Out on a Limb
Professor Meg Lowman was awarded a $75,000 grant for her exhibit “Out on a Limb – Forest Canopies,” a traveling rain forest diorama complete with scaled models of scientists exploring a canopy ecosystem. Lowman, who is director of New College’s Environmental Initiatives and an internationally acclaimed canopy researcher, was awarded the grant on October 1, 2005 by the National Science Foundation, as part of their Communicating Research to Public Audiences program.
The exhibit, which includes graphic panels and interactive activities, will circulate to community venues in southwest Florida. Lowman’s goal in creating the exhibit is to increase public awareness of how forest canopies are important to life on earth.
“Canopy research,” explained Lowman, “provides a highly visual, exploratory approach to scientific inquiry that can be effectively communicated to the general public, and to school groups.”
The Forest Canopies exhibit was completed in early 2007, comprised of several mobile components, central of which is a three-dimensional diorama depicting the biodiversity of an Amazon tropical rain forest. This diorama features to-scale replicas research scientists using creative canopy access techniques to study the treetops. A multi-media component will feature a DVD touch-screen kiosk where a computer will provide additional information about the ecology of the rainforest and its inhabitants. The Forest Canopies exhibit is available in Spanish translations as well.
From 2004 – 2006, the New College Environmental Studies Program and affiliated faculty utilized grant funds provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a research and educational outreach program called “Bay Neighbors". The primary mission of Bay Neighbors is to educate residents in the Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores (IBSS) neighborhood, which is located directly south of New College, about direct linkages between homeowner landscaping practices and non-point pollutant loading into Sarasota Bay. Original research for the project included delineation and digitization of the neighborhood’s storm water drainage infrastructure within an integrated geographic information systems (GIS) database, measurement of storm water runoff volume intercepted through the canopies of various native tree species, and characterization of runoff nutrient concentrations associated with different landscaping practices. This project sprouted the Bay Neighbor Regional Community Outreach Initiative where the NC Env Studies Program partnered with the Indian Beach Sapphire Shores Association (IBSSA) neighborhood to collect environmental information on areas of specific concern and make it available to neighborhood residents. This information will be used to take action to protect the neighborhood’s resources.
Sarasota County renewed a contract in April 2008 with Professor Meg Lowman to advise the county in three areas: (1) Provide Services as Climate Change Advisor to the County's Sustainability Initiatives. This entails consultative and advisory services to the county’s sustainability program through sharing expertise and current understanding of best practices and providing specific assistance relative to the issue of carbon sequestration by vegetation and canopy species; (2) Assess and Quantify Infestation of Sarasota County by Non-indigenous, Nuisance reptiles. This entails surveying county land and identifying management practices to help curtail the spread and deleterious affects of these reptiles on natural lands and wildlife populations; (3) Review of designation of "Environmentally Sensitive." The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP) currently identifies lands for potential acquisition by the county and certain criteria are used to make the determination of environmental sensitivity. A second tier review process has also been implemented to assist county staff in discerning which parcels would best serve the program if they were acquired.
Professor Lowman was also appointed science advisor to Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, on matters related to climate change.
ESSC member Professor Frank Alcock was selected as the Director of the Mote Marine Laboratory's new Marine Policy Institute in 2007, where he has led an effort to bring together leading scientists and policy makers to discuss marine problems and possible solutions. A priority issue will be Florida’s red tide, and activities from all three functional areas of the Institute – scientific translation and mediation, human dimensions research, and training - will address it.
ESSC member Julie Morris was reappointed in 2007 to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council by U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez. Morris holds an at-large seat on the Gulf Council, one of eight regional fishery management councils that manage fishery resources in federal waters. The Environmental Defense Fund applauded Morris' reappointment, saying: "She supports ending overfishing with the use of catch shares and additional conservation methods. As former chair of the Gulf Council she has advocated for sound decision-making practices and is committed to pursuing the public interest."