Michelle Platz, University of South Florida. Michelle is a PhD Student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering studying Environmental and Ecological Engineering and Marine Ecosystem Restoration. Throughout her undergraduate education, Michelle discovered a love of research and a deep passion for marine ecosystems. Michelle completed a BS in Environmental Engineering from the University of Cincinnati in the spring of 2017 and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the University of South Florida in the spring of 2019. Michelle seeks to investigate ecological engineering methods to advance coral restoration monitoring, improve the understanding of physical and chemical drivers affecting reef restoration success or failure, and ultimately help protect the ecosystem services reefs provide.
Osama Tarabih, University of South Florida. Osama is a PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is interested in hydrology, ecology, and the ecological responses of altered hydrology. With the objective of mitigating environmental impacts on the Everglades ecosystem, Osama is conducting his doctoral research optimizing Lake Okeechobee’s outflow regimes to the St. Lucie Canal, the Caloosahatchee River and the Everglades for the benefit of societal water needs (water supply and flood control) and ecosystem functions. Osama obtained his master's degree from Cairo University studying the impacts of upstream dams on Nile River flows and hydropower in Egypt. Osama is an active student member of AWRA Florida, as well as the Vice President of the AWRA student chapter at USF. Osama wishes to pursue an academic career upon graduating with his PhD degree in water resources engineering.
Sydney Cloutier, Pensacola High School. Sydney is planning to double major in Marine Sciences and Geological Sciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami. As part of her International Baccalaureate program, Sydney conducted field data collection and analysis and proved through her research that protection of intertidal marine life and protection of shorelines from erosion could be accomplished by adding rip rap to existing seawalls. Sydney will continue to study implementation of cost effective and ecofriendly engineering strategies to encourage increased marine life.
Carrie Schuman, University of Florida. Ms. Schuman is an Interdisciplinary Ecology PhD candidate at the University of Florida with a focus in fisheries and aquatic sciences. She has a B.S. in marine and freshwater biology from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. in marine science and technology from the University of Massachusetts School of Marine Sciences. The overall topic of her research is the provision of oyster-provided ecosystem services (ecological functions that can be tied to human wellbeing) in the St. Augustine region of Florida, mainly in the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve. Florida provides 10% of the country’s harvested oysters which supports local economy. In addition, oysters contribute to water quality and clarity; sequester carbon; provide microhabitat for small macroinvertebrates that foster productivity of local finfish; and stabilize and protect coastlines from storms and erosion. The first component of her research has been understanding the clearance (filtration) capacity of oysters within the reserve, including how much control oysters may exhibit on controlling phytoplankton growth in the region. The second component of her research involves managing for ecosystem services, including quantifying the provision of those services, and how that provision may change in relation to management activities. To tie these services to human wellbeing, she believes it is also important to understand which services members of the community are using and how they value them. She plans to use focus groups and other social science methods to gather information on what characteristics commercial and recreational oystermen, and fishermen who target finfish near reefs, use to choose reefs, where in the reserve they choose them, how frequently and in what manner they utilize them, and what additional oyster services they may value.
Ms. Schuman’s interests extend beyond research and include scientific education, outreach, and communication; policy; and economics. She has pursued opportunities to foster these aptitudes, including teaching as a National Science Foundation GK-12 fellow during her masters, and writing and blogging regularly to translate science for multiple audiences. She also has been involved with UF’s Tropical Conservation and Development (TCD) certificate program, which learning about conflict management and facilitation and international perspectives on natural resource management. She has engaged in volunteer and leadership activities relating to her studies for over 15 years, including mentoring a Florida State Science Fair first-place awardee in the environmental category, serving on the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and serving as a leader for service learning projects in Nicaragua and New Zealand.
Ms. Schuman foresees many types of opportunities and organizations post-graduation that might support her professional goals. One specific possibility is extension work through a university Sea Grant program.
