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Thank you

June 5, 2019
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

I have many people to thank for getting "What's In the Water?" project off to a great start. When I first read about the opportunity to apply for the NOAA Planet Stewardship Education Program, I let Alison Giesen, Director of the Mound House and Cultural Resources, know about my interest. Alison was very supportive of the project and encouraged me to apply to the program with the understanding that I would be incorporating the project into my part-time work at the Mound House as well as putting my own time into the project.

Once accepted into the NOAA-PSEP program, I sought the advice of Dr. Michal Parsons, Director of the FGCU Vester Marine Research Field Station, about how and where to conduct local water quality studies. It was then that the project grew in scope to do island-wide test sites. There is no doubt that the partnership with Dr. Parsons and the FGCU Vester Marine Research Field Station has made island-wide water quality testing feasible with the addition of Dr. Parsons expertise, FGCU testing laboratories and all associated fees. It also meant that there would be a need for many volunteers! But, I have come to know how community-minded the Fort Myers Beach residents are and how concerned we all are about the local water quality. At the end of my meeting with Dr. Parsons, we agreed to "let's do this."

As an employee of the Town, I was able to have the registration form put on the Town's website. Kudos to Chelsea O'Riley and Amy Baker for getting the registration process functional and simplified. Then came the task of publicizing the project to recruit volunteers. Meghan Bradbury at the Beach Observer and Gary Mooney at the Island Sand Paper wrote excellent articles about the project and spread the word about the need for volunteers. As residents signed up to volunteer for the May 18 water sampling date, the possibility of being able to pull off an island-wide water quality testing event during the dry season became a reality. Both Gary and Meghan followed up with the May 18 water quality testing with articles in their respective papers.

As I reflect upon the success of the first inaugural island-wide water quality testing event, I know if it were not for having the support and participation of Alison Giesen and other Town Staff, Dr. Parsons, FGCU students, Fish-Tale Marina and the 50 fantastic volunteers who came together to conduct the water sampling on May 18, it never could have happened.

Many, many thanks to all who contributed their time!

Dr. Parsons and his FGCU students will be doing further tests on the water samples that were collected on May 18 at the FGCU lab and when available, all of the water quality reports from Dr. Parsons will be made public. In the meantime, reports from the State are promising about a significant reduction in the amount of releases from Lake Okeechobee this year.

As the "What's In the Water?" project continues, there will be a need for volunteers for the next island-wide water quality testing event in September/October and beyond. And, in the future look for community programs at the Mound House and Newton Cottage on water quality testing, non-point source pollution, marine ecosystems, and native plant landscaping.

Penny Jarrett

Education Coordinator

Mound House



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