In the spring, the Everglades Foundation’s Science Team attended the Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration (GEER) Science Meeting in Coral Springs. GEER is the major Everglades science meeting held biannually bringing scientists and engineers together to share the latest developments in Everglades science and facilitate scientific understanding among the broader decision-making community.
The Foundation’s science team was involved in the planning and successful implementation of the conference. Drs. Tom Van Lent and Steve Davis served on the Executive Steering and Program Committees, respectively, setting conference priorities, developing sessions and organizing the meeting agenda. Dr. Melodie Naja chaired a session on Stormwater Treatment Areas and Everglades Agricultural Area Water Quality, and one of our former interns Ms. Sayena Faridmarandi presented her research with Dr. Naja that quantified phosphorus loadings from the agricultural area to the Everglades.
A dozen current and former Everglades Foundation fellows, scholars or interns authored or co-authored presentations at the GEER meeting. “This is a staggering number for a meeting this size,” stated Dr. Davis. “It indicates a substantial return on investment from our ForEverglades Fellowship program and demonstrates our impact on the current and future direction of Everglades science.”
Current EF Scholar Ross Boucek of FIU presented some of his research on sportfish ecology, linking freshwater flows from the Everglades to migration of snook into headwater creeks. A past EF Scholar Dr. James Beerens, now a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, presented his recent mathematical modeling work that predicts wading bird population size and distribution according to water availability and management.
Speaking to a packed room, Dr. Van Lent emphasized the importance of communication in Everglades restoration science and the need to address key management questions. Dr. Davis presented new findings from his sea level rise experiment in conjunction with scientists from Florida International University, South Florida Water Management District and Everglades National Park.
Undoubtedly, the work of the Everglades Foundation was present throughout the three-day meeting, but GEER also provided the Foundation’s science staff a chance to work alongside others like themselves—a rarity in their highly specialized field. “GEER is a unique opportunity for our team to brainstorm new ideas and share technical information with both academia and government agencies focused on understanding and restoring the Everglades ecosystem,” said Dr. Naja.
While Everglades restoration still faces significant challenges, through gatherings like GEER, Foundation staff scientists can create innovative solutions with other scientists and engineers like themselves, who are dedicated to protecting and restoring America’s Everglades.