The Foundation employs a team of scientists to serve as technical expert sources for the environmental community. These resources include providing sworn expert testimony in legal proceedings, testimony at public hearings, and general education and training for environmental partners. The Foundation also provides fellowships and internships to graduate students from regional and national universities working on Everglades projects, all to ensure that the next generation of Everglades experts will be well-trained to face the mission in front of them well into the first half of the century. Areas of fundamental interest in the science program are: hydrology, natural resource planning, water quality and ecology.
Please find below, a little background on each scientist’s area of expertise.
Leading Science Initiatives
Water is the key to understanding the Everglades and the built environment. One in every three Floridians relies on the Everglades for their water supply and the native flora and fauna are finely tuned to the seasonal water cycles. Part of what we do at the Everglades Foundation is discover how the Everglades works, convert that to mathematics, and then program it on a computer. Once you do that, you can run “what-if…” scenarios that help decide what can and should be done to restore the Everglades. Hydrology and engineering allow us to look for solutions to restore the “River of Grass.” Thomas Van Lent, Ph.D., Senior Scientist
Ecological research at the Everglades Foundation is centered on understanding how human impacts such as the introduction and spread of exotic invasive species, urban development, off-road vehicle (ORV) use, oil and gas activity, water management and nutrient inputs have affected plant and animal life across the Everglades. To do this, we partner with agencies, academic institutions and environmental organizations across the region to tap into the extensive body of scientific information and peer-reviewed research. We analyze data and provide input regarding various social and political issues that may offset the current ecological balance of the Everglades or thwart progress of Everglades restoration. Stephen E. Davis, III, Ph.D., Wetland Ecologist
Restoring the Everglades will take more than just putting the right amounts of water back. It will also require that the water be clean. We conduct research on what causes imbalances in native flora and fauna, and then determine what actions are needed to correct those problems. The survival of the Everglades depends on the quality of its water. Melodie Naja, Ph.D., Water Quality Scientist
Planning and Project Implementation
Research and ideas alone will not restore the Everglades. These ideas must be converted into specific actions and projects. The science team at the Everglades Foundation works with government agencies and stakeholders to implement science-based solutions. We contribute modeling information, review scientific research and analyses, provide scientific and engineering input to restoration and water quality projects, and work to educate decision makers and the public on the issues. This helps to build consensus and get things done. Hong Xu, Environmental Engineer and Aida Arik, Ecological Engineer
Synthesizing Everglades Research
“No single entity is tackling or can tackle all of these issues,” Van Lent says. “It’s actually a concerted effort on the part of government agencies, non-profit organizations such as ours, and research entities to get this accomplished.” The single most important project being accomplished by Foundation scientists is not in-the-lab, test-tube science. It’s the synthesis of all scientific work conducted on the entire Everglades ecosystem from the Kissimmee River through Lake Okeechobee and into the southern Everglades and Florida Bay.
“The project combines all the available information and seeing which is most likely to get us to the goal,” says Van Lent. “This will guide us to recommend public policy that will lead to decisions to fix the ecosystem.” The initiative, financed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, involves explaining the work of 15 top scientists in Everglades-related fields for the past decade and making their work understandable to decision-makers and the public. “We’re taking the reports off the shelf and making them useful,” says Van Lent. “We’re the bridge between the laboratory and the real application of the science. We make the science useful.”