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Environmental Center Newsletter – Summer 2019

Pre[serve] Art Exhibition

Jim Draper, Meredith Sullivan, Doug Eng, Sheila Goloborotko, James Taylor, Mimi Pearce, Alex Diaz, Kally Malcom and Jason John.The third annual Pre[serve] Art Exhibition was held in April featuring artworks created by students and alumni that reflect personal experiences in the Sawmill Slough Preserve, a 382-acre nature preserve located on the UNF campus.

The exhibition was held at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery and included 28 artworks created by 20 different artists. A number of awards were announced at the opening reception, and the full list of awards is below: 

Student Awards
First place – Mark Lester, “Chapel
Second place – Ricder Ricardo, “I Become
Third-place – Alexandra Brody, “Impact

Alumni Awards
Douglas J. Eng, “Goldenrod
Meredith Sullivan, “Birds
Mimi S. Pearce, “After the Rain

Photo Club Award
Caitlin Noll, “Bobcat

For anyone unable to visit the exhibition, the works have been permanently archived online through the Thomas G. Carpenter Library. Additionally, an interactive map was created displaying each artists' "point of inspiration" within the Sawmill Slough Preserve. The map was created by student program assistant Curt Price. 

Environmental Leadership Program - Class of 2019!

Kaley Crawford, Katie Vearil and Molly O'Brien

With mixed emotions, we recognized and congratulated our student project leaders at the annual Spring Symposium, many of whom had been in the program for three years. It was a proud moment for us to see how much they have grown and matured as leaders. 

Three of the project leaders were recognized as “Outstanding Project Leader of the Year” for their over-and-above achievements. These students were Kaley Crawford, Katie Vearil and Molly O'Brien. 

Two of our project leaders were also accepted into Leadership Jacksonville Next Generation 2019 class (formerly Collegiate Leadership Experience). Congratulations to Katie Vearil and Thoren Perego as you continue your journey of being outstanding community trustees.


Congratulations class of 2019! 

Project Leaders Recognized for Community Engagement

Kaley Crawford, Sean Lahav and Molly O'BrienProject leaders (L-R) Kaley Crawford, Sean Lahav and Molly O'Brien from the Environmental Leadership Program were awarded the Osprey Community Engagement Medallion. The award recognizes students who demonstrate exemplary commitment to the greater Jacksonville community through activities such as volunteering, advocacy and political engagement.


We want to congratulate Sean Lahav, an ELP alumni (2017), who received his second medallion for his community service while pursuing his Master's in Public Administration (2019).






Jacksonville Environmental Symposium

Save the date for the 2019 Jacksonville Environmental Symposium! 


Presenter speaking at the symposiumThe symposium is being held Friday, Sept. 13 at the Adam W. Herbert University Center. The theme for 2019 is "Building Resiliency – Inspiring, Informing and Engaging our Community."


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 annual State of the River Report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin, as well as a lunch keynote and numerous breakout sessions.


The symposium is hosted by the City of Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board and Environmental Center. 


Registration for the symposium will open Monday, July 1. Visit the symposium website for details and registration

Food Fighters - Volunteers Needed

Volunteers holding mealsFood Fighters is looking for volunteers to assist with summer collections! Shifts are available every Friday as follows: 


Recovery Shift – 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

Delivery Shift – 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 


Food Fighters is a student-led program that promotes food justice by reducing food waste on campus and addressing food insecurity in Northeast Florida. Volunteers collect food from the Osprey Café, campus convenience stores and special events, then create nutritious meals to be served through community partners such as the Northeast Florida AIDS Network, Sulzbacher Center, Lutheran Social Services, Mission House by the Sea and UNF's Lend-A-Wing Food Pantry. This program is a collaboration between the Environmental Center's Environmental Leadership Program and the Center for Nutrition and Food Security.


Be sure to join the Food Fighters' Facebook group to receive updates on volunteering!


Volunteer Registration

Student Spotlight - Katie Vearil

Project Leader Katie VearilWhere are you from? Jacksonville

What is your major, and why did you choose it? I am an interdisciplinary major with a focus on environmental studies. I wanted a well-rounded education about the history, ethics and science of the environment.

What is your job title and what do you do at the EC? I am a project leader in the Environmental Leadership Program. I planned and led the 2018-19 Beyond the Trail program, which is a series of educational outdoor events focused on Jacksonville’s parks.

Your favorite Environmental Center activity? I enjoyed participating in the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition. Combining my love of nature and art was a wonderful experience. Seeing so many students enjoying their time in the Sawmill Slough Preserve was inspiring.

