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Sawmill Slough in Spring

Fall 2018

Website Redesign

The Environmental Center redesigned its website over the summer. The new and improved site has a modern look and feel, and the menu has been restructured to match the center's programming priorities, which are the Environmental Leadership Program, academic initiatives and research.


Please take a moment to browse our new page! If you have any comments, please send them to James Taylor.

Visit the Environmental Center website.

Environmental Leadership Program Update

Beyond the Trail – Registration Now Open


Registration is now open for Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It!

Beyond the Trail graphicBeyond the Trail is a program that provides participants an opportunity to explore and learn about parks and public lands located in Northeast Florida. The fourth installment of the Beyond the Trail series 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 St. Johns River. In addition to exploring the parks, each outing will involve a service project helping to improve every park the group visits.

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.

Registration and full details can be found on the Environmental Center website. If you are interested in participating, but have questions, please 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 Environmental Leadership Program.

Faculty Social

When: Tuesday, Sept. 25, from 5-6:30 p.m.
Where: Founders Hall, Building 2, UNF Gallery of Art, Room 1001


The Faculty Social is an annual event that allows faculty and staff associated with the Environmental Center to network and learn from one another. The lively event will take place at the Gallery of Art, and is open to all faculty, staff and students.

The event will include short presentations from the 2018 Seed Grant recipients on the progress of their research.

Living on the Leading Edge of an Expanding Range: Examining the Physiological Response of Mangrove Species to Temperature and Environmental Change
Dr. Michael Aspinwall, Department of Biology

Exploring Ecological, Morphological, and Molecular Aspects of Cyanobacterial Communities Isolated From Ichetucknee Springs, Branford, FL
Dr. Dale Cassamatta, Department of Biology (Principal Investigator)
Alyssa Garvey, Biology Graduate Research Assistant

Perception of Drinking Water Quality in the City of Jacksonville, FL: The Influence of Consumer Location within the Distribution System
Dr. Chiradip Chatterjee, Department of Economics and Geography (Principal Investigator)
Dr. Russell Triplett, Department of Economics and Geography
Dr. Christopher Johnson, Department of Economics and Geography
Dr. Chung-Ping Loh, Department of Economics and Geography

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

Dr. Raphael Crowley, School of Engineering (Principal Investigator)
Matthew Davies, Department of Chemistry

Seed Grants — Applications Open

Seed Grants Banner


Applications for the 2019 Seed Grants are now open!

Seed Grants are intended to support environmentally related research that subsequently results in the preparation and submission of a proposal to an external funding agency. The grants are competitively awarded to the most meritorious proposals, but there is an emphasis in projects that create effective collaborations between faculty members and students from diverse disciplines.

Environmental Research Grants

Two $6,000 grants are available to faculty to stimulate the creation of interdisciplinary research projects that address the priorities of the Environmental Center, which are: rivers, coasts and springs; parks and preserves; and sustainability (social, environmental and economic).


These grants are funded by an endowment provided by the River Branch Foundation.

Water Research Grants

Two $5,000 grants are available to faculty to stimulate the creation of interdisciplinary research projects that address water issues in Northeast Florida.


These grants are funded by a gift from the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation.

All grant applications are due to the Environmental Center by Monday, Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. Late applications will not be accepted
The Environmental Center would like to thank the River Branch Foundation and the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation for their generous support of faculty research at UNF.

Learn more about Seed Grants and how to apply for funding.

Pre[serve] — Call to Artists

Pre[serve]: Call to Artists


Submissions are now being accepted for the 2019 Pre[serve] juried art exhibition! 


Student and alumni artists are invited to submit works inspired by experiences within the Sawmill Slough Preserve. The Sawmill Slough Preserve is a 382-acre nature preserve located on the UNF campus. In addition to protecting a wide range of habitats, the protected area includes miles of recreational trails that have been part of campus life since the university was founded.  

Art work from the 2018 show


The juried exhibition is open to all current students and alumni, and all types of media are accepted. Cash awards up to $1,000 are available; however, current UNF employees are not eligible for the cash prizes. The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 1, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. 

