UWF Environmental Studies instructor helps monitor Pensacola shoreline
Chasidy Hobbs, an environmental studies instructor at the University of West Florida since becoming a graduate teaching assistant in 2006, says she “loves having the opportunity to help students see the big picture and interconnectedness of our lives and the world around us.”
As executive director of Emerald Coastkeeper of Pensacola, a non-profit member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, she is also a visible and frequently quoted source regarding the local environment. Since the April 20 oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, Hobbs has been monitoring Pensacola’s coastline looking for signs of impact. Late last week, she flew via helicopter with a videographer/photographer from the Alabama state line to Panama City to document the site’s pre-oil impact condition.
Q: What kind of response are you experiencing from the community?
A: I have never seen our community come together over any issue as we have regarding this one. Former rivals are working together to do everything they can to prepare for the worst. It is a light in the darkness.
Q: What types of questions are residents asking you?
A: Most folks want to know what they can do to help. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot individuals can do, especially once oil washes ashore. The oil and dispersant used are substances requiring hazardous materials training in order to help on the frontlines. Also, most people want to help the animals who will be impacted. However, it has been shown during past spills that well intentioned folks often do more harm to wildlife by not handling them properly than the oil itself does.
Q: What are their primary concerns?
A: Tourism is a concern. Tourism is our No. 1 economic engine and it is already being impacted even though the oil hasn’t arrived yet. Of course, there is also the obvious harm to our fisheries and all aquatic life in the Gulf.
Q: What can be done right now, besides watch and wait?
A: Drive less and use less energy. Residents can tell their government representatives that they support clean renewable energy and feel subsidies should be going to support those industry rather than oil companies which post record profits.
For more information about the UWF Department of Environmental Studies, visit uwf.edu/environmental. For more information about Emerald Coastkeeper or to volunteer or to join her e-mail list, contact Chasidy Hobbs at Chasidy@EmeraldCoastkeeper.org or visit EmeraldCoastKeeper.org.
By Susie Forrester, University Marketing Communications