What is the environmental issue you are most interested in? The environmental issue I am most interested in is building sustainable cities. As more of the population moves to urban areas, the need for environmentally sustainable and socially diverse communities continues to grow rapidly.

What makes you passionate about the environment? My appreciation for the outdoors began as a child. I grew up spending every afternoon outside and learning to garden. I also believe that in order to protect people we must protect the environment.

What are your hobbies? What clubs and volunteer activities are you involved in? My hobbies include crafting, spending time with my rescue dog and being outdoors. I previously volunteered at The Bridge of Northeast Florida teaching kids how to garden and currently volunteer with local nonprofits such as the St. Johns Riverkeeper and Groundwork Jacksonville at various events.

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I plan to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning. I also plan to work to make Jacksonville a more sustainable and equitable place for all.

Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Stephen Stagon

Dr. Stephen StagonDepartment and title: Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering


Where did you attend graduate school? University of Connecticut


When did you start at UNF? 2014


What is your favorite class to teach? My favorite class to teach is Capstone Senior Design. This is a course where students work in teams on real industry sponsored projects. I much prefer working one-on-one with students and groups, and actually have them design and build real, tangible things compared to purely lecture courses.


How are you involved with the Environmental Center? I have worked with the Environmental Center on two projects. The first project was applied research looking into the use of passive nontoxic nanomaterials to prevent biofouling on surfaces. My current project is a collaboration with Dr. Rossi from the Department of Biology, on designing and building a self-sufficient solar-powered watering system at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. 


Where is your favorite activity to enjoy nature? My absolute favorite hobby is fishing. I've spent some time (never enough of that!) fishing on the St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway since moving to Jacksonville. My goal is to find a Goliath Grouper and feel the power of a true beast. 

From the Blog

Read stories from our 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.

UNF’s Well-Lit Future
Author: Cat Selin, Communications Assistant

Here at UNF, the goal to become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly is always a top priority. Over the past few years, the University has been switching to LED lighting to improve energy efficiency and operating costs. Read more from this story on the Environmental Center blog.

Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through it Wrap-Up Party
Author: Katie Vearil, Project Leader

The final event of Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It took place at the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve. Read more from this story on the Environmental Center blog.

Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through February Event with the St. Johns Riverkeeper
Author: Katie Vearil, Project Leader

The February event of Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It featured kayaking with Kelly Patton Thompson from the St. Johns Riverkeeper. Read more from this story on the Environmental Center blog.

Bobcat on Campus
Author: Jake Tucker, Research Assistant

To all who love or appreciate nature, we have some great news on campus! Using a wildlife camera, research assistants from the Environmental Center recently captured day and night photos of a bobcat (Lynx rufus) in the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve. Read more from this story on the Environmental Center blog.

Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It November 2018 Event at Julington- Durbin Preserve
Author: Katie Vearil, Project Leader

The third event in Beyond the Trail: A River Runs Through It took place in November with the St. Johns River Water Management District. Read more from this story on the Environmental Center blog.

Tips and Trips

Lightbulb with text Environmental Tips and Trips


Trip – Visit Florida Springs

Did you know Florida is home to over 1,000 freshwater springs! Springs are important habitats for numerous species of plants and wildlife, including the Florida manatee. In addition, springs provide many recreational opportunities and contribute to the economies of many rural areas. Plus, taking a dip in the constant 72 degree water is a great way to beat the summer heat! 

While there are too many springs to name, here is a list Visit Florida’s top five natural springs in north and central Florida.

Tip – Reduce Single-Use Plastics

Coastal communities are starting to recognize the environmental problems associated with single-use plastics, such as straws and plastic bags. This increasing awareness can be seen in the number of communities looking to ban single-use plastics.

While bans and other legislation are important to protecting the environment, individuals do not have to wait on government to take action. Everyone can take simple steps to start reducing their use of single-use plastics. Here is a short list of actions you can start taking today!

  • Use reusable bags when shopping. For a bonus, try to use bags made from natural materials like canvas or hemp.
  • Use a reusable mug for coffee and other drinks. Consider using a mug made from metal or ceramic, instead of plastic. 
  • Avoid using plastic straws at restaurants. You can simply decline the straw, or bring a reusable straw made from steel or glass. 
  • If you pack a lunch, try to avoid single-use bags and containers and do not buy items that are packed in single-serving cups.
  • Avoid purchasing foods at the grocery store that come in disposable plastic, and opt for items packaged in cardboard or other recyclable materials.