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Egret's take-off

Castaway Island Preserve, Jacksonville, FL

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The 46,000 acre Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is one of Jacksonville’s natural gems. The preserve is a compilation of natural, cultural and historic connections that have occurred over the last 6,000 years.

The preserve includes Kingsley Plantation, Fort George and the Fort Caroline area, and is operated by the National Park Service. Over the years, people have changed the natural systems, from altering wetlands to constructing docks, establishing a plantation or the building of Timucuan shell mounds.

On Friday, January 20, 2012 the Timucuan Science Symposium will examine the interaction between humans and the environment. The symposium will take place at the historic Ribault Club on Fort George Island.

The symposium will provide an opportunity to network with researchers, National Park Service employees and local residents interested in the nature and culture of the Timucuan Preserve. Scientists who are currently working on research projects will share their stories, and connect with potential partners.

Scholars and graduate students are invited to submit proposals for posters or presentations at the symposium. Proposals can cover cultural, historical, natural or scientific subjects and are due by November 15, 2011.

Whether as a researcher or an interested observer, the Timucuan Science Symposium should be on your “don’t miss” list.

Logical Ecology has the honor of being listed as one of the 50 Best Ecology Blogs on the Forensic Science Technician site. Check it out — there’s lots of other great environmental blogs including Ecology Today, The Green Scene, and The Environmental Blog.

I’m biting my nails, hoping the engineers and responders will be able to “cap” the largest leak on the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The first attempt failed due to a buildup of ice crystals that clogged the cap and made it buoyant.

According to the official site for the emergency responders, engineers may have found a fix for the problem using methanol injection to stop hydrate formation.

Be sure to check out the official site–it’s a wealth of information, including ways to volunteer. The scope and cost of this disaster, along with its response is mind-boggling.  The  effort includes government agencies from EPA to NOAA to NASA,  top scientists and engineers, fisheries experts, and numerous volunteers. Fourteen staging areas are already in place to protect the shoreline.

I have to admit that before the Deepwater Horizon’s explosion and subsequent gusher, I was a staunch proponent of more drilling in the Gulf. I still believe that Americans need to allow more drilling and reduce our dependency on other countries for our energy supplies. But the impending doom foretold in each day’s news reports make it evident that we need a major upgrade to the engineering controls that prevent such a calamity.

As the oil slick creeps ever closer to the shore, the Joint Investigation initiates the finger-pointing stage of the crisis. Understandably so, as the cost will ultimately be in the billions of dollars, not to mention the bad PR that ecological destruction will bring. Let’s all hope the latest fix will work, and quickly.

Energy supplies are vital, but we should be able to provide power without trashing our environment.

I was surprised last month while attending the Florida Water Resources Conference. While finishing dessert at the Awards Luncheon, I heard my name called. It seems I was elected to be a member of the Florida Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers.

Though it sounds funny–and the initiation consists of saying “Florida Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers” three times fast until the audience approves with applause–it really is quite an honor. The award’s purpose is to recognize water and wastewater industry professionals for outstanding, meritorious service above and beyond the call of duty. I’m in some good company with many long-time, well-respected water environment folks. People that I’ve admired for many years.

I now have a silver shovel pin–if I’m caught without it, I have to buy all the drinks!

But seriously, it’s wonderful to be recognized, and a member of a select group of environmental stewards.

Earth Day – April 22, 2009, marks the 39th anniversary of this environmental movement. Founded by Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and spearheaded by Denis Hayes in 1970, Earth Day has been credited with the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of earth-protecting legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

I have to admit, I usually don’t do anything special for Earth Day. I’m usually working. But I believe that my work, keeping drinking water systems and wastewater treatment plants running, is just as important to the environment as staging a rally. After all, every life form needs water–clean water.

And despite all the doom and gloom talk of bad carbon footprints, pharmaceuticals in the water, and water wars, I think we’re doing a pretty good job overall of keeping the planet safe for future generations.

Could we do more? Sure. But the point is, we have to use our brains and common sense–not emotion–to figure out what works best for sustainability.

Really, every day is Earth Day, isn’t it?

