By Sheri Webber
The Northeast District of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (Northeast District) recognized Jacksonville University (JU) on April 12, 2019, for exemplary commitment to environmental awareness and protection. Among the accolades JU received, the Northeast District cited the implementation of sustainability and conservation initiatives, energy-efficient upgrades, recycling efforts, water conservation programs, and environmental activism.
Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Noah Valenstein, Northeast District Director Greg Strong, and Assistant Director Jim Maher attended the presentation of the Environmental Stewardship Recognition during a campus-wide Charter Day of Service luncheon on the Science Green.
“By actively promoting environmentally responsible practices Jacksonville University is leading by example to create a culture of sustainability and improve the environment in our community,” said Strong.
A Partnership-Driven Culture of Sustainability
The Northeast District touted several key partnerships JU has forged over recent years to support the University’s planet-first and healthy Campus goals. Though not an exhaustive list of JU’s green initiatives, among those named were OCEARCH at Jacksonville University, the “LEED Gold” status of the Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI) facility, and Tree Campus USA.
In early February 2017, the “OCEARCH at Jacksonville University” collaboration placed JU on the world stage for student-centric marine science learning and provided an academic home to the global leader in shark research. At its core, this partnership offers JU students unprecedented opportunities for experiential learning– at a classroom level and beyond. At the forefront of high-caliber research, together JU and OCEARCH educate tomorrow’s leaders. As the partnership expands over the years, JU’s premier and nationally recognized marine sciences program receive additional support and collaborative opportunities, as do students across all majors and disciplines.
Jacksonville’s waterways in the 1970s were not favorable to the survival of manatees. In response, city leaders and faculty from JU led a concerted effort from both public and private sectors to advocate on behalf of the endangered species. MSRI Executive Director Dr. Quinton White and JU Professor Dr. Gerry Pinto were among those who worked to stop the trend of more manatees being killed than were being born prior to 1980. Today, the actual total number of manatee in Florida waters may be closer to 10,000. JU involvement in championing Florida manatees continues with Manatee Research Center Online (MaRCO), manatee tracking, and ongoing student research, at the undergraduate and graduate level.
The Arbor Day Foundation has recognized JU with its Tree Campus USA distinction for four consecutive years. Less than 350 college campuses across the nation have met Tree Campus USA requirements which means JU is among only 15 universities in Florida to wear the badge of honor. Achieving the five Tree Campus USA standards involves a serious commitment to maintaining a tree advisory committee, having a campus tree-care plan, dedicating annual expenditures for those programs, hosting annual Arbor Day observances on campus, and promoting student service projects. These efforts dovetail into JU’s Healthy Campus initiatives.
“I’m proud of the great work we’re doing at Jacksonville University, and I believe our approach to sustainability is instilling a deep appreciation for environmental stewardship in the next generation,” said Dr. White. “JU’s riverfront campus creates a doorway for students to both study and enjoy the natural beauty around them, and our commitment to service and community engagement inspires students to do their part to protect our precious natural resources.”
About the Environmental Stewardship Recognition Program
In its mission to partner with communities and businesses to protect natural resources, the Northeast District established the Environmental Stewardship Recognition Program to recognize corporate and non-profit partners who go above and beyond to protect Florida’s natural environments and wildlife. Headquartered in Jacksonville, the Northeast District provides many services, including environmental permitting assistance, emergency response, and environmental education in 19 Florida counties. The Northeast Florida region has more waterways than any other across the state. The St. Johns, Nassau, Tolomato, and historic Suwannee Rivers, along with several others, benefit from the Northeast District’s oversight.
“JU’s riverfront campus creates a doorway for students to both study and enjoy the natural beauty around them.”