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Feb. 24, 2017

Message from the Executive Director

District celebrates its many talented women in STEM fields

District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle was recently interviewed at the Palatka riverfront on the inspiration that led to her career in science.

March is Women’s History Month, and we at the District are observing the month by celebrating the women who work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields at the District.

Although women make up nearly half of the working population, they remain underrepresented in STEM occupations. In 2011, 26 percent of STEM workers were women and 74 percent were men. I’m proud to share that at the District nearly 40 percent of STEM positions are held by women. Working for an environmental regulatory agency, our staff members work in STEM-related fields every day. I’ve always said it’s a special privilege working here because of the very dedicated staff who are passionate about their work. It is no different when talking about the many intelligent and dedicated women at the District.

My journey into a STEM career began as a youngster. I was fascinated with the creatures in a creek I crossed each day on my way to and from school. I often stopped at that creek to collect tiny fish and tadpoles in a mason jar that I took home and placed in aquariums. I raised so many fish and tadpoles in my room that it resembled a junior scientist’s laboratory. My love of science grew from there, ultimately leading me to the University of Notre Dame where I earned a doctorate degree in limnology, or the study of lakes and other freshwater systems. During my college days, there weren’t many women in science fields. In fact, in some of my classes, I was the only woman. This fueled my passion even more, leading me to teach physics, chemistry and biology before working in the private sector as an environmental consultant and in the public sector at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and two water management districts.

For all those young women out there who are considering careers in science, technology, engineering or math I encourage you to follow your dreams. For those who aren’t, now is the time to ask yourself why in the world not! Careers and job openings are available for passionate, intelligent women who want to make a difference. Challenge yourself to at least consider the possibilities of a STEM-focused career.

It’s challenging for young women because the stereotypes are strong and the pressure can be overwhelming. Believe me, I know. I was a cheerleader and a proud science geek. You can do both! Join organizations and seek out like-minded peers and mentors. It has been said by others, and I’ll repeat it here, if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

For the next few weeks, I am turning over this weekly message to some of the talented women whom I have the honor to work with everyday. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about what inspired them to work in a STEM field as much as it has inspired me while getting to know them and watching them do their work.

New boat and kayak launch opens at Lake Apopka North Shore

Visitors and outdoor enthusiasts have a new way to explore the Lake Apopka North Shore. Representatives from several community organizations and governments joined the district Feb. 23 to celebrate the opening of a new recreational facilities at Lake Apopka North Shore.

Read more…

Controlled burn conducted at Orange Creek Restoration Area in Alachua County

The district conducted a 78-acre prescribed burn Feb. 21 at the Orange Creek Restoration Area North Tract in Alachua County, south of Southeast 219th Avenue in Island Grove and north of the Orange Creek Restoration Area boat ramp to reduce hazardous fuel loads and maintain fire-dependent ecosystems.

Read more…

This week in district social media

If you aren't following the district on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, here are some of the things you may have missed this week....

  • Thanks to district staffer Richard Guilfoyle from our Projects Division for his work with students from High Springs Community School. Richard is a former teacher and recently spent time working with 8th grade students learning about orienteering.
  • Thanks to district staffers Jessica Bell, Jennifer Mitchell, Deirdre Irwin and Danielle Spears, who were guest speakers and activity leaders at the Feb. 18 Expanding Your Horizons STEM conference at the University of North Florida. Science, technology, engineering and math play a big role at the district, and we were excited to share our passion for water with 180 girls at this year’s conference.
  • Shout out to Land Resources Bureau Chief Steven Miller and Land Management Specialist Taylor Schenk, who explained the benefits of prescribed fire and demonstrated a prescribed burn during the Red Hills Fire Festival at Tall Timbers in Tallahassee this weekend.
  • For #TrailTuesday we explored the district’s Econlockhatchee Sandhills Conservation Area in east Orange County. There, visitors can hike sandhills to pine flatwoods to swamp and the river within a short distance. For directions and a map, visit
  • For #WildlifeWednesday, we featured a white ibis (Eudocimus albus), which are commonly seen in wetlands and grassy areas throughout the district.

Water conservation tip

Use a faucet aerator to help save water. They can cut your water flow — and potentially your costs — in half while delivering sufficient water pressure for household needs.


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St. Johns River Water Management District
4049 Reid Street, Palatka, FL 32177
(800) 725-5922