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Environmental Center Newsletter – Spring 2020

Visit our New Location

Campus sign showing where to go for Osprey Commons and Osprey HallThe Environmental Center office relocated from building 1 to building 16 during the winter break. You can now find our office on the third floor of building 16, Osprey Commons, room 3111. 

The move provides new and exciting opportunities! The new location is closer to Osprey Café and housing, which allows the EC staff more opportunities to interact with students. This will be beneficial as the EC develops more student programming in the future! 

Additionally, it is exciting to be located in one of UNF’s best LEED-certified buildings. The four-story building, which includes Osprey Café, received LEED Silver Certification.

Leadership Program

Students at graduation smiling at cameraApplications now open for the Environmental Center Leadership Program! 

What is the Environmental Center Leadership Program? 

The ECLP is a program that offers a robust, multi-disciplinary, community-based immersion program designed to create the next generation of environmental leaders. 

  • Open to all undergraduate students, from all colleges and any major, who are passionate about cultivating a more just, sustainable, and healthy environment
  • Provides professional and academic skill development, leadership training, and networking opportunity
  • Empower and connect future environmental leaders through project-based partnership with environmental organizations in NE Florida

What are the benefits for participants? 

  • Receive a $1,500 scholarship ($750 awarded in Fall 2020; $750 awarded in Spring 2021)
  • Develop professional and leadership skills such as needs assessment, program planning, advocacy, budgeting, grant-writing, program implementation, program evaluation, interpersonal skills, outreach and communication, and valuable leadership training development
  • Enhance undergraduate experience and prepare for employment and/or graduate school through applied work in community and expanded professional networking
  • Opportunity to present your project at academic and professional conferences 
  • Be awarded a green cord to wear at graduation

The ECLP is open to all undergraduate students.  The deadline to apply is Friday, Feb. 28. Apply now, or v isit the  Environmental Center website  for more information.

2020 Seed Grant Recipients

Faculty and student in a boat with UNF Research tshirt onThe Environmental Center is pleased to announce the 2020 Seed Grant recipients.

Simulation and Assessment of Extreme Storm Events for Four Watersheds in the Lower St. Johns River, Florida USA

Dr. Chris Brown, School of Engineering
Ms. Samantha Kovalenko

Water and Disease in Florida: A Look Back as a Way Forward
Dr. Amber N. Barnes, Department of Public Health

Public Opinion on Climate Change: Assessing the Impact of Personal Experience
Dr. Josh Gellers, Department of Political Science and Public Administration
Dr. Enrijeta Shino, Department of Political Science and Public Administration
Dr. Heather Barnes Truelove, Department of Psychology

Seed Grants are available to faculty from any college and support interdisciplinary research focused on the three priority areas of the Environmental Center: parks and preserves; rivers, coasts and springs; and sustainability. The grants are competitively awarded to the most meritorious proposals.


The Seed Grant program is supported through the generosity of the River Branch Foundation and Vulcan Materials Company Foundation. Contact the Environmental Center if you are interested in supporting faculty research initiatives.

Pre[serve] Art Exhibition

Students viewing artworkCalling all artists! Submissions are currently being accepting for the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition, a juried exhibition open to all current students and alumni. The exhibition features cash awards up to $1,000 (current UNF employees are not eligible for cash awards). The deadline for submissions is Sunday, March 1.

Submitted works must be inspired by the Sawmill Slough Preserve, a 382-acre natural area located on the UNF campus. The completed works are displayed at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery of Art as a way to highlight the importance of conservation.

Accepted works will also be digitally archived through the UNF Thomas G. Carpenter Library.  Additionally, artists will need to submit GPS coordinates of their “point of inspiration” within the Sawmill Slough Preserve. Those points, and the associated artwork, are combined into a Story Map. All works from previous exhibitions can be viewed in the Pre[serve] digital collection.

Opening Reception

When: Thursday, March 26, from 5-7 p.m.
Where: Lufrano Intercultural Gallery 

Come enjoy the opening reception for the 2020 Pre[serve] Art Exhibition at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery. The event is free and open to the public. Hors d'oeuvres will be served.

The Pre[serve] Art Exhibition is a collaboration between the Environmental Center, Department of Art and Design and Gallery of Art. Learn more about the Pre[serve] Art Exhibition and how to submit works.

Student Spotlight: Taia Harris

Taia Harris, Communications Assistant

Where are you from? Orlando

What is your major, and why did you choose it? My major is public relations with a minor in digital marketing. I chose that major because throughout my life I have always been passionate about fashion, makeup and music. Also, more recently I have become very interested in social issues. Majoring in public relations will give me the tools necessary to advocate for the things I am passionate about in a way that goes far beyond just word of mouth. I get to be the person who is making sure that whatever the message is, it is representing the brand accurately, and effectively and that is really exciting to me.


What is your job title and what do you do at the Environmental Center? I am the communications assistant. My responsibilities include managing social media, assisting with newsletters and sometimes you can even catch me out tabling.


What is the environmental issue in which you are most interested? I really love the sustainability movement. I think it is great that more people of all ages are finally beginning to understand the impact that excessive use of certain things can have on the environment. Being sustainable and caring about our oceans has kind of become a trendy thing on social media, which some people frown upon, but I think that it is really exciting that younger people are taking environmental issues seriously and talking about them in an attempt to find solutions.


What makes you passionate about the environment? It is very simple. I was always raised to believe that it is our duty as humans to take care of the planet. Above all else, this is my home. Just like I make my bed up every day, I should be making a daily effort to protect my planet.


What are your hobbies? In what clubs and volunteer activities are you involved? I love reading and writing. In my free time, I enjoy writing poetry. As a newer student I am not as involved as I would like to be, but I am currently in club ASIA.


What are your plans after graduation? That is a great question that I don't really have the answer to yet!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Michael Aspinwall

Dr. Michael AspinwallDepartment and title: Department of Biology, Assistant Professor


Where did you attend graduate school? North Carolina State University


When did you start working at UNF? Fall 2017

What does your research focus on? I am a plant physiological ecologist. I study how plants interact with and influence the environment. Much of my work focuses on understanding plant responses to climate change (rising CO2, climate warming, heat, drought). I am also interested in exploring differences in plant function to better understand evolutionary adaptation.


How are you involved with the Environmental Center? I received a Environmental Center Seed Grant in Spring 2018, which provided funds for a research project focused on understanding mangrove responses to temperature and salinity. I have also worked with the Environmental Center to establish an ongoing climate warming experiment in the Sawmill Slough Preserve.


Where is your favorite activity to enjoy nature? One of my favorite places to hike is the southern Appalachian Mountains. This part of the US has some of the highest plant species richness. I also spent five years in Australia before moving to Northeast Florida and developed a love for hiking in the dry coastal forests of the south and west.

Tips and Trips

Trip – Hiking into the New Year

Some advice to kick off your New Year – Take a hike! Jacksonville is home to the largest urban park system in the U.S., so there are plenty of choices for hiking! You can start by hiking the Sawmill Slough Preserve, which is located right here on campus, or take a short drive to the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

Visit the Timucuan Parks Foundation website to view all the parks and plan your next outdoor adventure!


Tip – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Your T-Shirt!

How many T-shirts do you really need? The New Year is great a time to start incorporating the 3Rs, and here is a great way to recycle all those T-shirts sitting in your closet. You can donate gently used T-shirts to Rethreaded, a local nonprofit that provides a second chance at life through employment for survivors of human trafficking. The T-shirts are repurposed into beautiful scarves, handbags and other wearable items. Each purchase directly gives freedom to women affected by the sex trade and provides employment for survivors of human trafficking.