Samantha C. Dowdell, University of Miami (Graduate). Ms. Dowdell is a graduate of Dartmouth College and is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Marine Affaris and Policy at the University of Miami. She is a John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow. She serves as the sole student representative on the Marine Ecosystems and Society Academic Committee, where she helps professors determine departmental policies and resolve academic issues, and she is a teaching assistant. She has studied in Bonnaire, China, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, the Galápagos Islands, Lesotho, Namibia, Panama, South Africa, and Vietnam. Her internship experience includes work with the Conservation Law Foundation, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Resolve.
Her studies include policy analysis, geographic information system (GIS) tools, and socioeconomic valuation methodologies. As a component of the NOAA Habitat Blueprint Biscayne Bay Habitat Focus Area project, her thesis will identify water quality degradation hot spots and describe the spatial flexibility of Biscayne Bay fisheries and recreational water operations. The overarching purpose of her research is to preserve Biscayne Bay economic and environmental health. Her specific goals are to (1) determine the economic value and spatial flexibility of Biscayne Bay fisheries and recreational water operations and to (2) use this information to increase awareness of the Bay’s value and to encourage environmental stewardship and conservation initiatives.
Ms. Dowdell aspires to a career in public service addressing issues such as domestic and international fisheries management, IUU fishing, conservation of threatened marine species, protected area spatial planning and management, and coastal community vulnerability.
Quinn Zacharias, Florida State University (Undergraduate). Mr. Zacharias is an Environmental/Civil Engineering major at Florida State University. His interest in water resources issues began in high school, when he conducted research on water quality before, during, and after publicly funded restoration efforts in Rose Bay, in Volusia County. Mr. Zacharias presented his findings to the Port Orange City Council, Rotary Club, Audubon Society, and the 2016 AWRA ShORE Symposium. He has engaged in public advocacy efforts through the Environmental Service Program at Florida State University and studied abroad in Panama. His former teacher and mentor in Volusia County wrote of him, “I have been a teacher for thirty years and I have only had a few students who would be such a highly recommended recipient. I work with all ten high schools in this school district and I can honestly say that Quinn is the most deserving student I know and who will become a great researcher, scientist, citizen and role model.” Mr. Zacharias plans to use his engineering degree to work for a government agency on environment-related projects and hopes to own his own engineering firm one day.
Alexis Preiss, Windermere Preparatory School, Windermere. Ms. Preiss was the sole recipient of the Volunteer Service Award at her school in 2015. She has volunteered at Dr. Phillips Hospital, as an assistant to biologists at the Disney Wilderness Preserve, and as a peer mentor at the UCF Summer Biology Institute. She has worked part-time at Publix during high school as well. She already has an interest in marine resources, having attended the UCF Summer Biology Institute and taken high school Advanced Placement coursework in marine biology. Ms. Preiss plans to attend UCF and eventually pursue a PhD in marine biology. She wants to use her scholarship funds to help her achieve her goal of graduating from college debt-free.
James Bible, Sebring High School, Sebring. Mr. Bible is an active volunteer at his church, serving as a vacation bible school instructor and traveling to Romania on a youth mission trip twice. He is a four-year varsity first baseman for the Sebring High School team and a nationally recognized sporting clay shooter. He has taken coursework in agriscience foundations, agritechnology, and horticulture and is interested in studying ways to efficiently produce food while keeping natural ecosystems and habitats safe. In his high school International Baccalaureate chemistry class he designed and ran an experiment to test for the effect of herbicides on the concentration of ions in soil and to determine how much of the herbicides ran into aquifers. He plans to attend the University of Florida and major in agricultural engineering.
Jessica Arnold, James A. Long Elementary School, Putnam County (Palatka). Ms. Arnold will use the Butler grant to fund a vivarium building project in her classroom. James A. Long Elementary is a Title 1 elementary school in Palatka, FL. This grant will serve 3 writing/science classes of 20-25 students (about 75 students total) in the 2017-2018 school year and will continue to benefit students for subsequent years, since many of the supplies are reusable.
