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FGCU Welcomes Eminent Scholar as Director of Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Florida Gulf Coast University has appointed William J. Mitsch, a prize-winning wetland scientist with an international reputation in ecological engineering, as its newest eminent scholar and as director of its new Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples.
As the Juliet C. Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management, Mitsch will conduct and oversee research at the park, which is based at the Harvey J. Kapnick Education and Research Center at the Naples Botanical Garden. The position was made possible by an endowment from Sproul, a Naples developer and philanthropist, to promote the study of habitat restoration and management.
The park's main research laboratory features state-of-the-art technology that will enhance and accelerate research in wetlands and river biogeochemistry and ecology. Scientists as well as graduate and doctoral students already have begun using the facility for research on Everglades restoration, carbon presence and methane emissions in local ecosystems and coastal mangrove restoration. As it develops, the program will provide even more teaching, research and outreach opportunities, according to Mitsch.
"At the research park, we seek to understand how wetlands, rivers and watersheds function and if and how we can restore those systems," he said. "What better place to establish a center for wetland restoration than in Naples on the edge of one of the greatest wetland complexes in the world - the Florida Everglades?"
The Everglades Wetland Research Park will reach beyond the university to engage the greater community with programs such as "Moonlight on the Marsh," a free, public lecture series scheduled to launch Thursday, Oct. 18. Eight distinguished lecturers from Mexico, Denmark and the United States will share their expertise on renewable energy, wildlife conservation and other topics of interest to scientists as well as the general public. Visit website for more information: https://www2.fgcu.edu/swamp/kapnickcenter.html.
The park's mission and location highlight FGCU's continuing commitment to sustainability, according to Donna Henry, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
"The Greater Florida Everglades provide priceless ecosystem services for Southwest Florida, serving as the habitat for some of the richest biodiversity on the planet while protecting our coastline water quality and the economic viability of our shoreline and Gulf," she said. "Most important, our new research program is perfectly attuned to the vision set forth by FGCU when it was established 16 years ago."
Mitsch joined FGCU on Oct. 1 after 27 years at The Ohio State University in Columbus, where he was Distinguished Professor of Environment, Natural Resources and Ecological Engineering. While still with Ohio State he organized the recently concluded International EcoSummit 2012, a conference on sustainability and ecosystem restoration that drew more than 1,500 premier scientists from 75 countries. He is a founding member of the group of ecology journal editors that organized the first EcoSummit conferences in Copenhagen in 1996, Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2000, and Beijing in 2007.
Mitsch is the co-author of "Wetlands," the definitive textbook on the subject, published in 1986 and now in its fourth edition. In August 2004, Mitsch and a Danish collaborator, Sven Erik Jørgensen, were awarded the Stockholm Water Prize by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden for lifetime achievements in the modeling, management and conservation of lakes and wetlands.
Although he has worked all over the world during his career, Mitsch has maintained ties to Florida since earning master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Florida in the early 1970s. He conducted graduate research in Naples at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and has been doing research under contract to the South Florida Water Management District since 2010.
"I'm kind of returning to Florida," Mitsch said. "The wetlands here are a big reason. If you were an oceanographer you would live near the ocean. If you're a wetland scientist you live here. The Florida Everglades are a great resource. A lot of good wetlands science is being done down here."
For more information, call Donna Henry, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, at (239) 590-7156.