The Timucuan Parks Foundation has been a long-time community partner with the Environmental Center. The organization currently supports a number of the Environmental Leadership Projects, including the Beyond the Trail series and the Preserve Ambassadors. Both projects focus on getting college students to explore parks in Northeast Florida. 


To find our more information about TPF, visit their website and Facebook page. 

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