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UNF, JU, JEPB release annual State of the River Report at 2021 Environmental Symposium

View of the St. Johns River and the Jacksonville skyline at sunsetThe City of Jacksonville’s Environmental Protection Board (JEPB) will release the State of the River Report during the 2021 Environmental Symposium at the University of North Florida on Friday, Oct. 15. The annual State of the River Report is a collaborative project between faculty, staff, and students at UNF, Jacksonville University (JU), Florida Southern College, and West Chester University.

The report assesses the environmental health of the river, tributaries, and surrounding wetlands in the lower St. Johns River, based on indicators including water quality, fisheries, aquatic life, and contaminants. It provides a baseline for assessing the current health of the river and for making policy decisions.

Dr. Gerry Pinto, lead researcher on the River Report and associate research scientist at Jacksonville University, will present the keynote address on major findings from the 2021 State of the River Report. Other JU researchers who contributed to this report include Dr. Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser, who studied water quality and contaminants; Dr. Nisse Goldberg, who wrote on wetlands and aquatic species; and Dr. William Penwell, who wrote on bacteria. Additionally, Dr. Ashley Johnson, associate professor of geography at JU, assisted with the creation of GIS maps of annual sanitary sewer over-flows and vulnerabilities along the river, and the JU geography department website hosted the maps. Dr. An-Phong Le from Florida Southern College wrote sections on water quality.

UNF faculty and staff participated in the creation of this report in a variety of ways. Dr. Charles Closmann, associate professor of history, updated the historical background section and edited the report for the general public. Dr. Dale Casamatta, professor of biology, edited and updated the important chapter on algal blooms. Dr. Brian Zoellner, associate professor of teaching, learning & curriculum, helped JU students create presentations for secondary educators to teach their students about water quality, salinity, aquatic animals, invasive species and more. He will pilot these presentations with pre-service teachers this fall. Dr. Stuart Chalk, professor of chemistry, also created a research archive related to the report and assisted with making this accessible on the web. Former UNF professor Dr. Radha Pyati from West Chester University wrote the executive summary and the turbidity section.

The UNF Institute of Environmental Research and Education, previously the Environmental Center, led by Director Dr. Erin Largo-Wight and Assistant Director James Taylor, hosts the River Report on their website and provides support for the Annual Environmental Symposium. UNF’s Center for Instruction and Research Technology team, including Shelby Scanlon and Mike Boyles, working with students Brenna Smith and Ryan Dey, also provide graphic support and maintain, edit and update the website. Courtenay McLeland, Head of Digital Projects and Preservation at the Thomas G. Carpenter Library, archives past reports in the UNF Digital Commons.

The River Report was first published in 2008, and over the years UNF and JU have developed an important and successful collaborative relationship that exemplifies the best of interdisciplinary scholarship and public service to our community and environment.

The JEPB and the UNF Institute of Environmental Research and Education annually present the Environmental Symposium to bring together residents, government agencies, utilities, innovators, and scholars in a forum designed to foster an atmosphere of cooperation in environmental achievement.