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Sawmill Slough in Spring

Summer 2018

From the Blog

The Environmental Center blog features stories that highlight the work being done by faculty, staff and students associated with the center. Below are the stories published since the last newsletter. 


2018 St. Johns River Experience

The St. Johns River Experience is a unique undergraduate course that explores the history and ecology of the St. Johns River. Read more.


Students Tour Recycling Center

Inquisitive recyclers from the UNF Environmental Center and Timucuan Parks Foundation embarked on a trip to Republic Services to broaden their knowledge of recycling! Read more


Project Leader Attends Outdoor Nation Training in Washington, D.C.

Project Leader Kyle Kenney and 18 other students from colleges and universities from across the country traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Outdoor Nation Campus Ambassador orientation and training. Read more.

Visit the blog to view more articles on Environmental Center activities.

Environmental Leadership Program Update

Best of luck to our Environmental Leadership Program graduates!  

Congratulations to Brandie Brooks, who will graduate in fall 2018. Brooks has applied for several Student Conservation Association internships with the National Park Service. She is interested in being an interpretation guide, educational program planner or assistant researcher. 


Congratulations to Bella Genta, who graduated this past spring. Genta has been accepted as a Washington, D.C. intern to a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although she has not yet been assigned, she is hoping to work with a representative who sits on the Natural Resources House Committee. Following her summer internship, Genta will begin her graduate program in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at American University.


Congratulations Courtney Hogan, who graduates this summer. Hogan's plans are to buy a van with her partner and convert it into their new home. Before becoming nomadic in August, she will continue her food justice work with the "Jacksonville Food, Not Bombs" collective, cooking vegan food to serve those in need and build gardens for families located within food deserts. Once the van is finished, she and her partner will be traveling indefinitely, visiting sustainable living communities, organic farms and direct action camps. Hogan hopes to learn more about permaculture, herbalism, bio-fuel technology and activism. 


 Group of students


Welcome to our new Environmental Leadership Program Student Project Leaders! 

  • Miranda Brown
  • Noah Dedeo
  • Christina Fletcher
  • Molly O'Brien
  • Alice Sanchez
  • Gage Soinski
  • Katie Vearil
  • Eve Gray

Learn more about the Environmental Leadership Program.

Pre[serve] Art Exhibition

Crowd at opening receptionPeople crowded into the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery on March 29 for the opening reception of the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition. The exhibition featured works created by students and alumni inspired by the Sawmill Slough Preserve, a 382-acre natural area on the UNF campus. The artists were required to search for inspiration within the Sawmill Slough Preserve and create works reflecting their experiences. 


The exhibition included 35 works from 27 different artists and was on display from March 29 through April 27. The following awards were announced at the reception: 

First place: Mark Lester, "Sapling Reliquary" 

Second place: Ricder Ricardo, "Sanctuary"

Third place: Julia McBride, "T. versicolor" 

Honorable mention: Laura Schween, "Intertwined (remnants from the Preserve Nature Walk and Collaborative Systems Drawing Session with Andrea Frank, January 19, 2018)"

UNF Photography Awards: Megan Johnson and Lauren O'Quinn

The works displayed in the exhibition were also curated online via a Story Map, which provides viewers a tour of each work of art and where the "point of inspiration" occurred within the Sawmill Slough Preserve. Works are archived in Digital Commons through the Thomas G. Carpenter Library. 

The Pre[serve] Art Exhibition was organized by the Environmental Center and Department of Art and Design. Additional support is provided by the Cummer Family Foundation and Lufrano Intercultural Gallery.

Learn more about the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition.

Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It

Group paddlingDid you know that the St. Johns River flows north? Do you know what gives the water in the St. Johns River its black appearance? Do you know the environmental challenges the river is facing today? If you want to learn these answers and more, then participating in the Beyond the Trail series is for you! 


The fourth installment of Beyond the Trail will focus on the St. Johns River, which has a valuable history and is known as one of Jacksonville's greatest symbols. The series will help participants understand the historical, cultural, scientific and economic significance of the river that many people drive over everyday. 


Beyond the Trail gives participants an opportunity to explore and learn about Jacksonville's local parks system. In addition to exploring the parks, each outing will involve a service project helping to improve each park the group visits. Participants will also have the chance to network with local environmental leaders and learn about environmental issues impacting Jacksonville. 