The accepted works will be displayed at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery from March 28 to April 26, 2019. An opening reception will be held the evening of Thursday, March 28, at which time awards will be announced.

In addition to the exhibition, there will be series of workshops and lectures that are meant to educate students about artistic techniques and the native flora and fauna found within the Sawmill Slough Preserve. No dates have been set as of yet, but be sure to join the Pre[serve] Canvas group to get the updates. 


Pre[serve] is an academic collaboration between the Environmental Center and Department of Art and Design. Additional support is provided by the Cummer Family Foundation, Lufrano Intercultural Gallery and the Division of Student Affairs.

Click here for more details on submissions.

Jacksonville Environmental Symposium

Jax Environmental Symposium Banner


Event Partner: Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board
When: Friday, Sept. 14, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Adam W. Herbert University Center
Cost: $15 Students; $25-50 Individuals

Registration is now open for the 2018 Jacksonville Environmental Symposium!

The Jacksonville Environmental Symposium presents a unique opportunity for members of the community to interact with the regulatory agencies responsible for developing and implementing environmental policy.

The symposium features the release of the State of the River Report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin and multiple breakout sessions on various topics impacting Northeast Florida. During lunch, the Environmental Protection Board will announce the winners of the annual environmental achievement awards. 


Student Pricing 

The symposium includes a $15 student registration option, which covers the full-day registration and lunch. Students interested in attending must contact James Taylor prior to registration.

Register for the symposium by visiting the Environmental Protection Board website.

Student Spotlight: Molly O'Brien
Student Molly O'BrienWhere are you from? Melbourne, Florida  

What is your major and why did you choose that major? I am an Ecology and Evolutionary Biology major, with a minor in Environmental Studies. I enjoy studying ecology because it is an integrative approach to understanding biological systems. I believe that a holistic view of concepts leads to a greater understanding of them. The natural world is highly interconnected, and if just one aspect of an ecosystem is isolated, oversights are inevitable.

What is your job title and what do you do at the Environmental Center? Last school year, I was an office assistant for Coordinator James Taylor. I was recently accepted into the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP), and will be a project leader for the upcoming school year. My ELP project involves connecting students to Northeast Florida’s natural ecosystems through educational programs and hands-on experiences. I hope to build a fundamental understanding of our local natural environments for the participants of this project. With this understanding, participants will develop a personal interest in native ecosystems and will feel empowered to take action to protect these areas as well as educate others.

What is your favorite Environmental Center activity? I greatly enjoy going on camping trips with other students involved with the Environmental Center. Spending long periods of time with people allows you to get to know them on a deeper, more personal level than you might in usual day-to-day interactions.

What is the environmental issue you are most interested in? I enjoy educating myself and others about how the past and current actions of humans can directly influence our entire interconnected world. I especially like thinking about individual resource use in our everyday lives and the consequential impacts of that use.

What makes you passionate about the environment? My interest in the environment resulted directly from my involvement with the Environmental Center my freshman year at UNF. I went camping with the Environmental Center Student Coalition at Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia, which was the first time I had ever been camping. This trip was very impactful for me. The trip engaged me with an ecosystem in a way that I had never experienced before, and also gave me the platform to create meaningful connections with other UNF students. Building a personal connection to the natural world inspired me to want to protect that special place, as well as others like it.

What are your hobbies? What clubs and volunteer activities are you involved in? In my very limited free time, I enjoy spending time outdoors, trying new things, meeting new people and experiencing new places. I value the time I get to spend kayaking, canoeing, camping and hiking with my friends.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation, I plan on pursuing a master’s of biology at a public university in Florida. The area of research that I am most interested in is climate change ecology, which aims to understand how anthropogenic climate change affects ecosystems.

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Raphael Crowley

Dr. Raf Crowley photoDepartment and title: Taylor Engineering Research Institute, School of Engineering, Assistant Professor

Where did you attend graduate school and what did you study? I attended graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. I am sort of a weird “mutt” in that my coursework and M.S. degrees are in coastal engineering, but my Ph.D. advisor is a geotechnical engineer and my dissertation was a hybrid of geotechnical and coastal engineering.

