Gov. Ron DeSantis made cleaning up Florida’s waterways a focal point of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, promising to make sure that Floridian’s would have accessibility to clean water, and not toxic water that has threatened the state’s fragile ecosystems.
In late March, DeSantis stood with President Donald Trump, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, Reps, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, and several other members of Congress, to bring attention and announce federal funding for the the ongoing water restoration efforts.
Now DeSantis is taking the clean water efforts further by appointing five leading scientists and researchers to the newly-minted Blue-Green Algae task force, which was setup to help eradicate the algae blooms that have devastated water communities in south Florida.
Standing alongside the governor as he made his announcement was First Lady Casey DeSantis and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein.
St. Lucie and Martin Counties and where toxic algae blooms have unfortunately become a way of life for Floridians living in communities near Lake Okeechobee.
“The current algae blooms in the St. Johns River and Lake George are a stark reminder of how important and urgent this issue really is,” said Governor DeSantis. “My administration is taking another step forward toward addressing this by appointing five internationally renowned and respected scientists to the new Blue-Green Algae Task Force.”
“The Governor’s appointment of these five highly qualified experts and leading scientists signal the start of a new day in Florida,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “The water truly is the lifeblood of our state. From our economy and tourism to our quality of life, we have to make sure our water is clean and safe. I look forward to the future accomplishments of this Task Force and am honored to be a part of these efforts.”
Here are Gov. DeSantis’ five appointees to the task force:
Dr. Wendy Graham
Dr. Graham is the Carl S. Swisher Eminent Scholar in Water Resources in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Director of the Water Institute at the University of Florida. Dr. Graham holds a B.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Florida, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Evelyn Gaiser
Dr. Gaiser holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Kent State University, a master’s in animal ecology from Iowa State University and a doctorate in ecology from the University of Georgia. Research in Dr. Gaiser’s lab has informed the progress of Everglades restoration and is integrated into the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program, which she has led since 2007.
Dr. Michael Parsons
Dr. Parsons is a professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the Coastal Watershed Institute and Vester Field Station. He was a State of Louisiana Board of Regents Fellow and received his doctorate from Louisiana State University in biological oceanography.
Dr. James Sullivan
Dr. Sullivan, executive director of FAU’s Harbor Branch, is an expert on marine ecosystem health. He earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in biological oceanography with specializations in phytoplankton physiology and ecology, as well as bio-optics and biophysics, from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography.
Dr. Valerie Paul
Dr. Paul has served as director of the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Florida, since 2002. She received her B.A. from the University of California San Diego with majors in Biology and in Chemical Ecology and her Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.