Leadership Projects

Current Projects

Beyond the Trail: The Art of Science

Project Leader: Brandie Brooks
Community Partners: Timucuan Parks Foundation; National Park Service; Florida State Parks; City of Jacksonville Preservation Parks; Environmental Services, Inc.; First Coast Invasives Working Group; Kathy Stark, professional fine artist; Leslie Royce, former City of Jacksonville Park Naturalist

The 3rd series of Beyond the Trail combines art and science as we explore our parks and preserves. Students and community members will use “both sides of their brain” as Project Leader Brandie Brooks merges her passion for creativity and biology within each event. Featured guests include William Bartram and environmental artist, Sarah Crooks Flaire. For the first time, participants will work together to create an art project made from recycled materials collected from various clean-ups, as well as be treated to a special “wrap-up” event. 

Each event in the series will highlight a different city, state or national park in Northeast Florida and a different art form that makes environmental science accessible and interesting to the public. Students who participate will have the opportunity to network with business and environmental leaders from within the community.

Sawmill Slough Preserve Ambassadors

Project Leader: Kyle Kenney 
Community Partner: Sawmill Slough Preserve 

The University of North Florida is home to a 382 acre nature preserve known as the Sawmill Slough Preserve. This project trains students to be "Preserve Ambassadors" who will help with events, provide information for guests on the trails and help collect information on usage of the trails and Preserve.

Food Fighters: Student-Powered Hunger Relief

Project Leader: Courtney Hogan 
Community Partner/UNF Faculty: Dr. Lauri Wright 

Currently about 40% of all food in the U.S. ends up rotting in a landfill uneaten. The Food Justice Project works with on-campus food vendors to create a plan to distribute unwanted food to soup kitchens and other shelters. The "Foo Fighter: Student-Powered Hunger Relief" club was created to support this project. This club enables students to become involved in the fight against hunger.

 

Preservation Parks Jacksonville: A History of the Largest Urban Park System


Project Leader: Kaley Crawford 
Community Partner/UNF Faculty: Mark Middlebrook, Executive Director, Timucuan Parks Foundation; City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation; Dr. Charles Closmann
 
Jacksonville is home to the largest urban park system in the United States, but how did that happen? Project Leader Crawford is putting on her investigative hat to uncover these "untold" stories of the individuals who were part of the creation of the Preservation Project Jacksonville and their personal account on the administrative challenges and the hard work that was put into saving these lands for future generations to appreciate.
 
Changing the "Climate" of our Conversation 

Project Leader: Isabella "Bella" Genta
Community Partner/UNF Faculty: Dr. Heather Truelove; Christina Dembiec, Education Director, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

How do you talk about climate change with those who may have different opinions on this contentious subject? This project, which is a local extension of a national effort to train knowledgeable and effective communicators and interpreters of climate change and climate action. The goal is to combat divisiveness,  bipartisanship, and doom-and-gloom forecasts with solutions-driven conversation created to best connect with all actors in this global problem. This chapter of the greater effort not only focuses on training our local community, but also empowering college students. A spring climate change summit is planned for UNF students and faculty.

Bringing the Parks to Kids Through VR 360 Videos

Project Leader: Caleb Johnston
Community Partner/UNF Faculty: Dr. J. David Lambert; National Parks; State Parks; City of Jacksonville Preservation Parks

Not all children in Jacksonville have the opportunity to hike in the woods or see what happens in the salt marsh during tidal changes or go on an archaeological dig. Project Leader Johnston is about to change that. His project is to create virtual reality 360 videos that will bring these adventures and others to the kids through after-school programs. Utilizing VR goggles, the children will get see, up close and personal, the amazing creatures, wildlife, history and culture that surrounds them, with the hope these videos will inspire to go "take a hike."

Florida Springs Awareness

Project Leader: Katie Nicholson
Community Partner/UNF Faculty: Dr. Bob Knight, Florida Springs Institute

The springs are the "windows" to the Floridan aquifer and are the natural gems of Florida. For decades, the health of the Florida springs has been harmed by over use and pollution. Research has shown the aquifer is being used at an unsustainable rate - water levels and pressure are lower than ever. Through physical and virtual exposure, Project Leader Nicholson will create an awareness project to show how special the springs are and the issues they are facing today. She will create service projects and digital media to educate and involve college students.

Land Trusts: Why Do We Need Them?

Project Leader: Thoren Perego
Community Partner/UNF Faculty:  North Florida Land Trust

What does a land trust do and why should we care? Project Leader Perego will answer these questions and many more through building community and on-campus awareness about the important and essential roles land trusts play in preserving land and how that translates into preserving our quality of life. His plans include field trips, kayak trips and community service projects, as well as organizing guest speakers who can share their knowledge and expertise about land trusts.

 

Completed Projects

Beyond the Trail: Park Discovery Series

Project Leader: Renee Hutchins 

Community Partners: Timucuan Parks Foundation; National Park Service; Florida State Parks; City of Jacksonville Preservation Parks; Environmental Services, Inc.; First Coast Invasives Working Group; Kathy Stark, professional fine artist; Leslie Royce, former City of Jacksonville Park Naturalist

 

The Beyond the Trail Park Discovery Series gives students opportunities to learn about managing and protecting our local city, state and national parks. Students learn first-hand from park staff the management and operations of parks and preserves and the significant positive impact volunteers and community groups have to assist park management in overseeing the parks, including wildlife and natural resource protection. Each event highlights the history, culture, flora and fauna of each park. Students have opportunities to network with both private and public sector community business leaders, elected officials, and environmental leaders. Students also learn how to navigate the government system should their career interests lie in working for parks. 