White papers don’t sound exciting–but they’re powerful educational and marketing tools.

A white paper can be a technical document about a new water treatment method–or a discussion about management techniques. They combine the educational style of a magazine article with the informative style of a brochure.

Regardless, the strength of a white paper is based on its problem-solving structure. And white papers build customer loyalty by giving their readers something of value.

Michael Stelzner is the white paper guy. He’s not only authored the book, but also writes the WhitePaperSource Newsletter, with over 20,000 subscribers.

Michael wrote a white paper on how to write a white paper (really!) that’s available for free on his website. The paper outlines the basics of white paper writing. The book is perfect for anyone that wants (or needs) to write a white paper. He provides all the basics, plus ways to make your white paper stand out.

Tips on interviewing and researching follow the most important part of writing a white paper – the Needs Assessment:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the topic?
  • Who is the ideal reader?
  • What is the paper’s objective?

Anyone with an product or service to market can benefit by publishing a white paper.

For help with environmental white papers check out Logical Ecology Environmental Writing.

The American Water Works Association recently released their annual State of the Industry report for water utilities.

I wasn’t surprised at the results of this annual checkup, where over 1,800 leaders in the industry identify key challenges. Their concerns about the future of the water industry are the same as mine.

  • Water supply – We’re not running out of water . . . we’re just running out of the less expensive water. As population increases, we’ll be looking more and more at costly treatment methods like desalination. Conservation and reuse are other parts of the puzzle that will be an important part of quenching our thirst.
  • Aging infrastructure – Much of our infrastructure is not only aging, but in many cases reaching the point of failure. There’s a shortfall of funds to adequately maintain and replace old pipes and treatment equipment that runs into the billions of dollars. Starting this month, public television stations will be showing Liquid Assets, the story of our water infrastructure. Don’t miss it!
  • Increasing regulatory requirements – As we gain the capability to measure constituents in smaller and smaller amounts, agencies develop more stringent requirements for removing those compounds. Costs for treatment rise geometrically as we try to remove contaminants down to parts per trillion.
  • Workforce deficit – Most of us baby-boomers will be retiring in the next decade, resulting in a shortage of experienced utility folks. In addition, the number of young people getting into the field is declining.
  • Money – Operating costs continue to climb. As always, there’s much competition for limited funds.

I’m hoping some economic stimulus packages will be forthcoming after the election. Building treatment plant upgrades is a great way to create jobs–at least in my opinion. After all, Water is Life.

 We have the beginnings of a Water War between Central and Northeast Florida.

With an ever-increasing population, Seminole County in Central Florida will not have enough groundwater by 2013, according to the St. Johns River Water Management District. The proposed solution–take surface water from the St. Johns River.

The Water Management District studied the request to determine if minimum flows and levels would be met, and determined that up to 262 million gallons per day could be removed without harming the river.  The St. Johns Riverkeeper, City of Jacksonville, and others filed for administrative hearing.

As a result, a multi-year, $2 million study is underway to determine the cumulative effect of water withdrawals on the St. Johns and Oklawaha Rivers. Fifty scientists with national standing in seven work groups will analyze every aspect of the withdrawals. The work groups include hydraulic modeling, biochemical, nutrients, aquatic insects and crustaceans, aquatic plants, fish and wetlands.

I recently attended a 2-day symposium on the project to date. Phase I of the project is complete, including excellent modeling calibration results. Some interesting findings to date:

  • Average daily flow through the St. Johns River is 5.2 billion gallons per day, with the highest weekly average daily flow at 36.6 billion gallons and the lowest at negative 882 million. That’s right–the river has a backward flow during certain periods.
  •  At the maximum proposed withdrawal rates, the greatest change in the river’s level would be 1.4 inches.
  • At the maximum propsed water level, the salinity change would be 0.7 parts per thousand.

Those impacts might not sound impressive, but the scientists are now embarking on Phase II of the project and how withdrawals will affect the ecosystem in greater detail.

More information is on the St. Johns River Water Management District’s website. Should be interesting!  Surface Water Withdrawals–Get the Facts.

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