When did you start working at UNF? I started at UNF in 2013 on a visiting line in the Department of Construction Management.

I finished my dissertation off-cycle in December 2010 and remained at UF to continue my research and teach some classes while looking for a tenure-track job. The academic job market is hyper-competitive, and I was struggling to secure a tenure-track position. I saw that UNF had a visiting line in the Department of Construction Management, and I badly wanted to stay in-state, so I went for it. I knew it was a gamble (the visiting line was only a one-year position), but my thinking was that if I could “get my foot in the door,” I could get UNF to want to keep me around. I am glad the gamble paid off!

What is your favorite thing about working at UNF? The students for sure! I have been fortunate to work with some excellent students – both in the classroom and in my research.

How are you involved with the Environmental Center? I have been working with Dr. Dave Lambert, the director of the Environmental Center, since I got here in 2013. From 2015-18, we worked together on a maritime management plan for Duval County that involved cataloging the county’s water access facilities and submitting recommendations on how to improve water access in and around Jacksonville. In the fall of 2018, I applied for and received a Seed Grant.

What does your research focus on? My research is all over the place due to my “mutt” pedigree, although in general it is usually in geotechnical or coastal engineering. I have completed a number of projects sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) on topics including bridge scour, geotechnical instrumentation, retention pond hydraulic conductivity, concrete joint adhesive strength, buried pipe performance, replacement of the nuclear gauge, and even performance-based maintenance contracting.

Some of the more recent research projects I am involved with include:

  • For the past couple of years, I have been working with my graduate students on unfunded work associated with determining uplift loading on bridge superstructures due to wave loading – like what happened during Hurricane Ivan to the Escambia Bay Bridge near Pensacola and several out-of-state bridges during Hurricane Katrina. 
  • Last year, I won a faculty development grant to study damaged zones in rock due to pile driving. Earlier this summer, I began a FDOT-sponsored project that involves studying anthropogenic noise due to pile driving. This is a really interesting one; when you band piles into the ground, it makes significant noise, and sometimes that noise is enough to harm and/or kill marine organisms. We want to see how the noise transmits from the point-source (i.e. the pile) to see if protection for the local marine life is needed. 
  • One of my favorite projects is the work I have been doing with FDOT since 2015 to use a technology called Microbial Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP) to strengthen high organic-content soil for roadway construction. MICP is a really interesting technology where naturally-occurring harmless bacteria are stimulated to produce calcium carbonate – a sort of “glue” that binds soil particles together. Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to win an environmental center Seed Grant that involves using MICP to mitigate beach dune erosion during hurricanes.

Have you been a recipient of a Seed Grant? If so, what was the project? Yes, as indicated above, our currently funded project involves treating sand dunes via MICP so that they provide better coastal protection during hurricanes.


Where is your favorite place to enjoy nature? The beach! I love the beach, and while I am not at UNF you can often find me out there trying to surf. I say “trying to surf” since I am self-taught and did not really start trying to learn until I was in my 30s ... so really, it is mostly falling down and wiping out.

What would you like to do when you retire? Retirement? I am only 36! No idea! Will I even retire? I don’t know that either. Right now I love what I do and want to keep doing it!

Community Partner Spotlight: St. Johns Riverkeeper

Partner: SJRK

Mission: The St. Johns Riverkeeper mission is to be an independent voice that defends, advocates, and activates others to protect and restore the St. Johns River.

Partnership description: The St. Johns River is the defining ecosystem in Northeast Florida, so naturally the Environmental Center has a strong partnership with the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Students, faculty and staff can often be seen helping clean up roads and creeks with the Riverkeeper. The most gratifying partnership, however, has been the Riverkeeper’s continued participation in the St. Johns River Experience. This past year, volunteers from the Riverkeeper’s River Patrol met students on Exchange Island for a cleanup and discussion about the importance of advocacy. Photos of the event can be seen on the blog.

Learn more about other community partners and volunteer opportunities.
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