In the news in 2020
New EWRP publication on probable causes of algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee led by Chinese visiting scholar (EWRP, June 29, 2020)
NOAA imagery from June 20, 2020 shows a high potential for algae and cyanobacteria blooms in the center of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. The imagery does not show actual blooms. It is created with a computer model based on data collected by the satellite. Areas in red have the highest potential for a visible bloom of cyanobacteria. Image credit: The images were derived from Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite data from the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) and were processed by NOAA, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.
*The citation is: Ma, P., L. Zhang and W.J. Mitsch. 2020. Investigating sources and transformations of nitrogen using dual stable isotopes for Lake Okeechobee restoration in Florida. Ecological Engineering 155: 105947. See https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1bJm13IW-wfbWI
(You can download the paper for free for the next 50 days from this address.)
1. The Kissimmee River, as expected, dominated inflows to Lake Okeechobee (58.4±2.11m3/s) much higher than the second most important inflow. Primary outflows were westward discharges to the Caloosahatchee (27.7±0.63m3/s) to the Gulf of Mexico, and eastward discharges to the St. Lucie River (7.0±0.30m3/s) to the Atlantic Ocean.
2. Total nitrogen and total phosphorus averaged 1.56±0.42 mg L-1 and 0.11±0.06 mg L-1 respectively at 14 near-shore sampling sites with no significant seasonal variations. Dissolved organic nitrogen was the dominant form of nitrogen, averaging 1.18±0.32 mg L-1.
3. Nitrate isotopes revealed that non-point sources from NH4+ fertilizers and soil nitrogen were the main nitrate sources to Lake Okeechobee. NH4+ fertilizer contributed 36.7% of the lake’s nitrate in the dry season and 54.9% in the wet season, while soil nitrogen contributes 31.4% in the dry season and 25.1% in the wet season.
4. Animal manure was not a dominant source of nitrate to the lake, contributing 12.0% of the nitrate in the wet season and 25.4% in the dry season.
5. Monitoring and regulatory strategies for the lake restoration should consider the control of nitrogen pollution sources from agriculture to complement efforts to control phosphorus inflows that are often thought to be the main drivers for harmful algal blooms in the lake and downstream of the lake. Furthermore, nitrate-nitrogen is generally considered the main nutrient that stimulates red tide.
Thanks to the People’s Republic of China for providing a scholarship to Prof. Pei Ma that allowed her to spend a year in Naples to contribute to the restoration of the Florida Everglades and improve the water quality of our south Florida estuaries and beaches. We are very appreciative to the many visiting scholars who join us every year and contribute to our research and teaching.
Thanks also to Duke Vasey for serving as a driver for Pei Ma and others from our lab so that they could sample around the entire perimeter of Lake O in wet and dry seasons in 2018.
FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples FL receives $1 million grant to investigate innovative approach for mitigating harmful algal blooms (EWRP, June 24, 2020)
A pilot-scale project on a 700-acre lake in south Lee county has just been funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for monitoring, predicting, and controlling harmful algal blooms. This two-year project will test an innovative “buoy ultrasonic technology”(MPC-Buoy) to eliminate the symptoms of eutrophication by toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). This MPC-Buoy system first provides a complete overview of the water quality and algal biomass every 10 minutes thereby making it possible to modify the ultrasonic program to the specific water conditions and type of algae present. This way, it is possible to manage existing algae and prevent the growth of new algae.
The project will be managed and monitored by FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park located on the campus of the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida, in collaboration with a team that includes LG Sonic US, Scranton, Pennsylvania and scientists from The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; University of South Florida, Tampa, FL; and Mote Marine Lab, Sarasota, FL.
Greg Eiffert, Director of LG Sonic US, gave the history of this approach. "Our parent company in the Netherlands has been installing systems in over 26 countries for the past 10 years. Having just opened the US office in Spring of 2019, we have systems currently active in 16 states including Florida. We are happy to see the State of Florida investing in treatment of algal blooms without chemicals. In addition to being a chemical free system, it’s solar powered and eco-friendly, with no negative effects to the environment.”
Bill Mitsch, Director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples, FL and principal investigator for this project, suggest that if the MPC-Buoy system is effective in reducing algal blooms in this pilot-scale project in south Florida, “we may be able to scale-up and develop a strategy for mitigating if not eliminating the toxic algae releases from Lake Okeechobee that have been causing harmful algal blooms on our Gulf and Atlantic coastlines. That could lead to a significant improvement in water quality in south Florida and the Greater Everglades.”
(Photo by W.J. Mitsch)
Congratulations to Lauren Griffiths on successfully defending her PhD dissertation (EWRP, May 4, 2020)
Congratulations to Bill Mitsch's graduate student Lauren Griffiths on successfully defending her PhD dissertation this afternoon on a zoom defense held in Naples, Tampa, and Puerto Rico. 45 folks attended from all over the world too. Title of dissertation was Biogeochemical Cycling of Nutrients and Carbon in Tropical and Subtropical Wetlands.” Masterful defense of work in freshwater and saltwater wetlands in Florida and Puerto Rico. She will graduate with PhD in School of Geosciences at University of South Florida in August 2020, we still think remotely because of COVID-19.