Beyond the Trail: A Walk Through History

Project LeaderKaley Crawford
Community Partners: Timucuan Parks Foundation; National Park Service; Florida State Parks; City of Jacksonville Preservation Parks; Environmental Services, Inc.; First Coast Invasives Working Group; Kathy Stark, professional fine artist; Leslie Royce, former City of Jacksonville Park Naturalist

The Beyond the Trail Park Discovery Series gives students opportunities to learn about managing and protecting our local city, state and national parks. Students learn first-hand from park staff the management and operations of parks and preserves and the significant positive impact volunteers and community groups have to assist park management in overseeing the parks, including wildlife and natural resource protection. Each event highlights the history, culture, flora and fauna of each park. Students have opportunities to network with both private and public sector community business leaders, elected officials, and environmental leaders. Students also learn how to navigate the government system should their career interests lie in working for parks.

Citizen Science at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Project Leader: Kim Daly-Crews 

Community Partner: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens 
 

Citizen science utilizes community volunteers to collect data which encourages scientific discovery and improves public connection and knowledge to nature. Citizen science is an excellent way to achieve both missions of the Jacksonville Zoo and the Environmental Center because it promotes awareness and conservation of plants, animals and natural resources. It also establishes, develops, and supports cross-disciplinary environmental education and research by both student volunteers and zoo volunteers. 

Discovering Northeast Florida's "Special Places"

Project Leader: Sean Lahav
Community Partner: Public Trust Legal Institute of Florida; National Park Service; Florida State Parks; City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation

This project will show and tell the stories of Northeast Florida's "Special Places" through a variety of original videos produced by the project leader. Each short clip will showcase all the exciting activities that can take place in each of the parks or preserves, including how to get there, utilizing both public, private and alternate transportation methods. Although all parks are located within the Duval County limits, a lot of them are off the "beaten path" and few local residents know about the extensiveness of the parks that surround them and the history and culture that is so much a part of Northeast Florida's identity. These videos will unlock those "secrets" and energize the Northeast Florida community to want to explore these incredible, unspoiled "last wilderness" tracts of Florida.

 

Jacksonville Sustainability Report  


Project Leader: Kevin O'Halloran

Community Partners/UNF Faculty: Jacksonville Independent Authorities; North Florida Transportation Planning Organization; Northeast Florida Regional Council; Dr. J. David Lambert


Jacksonville is the only metropolitan city of its size that does not have a sustainability office, officer or report. Project Leader O'Halloran knew that sustainable practices were being implemented, but lack of a clearinghouse that could compile the data from the various independent authorities, this information was not easily identified which impacted Jacksonville to be consistently ranked 41st (and lower) out of 50 of the cities of comparable size and population.Therefore, he formed an ad-hoc committee comprised of the community partners and created Jacksonville's first sustainability report.  To view the report, click here.

LiveSMART Mobile Display

Project Leader: Kevin O'Halloran

Community Partner: U.S. Green Building Council, Jacksonville, FL 

 

The LiveSMART mobile display replicates a "green" home and provides consumer information on where to find "green" environmentally-friendly products, from kitchen appliances to flooring, windows, HVAC, etc. Research was conducted and documents were created so the consumer could easily find understand and learn about these different products, as well as where to purchase them.

On-Campus Outdoor Nation Ambassador  

Project Leader: Nikki Adams 

Community Partner: National Park Service 

 

The National Park Service preserves the natural and cultural park system for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of this and future generations. This project began when Nikki Adams was awarded an Outdoor Nation grant, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS). The objective of the project is to engage as many UNF students as possible in outdoor recreation by creating on-campus events and two high-profile NPS events. Social media promotion of the National Parks is a key component of the project

River Kids – Connecting Kids to the River

Project Leader: Haley Camp 

Community Partner: Nemours Children's Hospital 

 

Nemours Children's Hospital, a leader in providing excellent pediatric care, is located on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville. Thousands of children are treated at Nemours, many on a long term basis. Through arts and crafts, this project will connect these children to the St. Johns River, where they can have fun doing arts and crafts the relate to the river, thereby educating them about one of Jacksonville's greatest assets. Through this project, the intent is plant the seed for the next generation of environmental stewards who care about the health of the river and the importance of the river to ensure survival of not only the marine life, but all of us.

Tree Rx - Prescribing Urban Trees for Community Health

Project Leaders: Madison Masters, Daniel Norez and Kelly Rhoden 

Community Partner: Groundwork Jax

This project has two major components: 1) Tree canopy study and 2) Benefits of trees in relation to healthy communities. The focus area for this project is Springfield/Eastside of Jacksonville, which is a combination of preserved historical homes and light to heavy industry. 


The tree canopy study is being overseen by one project leader, UNF faculty and a team of community/student volunteers. The objective is to identify "opportunity" areas to plant trees. Utilizing GIS and a mobile application that defines certain criteria that determines the "right place," volunteers conduct the field work and enter the data into the application which populates a grid map of the area. Once all data has been entered, a map will be generated which will show these "opportunity" areas to plant trees. This information will be incorporated into a final report that can be included in a future master tree planting plan.

 

The second component of this project focuses on the benefits of trees, which includes health, eco-system services, crime prevention and property values. Extensive research has been conducted and a white paper is being developed which will be presented to an executive review panel. A community outreach/educational pamphlet will also be produced to assist residents and businesses in determining where to plant trees and recommending certain species that will enhance the benefits described in the white paper.