This project will provide students with an opportunity to expand on their knowledge of ecosystems while building a partially closed vivarium system that can support both plants and animals. This will help foster knowledge of the importance of our most precious resource in ecosystems and will offer a real world example of the water cycle. Students will be able to observe and describe each part of the cycle. While creating the terrarium aspect of the vivarium, students will be able to study plant parts and the basic needs of plants. After creation, the students will be able to witness the function of respiration. This vivarium will also teach students the basic needs of living things, life cycles, and food chains through watching their animals grow and thrive in the ecosystem. As many of the items needed for this project are reusable, this project will benefit students for many school years to come.
Megan Baker, Jacksonville Museum of Science and History (MOSH). Education is at the heart of MOSH’s mission. To that end, educational staff develops and delivers unique curricula for diverse groups each year. In 2015-2016, they served 43,788 school children, 450 campers, 1,791 preschoolers, and 997 Boy and Girl Scouts. MOSH has more than 60 years of success contracting with Duval County Public Schools to provide a science curriculum to more than 12,250 students from fifty Title 1 schools. Age-appropriate experiments and hands-on demonstrations are designed for each group.
Funding from the Butler grant will allow MOSH to purchase supplies to support its Ecologics and Environmental Education program. Programs are delivered to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts Troops, for elementary school campers, and for High School Earth Science and AP Environmental Science students. Classes are based in the Museum's HydroLogics exhibit. HydroLogics is a living outdoor exhibit surrounding the Museum's entrance that introduces visitors to xeriscaping - landscaping designed to preserve the natural ecosystems. Integrated plantings, a visible irrigation system and a series of educational signage initiate the public about sustainable practices and encourage behavioral changes. HydroLogics is the first impression of MOSH, and a natural extension of MOSH's drive to make sustainability part of our community's conversation.
Anne-Marie Davis, Oasis Elementary School, Cape Coral. Ms. Davis will use the Butler grants to purchase supplies to teach a variety of lessons to students in kindergarten through 5th grade. Supplies include solar desalination kits, water filtration its, pH test strips, pH test meter, measuring cups, containers, gravel for filters, charcoal for filters, salt and plastic bags.
Chris Rusnak, Nature's Classroom, Thonotosassa. Nature's Classroom is an environmental education center that is part of the School District of Hillsborough County in partnership with the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Each year Nature’s Classroom has the district's 6th grade students (approximately 15,000) on campus for a three day field study focusing on the Hillsborough River Watershed. The Butler grant will be used to help purchase replacement nets for the shoreline sampling activity.
Students at shoreline sampling are on an investigation into the health of the Hillsborough River. They wade into the water with a pair of water shoes (purchased with funds received from the award of the 2016 Butler grant) and a net, on a mission to collect, identify and study the macro-invertebrates of the river. Student's then compile data about the organisms and use it to make inferences about the health of the river. The data is also used to teach students about the nature of science and scientific research (i.e. data reliability, variables, forming hypothesis, etc.). The hands on nature of collecting these invertebrates with a net has helped reach students with a variety of learning styles who may otherwise lack engagement with more traditional educational methods.
The Butler grant will be used to replace 20 nets. The nets are very durable, withstanding the constant use by students for many years. The grant funding will help accommodate the increasing student class sizes, allowing each student their own net for exploration. These nets and this lesson have given hundreds of thousands of students a better understanding and appreciation of the Hillsborough River and where their drinking water actually comes from.
Somer Sutton, University High School, Orlando. With the help of the funds provided by the 2016 JB Butler Science Grant, students were able to conduct a six week long experiment modeling the process of cultural eutrophication. Grant funds for 2017-18 will be used to set up additional testing tanks that will become models for testing remediation techniques, including muck removal, algal turf scrubbers and the use of constructed wetlands for nutrient removal.