Florida’s seashores, lakes, rivers and springs make it a unique spot in the world. In Southwest Florida, water is an area of intense focus in recent years as various sectors work to protect the resource.
Florida Gulf Coast University, in Fort Myers, has established The Water School, recognizing the critical role water plays in the region. A new 114,000-square-foot teaching and research facility that will house The Water School will open its doors to students in the fall of this year. It will be home to world-class laboratories set to study water.
“Southwest Florida is surrounded by water, with Lake Okeechobee to the east, important estuaries and rivers to the north, the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and the Florida Everglades and Florida Bay to the south,” says Greg Tolley, executive director of The Water School. “The region is also impacted by water-related hazards such as flooding, droughts, sea level rise, hurricanes, tropical storms and water security in some of our marginalized communities. Southwest Florida’s economy is a water economy — from tourism, to the resort and hospitality industry, to real estate, to agriculture, to ecotourism.
“There are other institutions that focus on water, such as University of Florida’s Water Institute, but no other institute is as interdisciplinary as The Water School,” notes Tolley. “The Water School brings together faculty from across academic disciplines to plan far into the future and across geographic boundaries to ensure that we do not continue to create unintended consequences from environmental solutions that are not well thought out and well implemented.”
The Water School has four areas of focus for teaching and research. These include coastal resilience, ecosystem integrity, restoration and remediation, and human health and wellbeing. Tolley notes all four areas are integral to a healthy environment and vibrant economy that will ensure Southwest Florida remains a thriving community.
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