IMG_5010Our goal was to discuss the principle environmental issues facing Southwest Florida/Collier County, emphasizing the competing objectives of preserving our environment and living in a dynamic area.

The day started with a bus ride to the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center where Keith Laakkonen, Executive Director of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, spoke about the history of Rookery Bay Estuary.

Next, Nicholas Penniman, Board of Directors, The Everglades Foundation, provided a history of water management in this area and perspective on the current challenges.

Rounding out the morning’s presentations, Brian Beckner of the Audubon of the Western Everglades, spoke passionately about environmental impacts on Southwest Florida birding and the results of installations of bird boxes, particularly on golf courses.

Following lively Q&A, members of Class XX participated in informative activities led by staff and volunteers of the Rookery Bay Education Center including a Touch Tank experience, and presentations on monitoring water quality, fish, shark, bird and turtle populations.

Class XX then rode the bus to The Conservancy of Southwest Florida. On board, they were encouraged to explore volunteer opportunities offered by County, State and nonprofit environmental organizations.

Lunch was enjoyed at the Conservancy, after which Rob Moher, President & CEO of the Conservancy, welcomed the class. There were guided tours through the Dalton Discovery Center, the Hall of Invasives/Wildlife Classroom and the Nursery Window at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

The final presentations were from Mike Bauer, Natural Resources Manager, City of Naples covering “Challenges and Solutions: Preserving Naples Bay”; by Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resources, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, who presented “Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink?”; by William J. Mitsch, Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park, FGCU, who focused on “Climate Change: What Our Wetlands Can Do For Us”; and by Daniel Rodriguez, Director, Collier County Solid Waste Department, who spoke on “Solid Waste Management and Recycling in Collier County.”

Following Q&A, Class XX wrapped up Environment Day with a discussion noting the importance of civic action to address serious water issues, and the strong talent and passion of individuals engaged in environmental issues.