Long-time SWS member and award-winning water scientist and Everglades research director, William Mitsch, presents a webinar on the state of the nation’s environment on Earth Day 2020 (Society of Wetland Scientists, April 29, 2020)
Florida Gulf Coast University’s Everglades Wetland Research Park (EWRP) Director Dr. Bill Mitsch presented an Earth Day webinar at the invitation of Federal agency National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Earth Day's fiftieth anniversary, April 22, 2020. The one-hour remote presentation was attended by 548 participants from all over the world. A recording of the webinar can be viewed on NOAA’s YouTube channel
Everglades research director presents a state-of the-nation's environment on Earth Day 2020 (Eco-Voice, April 29, 2020)
Award-winning water scientist and Everglades research director presents a state-of the-nation’s environment on Earth Day 2020 (EWRP, April 22, 2020)
Florida Gulf Coast University’s Everglades Wetland Research Park (EWRP) Director Dr. Bill Mitsch presented an Earth Day webinar at the invitation of Federal agency National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Earth Day, April 22, 2020, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day. The one-hour remote presentation was attended by 548 participants from all over the world.
James Turek, a restoration ecologist at NOAA’s Restoration Center in Narragansett, Rhode Island, introduced Mitsch at the webinar by recounting the significance of the first Earth Day, in 1970, to Mitsch’s environmental science and engineering career path. Mitsch was then working for energy giant Commonwealth Edison in Chicago, but after that first Earth Day he lobbied relentlessly to join their new Environmental Affairs department, which a year later led him to graduate school at the University of Florida specializing in environmental engineering sciences and later systems ecology under well-known ecologist H. T. Odum.
He has been an ecologist and ecological engineer ever since.
In his talk on environmental developments through the past 50 years, Mitsch suggested that while there are some signs of progress over the past 50 years, too many problems remain on the fiftieth anniversary of that first Earth Day: “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day . . . our over-crowded, climatically challenged, and poorly managed planet is now threatened even more than it was 50 years ago.”
Mitsch stated that “Covid-19 is perhaps Nature reminding us that we may have now gone just too far.” He also called Florida policies allowing use of poisons such as glyphosate in south Lake Okeechobee an “arrogant attempt to control Nature,” and stated that though such practices are named restoration, “they are not.” Recent reductions of Federal involvement in wetland protection after 45 years of the Clean Water Act were described as “unfortunate, as we need wetland ecosystem services today more than ever.”
But Mitsch also detailed his promising, optimistic “wetlaculture” (wetlands + agriculture) landscape renewal research at the EWRP which is meant to “reduce the relentless application of fertilizers across our agricultural landscape while restoring and creating wetland habitats to make up for the gigantic losses of wetlands worldwide. Through wetlaculture, now being developed as a business approach in collaboration with Business Professor Sam Miller from the University of Notre Dame, “farmers and investors could make a profit either by farming or creating wetlands, and downstream waters will be cleaner too.”
Response to the webinar was overwhelmingly appreciative. Dennis P. Vasey, Chairman of the Water Symposium of Florida, Inc., and a member of the EWRP advisory committee, applauded the presentation by saying that it offered “a logical process of why we need wetlands and a takeaway that would reduce agricultural fertilizer use and improve water quality,” adding, “As I consider the presentation, Dr. Mitsch gave us a gift!” From Ecuador, John Porterfield, a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Change Lobby, wrote that the webinar “was truly excellent,” saying, “I enjoyed the pace, which created nice ‘space’ between the milestones of the presentation, and maintained near-continuous cogitation! Videos spliced into presentation were a highlight!” Biology professor Sister Rosine Sobczak of Lourdes College in Toledo, Ohio, concurred: “I really enjoyed your presentation! I know we have problems, but it was good to see the research to back them up. Keep on doing what you are doing and spreading the message.” And Gwen Ginocchio of Costa Mesa, California wrote: “Thank for your talk on wetlands. I learned many things. You've given us hope on Earth Day.”
Photo by B.B. Jiang ( April 22, 2020)
EWRP paper published on the importance of sedimentation in urban treatments wetlands constructed to protect Naples Bay and Gulf of Mexico (EWRP, April 21, 2020)
Hurrah for our EWRP grad student Lauren Griffiths. The first of several formally peer-reviewed
papers resulting from her upcoming Ph.D. has just been published. This paper discusses
the importance of sedimentation in the ability of a set of created urban wetlands
in Naples Florida built to improve the water quality of urban runoff before it enters
Naples Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Congratulations to Bing Bing Jiang, EWRP’s newest Ph.D. (Naples and Tampa, April 7, 2020)
Hurrah for EWRP graduate student Bing Bing Jiang, who successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation Tuesday afternoon April 7, 2020. She will graduate in summer semester with a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Science & Policy from University of South Florida while performing the research at our lab in Naples and at field sites in Ohio. Here is a copy of the title slide of her dissertation presentation yesterday to the public and to her committee. Thirty-three people from all over the country and world, including China and Poland, attended her presentation through zoom.
