UWF and Gulf Islands National Seashore celebrate new partnership
Today, the University of West Florida celebrates a new partnership with Gulf Islands National Seashore to establish the Gulf Islands Research and Education Center. The GIREC will enhance and promote conservation, research and science education by directing research to high-priority resource management issues; promoting greater interaction between students, scientists and resource managers; and providing high-impact STEM educational opportunities for area students.
GIREC joins a network of 19 National Park Service Research Learning Centers that are working cooperatively to address regional and national environmental issues. Each year, Research Learning Centers, working with partner institutions, involve thousands of scientists and tens of thousands of students in park-based research and educational programs.
“We established this partnership to provide students with more opportunities to access high quality, hands-on science education,” said UWF President Judith Bense. “We want to see students taking part in environmental stewardship through new academic achievements and research that will influence and enhance the region.”
GIREC will integrate research and education programs to provide students and the public with the opportunity to work side by side with scientists conducting essential research. This ‘Citizen Scientist’ approach provides participants with a greater sense of environmental stewardship and a deeper knowledge about the natural resources in their community, while contributing valuable information to assist in resource management.
Research will focus on the management needs and resources of Gulf Island National Seashore, but will address issues of concern across the region including declining water quality, fisheries and wildlife conservation and reducing impacts from high-intensity storms. Through this partnership, GIREC will also work to provide the basic science needed to support the restoration of Gulf Coast ecosystems impacted by the Deep Water Horizon spill.
“We’re excited about opportunities the GIREC and the partnership with UWF will provide for cooperative research and education projects among regional agencies, educational institutions and non-profit organizations to support improved understanding of natural and cultural resources of the Gulf Coast,” said Dan Brown, GUIS superintendent.
GIREC reflects UWF and GUIS’s shared commitment to establish state-of-the-art research and education programs focused on the natural and cultural resources of Gulf Islands National Seashore and northern Gulf of Mexico. GIREC will be promoted nationally to encourage research, symposia and workshops related to Gulf Coast resource management, k-12 teacher training, citizen science and service learning. Resident and visiting scientists will contribute valuable expertise to the management of Seashore’s natural and cultural resources, and will expand education opportunities for area students.