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Institute of Environmental Research and Education

Professional Staff

Erin Largo-Wight, Ph.D. — Director and Professor

Erin Largo-Wight, Ph.D.

Dr. Erin Largo-Wight is a Professor in the Department of Public Health and the Director of the Institute of Environmental Research and Education. Dr. Largo-Wight’s teaching focuses on behavioral and social solutions to public and environmental health problems. In the classroom, Dr. Largo-Wight strives to motivate and engage students and connect them to the community for real-world learning and personal growth. Her research is applied and focused on the on the reciprocal relationship between the health of the environment and the health of people. Her studies focus on measuring nature and testing nature contact interventions (e.g., outdoor classroom, workplace nature, nature in clinical settings, etc) on health. In addition, Dr. Largo-Wight studies the environmental health behaviors and change interventions to inform practice (e.g., plastic use, active commuting, etc).  This work focused on nature and environmental behavior has been supported by federal agencies and national associations (e.g., NOAA, APHA), and has been published and well cited in the research literature, as well as covered in news and popular press outlets. Dr. Largo-Wight has received impact and excellence awards focused on her research contributions and high impact teaching. 

Kelly Rhoden — Assistant Director

Kelly A. RhodenKelly Rhoden serves as the assistant director for the Institute of Environmental Research and Education. Rhoden earned a Bachelor of Science in Health and a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology from the University of North Florida.

Rhoden previously served as the coordinator of Student Engagement and Retention Programs within The Institute.  Her career path has also provided the opportunity to serve as the Alumni Event Coordinator in the University Development and Alumni Engagement office at the University of North Florida. She was a past participant in the Environmental Leadership Program, completing a project focused on environmentalism and health. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, gardening and learning more about natural environments.

Ruby Cox — Coordinator

Headshot of Ruby Cox

Ruby Cox serves as the Program Coordinator for the Institute of Environmental Research and Education. Cox earned a Bachelor of Science in Health with a concentration on Environmental Health and minor in Environmental Studies from the University of North Florida.  

Her previous role as a Community Volunteer Ambassador with National Park Service at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Jacksonville, Florida; fostered her passion and skills in environmental interpretation and education, community engagement, and volunteer management. In this role Ruby focused on intergenerational and community learning practices, cultural history preservation, and environmental health programming.  

Cox served as a Research Coordinator Intern with Argonne National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program where she supported a local non-profit (North Florida Clean Fuels) by conducting research in Environmental Health and Environmental Justice in relation to Jacksonville.  

Ruby is a past participant in the Environmental Leadership Program, where she partnered with the Institute of Environmental Research and Education, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and the Health by Design: Nature and Health Laboratory to complete a project evaluating environmental health behaviors and sustainability relating to recycling and community engagement. In her spare time Ruby enjoys outdoor activities and enjoying time in nature with her friends and family.  

Nicole Lowe — Administrative Specialist

Headshot photo of Nicole Lowe.

Nicole Lowe serves as the Administrative Specialist for the Institute of Environmental Research and Education.  Lowe earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Western Illinois University.  She continued her education post-graduation to obtain her teaching certification in middle school math.

Lowe has had a wealth of opportunities from the 2002 Winter Olympics to Director of a local non-profit before stepping into the classroom as a middle school math teacher.  Her organizational skills, attention to detail and desire to provide a quality interaction drive her success.  In her spare time, she is blessed to enjoy time with her family and the adventures that present themselves.

Abbey Townsend — Research Administrator

Abbey Townsend Headshot taken outdoors with trees in the background.

Abbey Townsend serves as the Research Administrator for the Institute of Environmental Research and Education. Townsend earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in Coastal and Marine Biology from the University of North Florida and an Associate’s Degree from Florida State University.  

During her time at FSU, she served in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity program where she conducted research on eco-tour compliance with bottlenose dolphins in Naples, Florida. She also participated in Sea Semester conducting research throughout Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and American Samoa with three final projects regarding environmental sustainability in Polynesian Islands and ecosystems.  

Abbey has had a plethora of opportunities after graduating which range from working as a naturalist on a humpback whale eco-tour in Maui, Hawai’i, to most recently working for a coral restoration non-profit in the Florida Keys (I.CARE).  During her time in the Keys, she also had an opportunity to work for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection constructing the Coupon Bight Aquatic Preserve Management Plan.  All of these opportunities have allowed her to gain experience in many sectors of environmental science including community engagement, scientific writing, and research diving.  

In her spare time, Abbey enjoys reading, outdoor activities, and trying new coffee shops!