Beyond the Trail is open to all current UNF students and community members interested in learning more about the parks. Participants will receive a T-shirt and snacks at each event. 


Full details and registration are still being finalized, but if you are interested in participating contact Project Leader Katie Vearil or stop by the Environmental Center office in Building 1, J.J. Daniel Hall, Room 2200.

Learn more about the Beyond the Trail series.

Student Spotlight: Cailla Strobel
Cailla Strobel: Student SpotlightWhere are you from? I am originally from Canton, Ohio. My family moved around a lot, but I consider Weeki Wachee, Florida my home.


What is your major? My major is coastal and marine biology with a minor in environmental studies.


Why did you choose that major? I changed my major from psychology to coastal biology during my second semester of college because I became educated about the negative impact that humans were having on the marine environments. I grew up visiting the ocean, and I want future generations to be able to enjoy and appreciate its beauty as much as I do.


What is your job title and what do you do at the Environmental Center? I am a project leader through the Environmental Leadership Program. The goal of my project is to create the next generation of shark advocates through dynamic education.


What clubs and volunteer activities are you involved in? I volunteer for Sharks4Kids and the UNF Marine Biology Club. Through Sharks4Kids I get to educate young students in classrooms about why kids need sharks and sharks need kids. I also host "Shark Yoga" beach cleanups throughout Jacksonville Beach.


What are your plans after graduation? I plan to continue my education and earn a masters degree in marine biology. While earning my masters degree I would like to study plastic ingestion in marine organisms. I intend to use my degree to become a researcher for a nonprofit, to continue outreach education and instill change.


Who is your hero and why? My hero cannot be defined by one person. My heroes are the people who inspire me everyday to keep pushing to make a difference. My family, fellow colleagues and the amazing researchers and conservationists who are motivating me to make new scientific findings and apply them to help save our oceans.

Faculty Spotlight: Jim Draper

Faculty: Jim DraperDepartment and title: Department of Art and Design, Curator of Galleries and Painting and Drawing Instructor


Where did you attend graduate school and what did you study? I received a Master of Fine Arts in drawing and painting from the University of Georgia. 


When did you start working at UNF? I have been an intermittent adjunct since 1998, but began working full-time in August 2014. 


What is your favorite thing about working at UNF? The collegial atmosphere and the interaction with students. 


How are you involved with the Environmental Center? For the past two years I have collaborated with the Environmental Center and members of the Art and Design faculty to produce the annual Pre[serve] Art Exhibition for students and alumni. This collaboration includes selecting works, organizing the exhibition, taking students on excursions into the Sawmill Slough Preserve and curating and installing the exhibition. During the fall term, the UNF Gallery of Art also hosts the annual faculty social for the Environmental Center. 


What does your research focus on? I am working on some long-term projects with a multitude of short-term streams. I call my overarching research project Radical Naturalism. It is an attempt to address a personal fascination with human beings and their relationship to the environment. I investigate everything from language, to images found in historic documents, to contemporary news in an attempt to put ideas into context. Primarily in my research, I create paintings of indigenous plants of the Southeast and historical agricultural animals to focus on the attitude of our species regarding nature, whether we are part of it or dominative over it. 


Where is your favorite place to enjoy nature? I enjoy the Sawmill Slough Preserve here on the UNF campus. For my research, I use the land at Julington-Durbin Preserve and Carry State Forest. I also enjoy excursions along all the waterways of Florida. 


What would you like to do when you retire?  I will never retire! I enjoy my work so much that I cannot ever imagine retiring. My work is my passion. 

Community Partner Spotlight: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Partner spotlight: Zoo

Mission: Our mission is to foster understanding of the interaction of people, wildlife and their environment.


Partnership description: The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has been a longtime supporter of our Environmental Leadership Program. In 2016, Project Leader Kim Daly-Crews collaborated with the zoo to revamp its citizen science volunteer program by creating a project that would grow volunteer opportunities and educational programs through data collection. Currently, project leaders are working with the zoo on a project called "Changing the Climate of Our Conversation," which trains college students on ways to have solutions-driven conversations about climate action in their communities.

Learn more about The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
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