Both FGCU AND USF benefited gigantically from this collaboration of state universities, Bing Bing got the best of the best of wetland science education that she could possibly get anywhere in the country, and tax dollars were saved! What is not to be happy about?
Congratulations, Bing Bing!
Congratulations to Andrew Wilson (EWRP, March 26, 2020)
Congratulations to Andrew Wilson on his successful completion of his Qualifying Exam today for his Ph.D. in our collaborative program with USF’s School of GeoScience. The exam was held remotely in Naples, Tampa, and Notre Dame Indiana by Zoom. So properly not much of a crowd to celebrate in Naples or any place else. This makes the third graduate student completing his/her qualifying exam in the last 18 months in this FGCU/USF collaborative program. And another new student was admitted to the program today.
Environmentalists to Army Corps: Reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges won't work - TCPalm (February 25, 2020)
FGCU holding workshop on wetlands mitigating harmful algae blooms- WINK TV (February 20, 2020)
Researcher Proposes Using 'Wetlaculture' to Prevent Harmful Algal Blooms - WGCU (February 14, 2020)
Bill Mitsch is on Beach Talk Radio - Beach Talk Radio (February 8, 2020)
Florida's war on weeds is killing fish and supercharging red tide, opponents say—CNN (February 7, 2020)
Could we have a clean Estero Bay again? FGCU's Cela Tega conference offered a toolkit of ideas —Ft Myers New-Press (January 25, 2020)
Bill Mitsch presented “Troubled Waters: Sea turtles, plastics, red tide, Everglades, misguided water policies in south Florida, and wetlaculture" in 2020 Cela Tega conference —The Estero Bay is in trouble and what residents can do to help. (January 25, 2020 FGCU, Ft. Myers, FL (January 25, 2020)
FGCU wetlands professor blasts Trump water rules, calls for citizen action—The Paradise Progressive (January 24, 2020)
North Naples, FL (January 13, 2020)—EWRP Director Bill Mitsch presented "Sustainably solving wetland loss and harmful algal blooms (HABs) with created wetlands and wetlaculture” to the Seven Sisters of Southwest Florida luncheon at Pelican Isle Yacht Club, Naples, FL on Monday January 13, 2020. Dr. Mitsch’s lecture covered his lab’s wetland research in SW Florida and Ohio and introduced the concept of Wetlaculture. About 70 participants attended the luncheon and Prof. Mitsch’s lecture. Many were alumnae of one of the seven sister universities. According to wikipedia "The Seven Sisters are seven highly selective and prestigious liberal arts colleges in the Northeastern United States that are historically women's colleges. Five of the seven institutions continue to offer all-female undergraduate programs: Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Wellesley College. Vassar College has been co-educational since 1969. Radcliffe College shared common and overlapping history with Harvard College from the time it was founded as "the Harvard Annex" in 1879. Harvard and Radcliffe effectively merged in 1977, but Radcliffe continued to be the sponsoring college for women at Harvard until its dissolution in 1999. Barnard College was Columbia University's women's liberal arts undergraduate college until its all-male coordinate school Columbia College went co-ed in 1983; to this day, Barnard continues to be a women's undergraduate college affiliated with Columbia.”
Naples, FL (January 8, 2020)—Our preview showing of the movie "Troubled Waters: A Turtle's Tale,” a production of WLRN public TV in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale was a great success on Wednesday evening January 8, 2020 at the Everglades Wetland Research Park. A full-house of 150 attended and they gave an enthusiastic applause at the end of the movie. The movie features actor and ocean activist Ted Danson and is narrated by Peter Coyote. It take a critical look at the effects of global warming, water pollution and our “throw-away” plastic lifestyle on sea turtles and inevitably on ourselves. Some reviews we received on social media:
1. Was a wonderful evening - everyone should see this movie, and then spread the word! Thanks for all you're doing Bill to shine the light on these important issues.
3. Thanks so much for the invitation tonight. We both truly enjoyed it & I know April 20th will be a day to remember.
4. Thank you for a most informative (and a bit emotional 😢) program last evening!
5. ….'Troubled Waters' should be a required viewing for all of us in U.S.A working in Environmental Health areas….
6. I wanted to express to you again how much I enjoyed the film and look forward to sharing it with my friends and family this April!
7. One of the most powerful films I've seen. A cinematic Silent Spring”
Distinguished visitors included several of our EWRP advisory committee members, FGCU Dean of Engineering Richard Behr, Ph.D., and the new Director of Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Lisa Korte, Ph.D. We have been told by the movie director in Miami that this will be broadcast around the country on April 20 on PBS TV stations to celebrate 50th anniversary of Earth Day.