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Moonlight on the Marsh lecture series to focus on water

FGCU will host its fifth annual Moonlight on the Marsh lecture series beginning Thursday, Jan. 19.

The series began in 1995 in Ohio, but was brought to southwest Florida in 2012 by William Mitsch, FGCU professor and director of the lecture series.

Mitsch wrote in an email that one of the prevailing reasons for bringing the conference to Florida was “to expose the ideas of the best environmental scientists in the world to our FGCU undergraduate and graduate students.”

This year, the lineup of acclaimed scientists ensures that all those wishing to attend the lectures will be listening to some of the most innovative and inspiring ideas relating to this year’s theme of water.

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The five speakers will be presenting lectures encompassing everything from the issues surrounding water conservation to the importance of protecting wetlands in Florida and beyond.

The first speaker, Leom Landers, is a teacher at Radboud University in the Netherlands. The geographic location of the Netherlands has caused innumerable water problems for its citizens because of its location above a continental dent, making this region particularly susceptible to intense flooding.

In his presentation, Landers will discuss how the Dutch have found a solution to flooding, as well as explain how humans can approach water problems with the most efficiency and at the same time cause the least amount of damage.

The speakers following Landers have fascinating ideas about water as well.

Luisa Ricuarte, of Venezuela, will discuss the preservation of South American wetlands, adjusting classic approaches to conservation in order to make them more applicable to modern day water challenges.

Mitsch will be examining the Florida Everglades, analyzing both the effective and ineffective methods that have been used in an effort to save one of Florida’s most vital aquatic resources.

Gary Lamberti, another of the series’ guests, will speak on the pressing issue of the global freshwater crisis and Dr. Joan Rose on the increasing importance of the correlation between water quality and global health.

Although the majority of the speakers live outside of Florida, many of their lecture subjects have special implications for this region.

“The Dutch have come to the realization that it is too costly – and sometimes futile – to ‘control’ natural forces, and it is better to redesign our landscapes and protection systems that are capable of bending but not breaking,” Mitsch said in an email regarding Landers’s presentation.

Mitsch believes this kind of ideology can have transformative effects.

“This (kind of thinking) has enormous implications for south Florida where we are the world’s poster child to some for the ultimate changes that will occur to our coastlines and the humans who live here with sea level rise,” Mitsch said in an email. “We need to have policies that ‘bend but do not break.’”

Mitsch hopes that hosting this conference will educate those who attend on the ways water problems can be approached and eventually resolved, and also urge individuals to recognize their own environmental responsibility.

All of the lectures, except Mitsch’s, will take place in Harvey Kapnick Education and Research Center, located in the heart of the Naples Botanical Garden, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Those hoping to catch Mitsch’s lecture on Friday, Feb. 10, should go to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where his lecture will begin at 6:00 p.m.

Moonlight on the Marsh is free for all those who wish to attend, however seating can be limited and early registration is recommended.

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