Kimberli Ponzio enjoys her work as a wetlands scientist, especially when she gets to work outdoors.
Guest message: Kimberli Ponzio, Environmental Scientist IV, Bureau of Water Resources
Free time spent along the Peace River inspired wetlands scientist
I have always had a love of science and the outdoors. In high school, I was determined to become a medical doctor and, when it was time to go to college, I enrolled in Florida Atlantic University in the pre-med program. I enjoyed all the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses, but two classes were especially interesting to me: ecology (interestingly, taught by Dr. Marsh) and plant taxonomy and physiology. When I was bitten by the “botany bug” and took a job with a water management district working in the Everglades and Kissimmee River, it changed the entire direction of my life.
During March, the district is sharing insights like mine into the career paths of several men and women at the district who are protecting and preserving Florida’s water resources through a career in STEM.
In talking with other wetland scientists and thinking about my own life, I realized that the outdoor experiences we had as children were the reason why we now find our passion in wetland science or a STEM career. Not only do we work in the outdoors (some more than others), but we also find great restorative powers in doing so. I grew up in Florida where the weather was pleasant year-round for spending time hiking in the pine flatwoods, swimming in lakes and springs, and canoeing the rivers and creeks. I believe the defining experiences in my life were the times I spent on the Peace River, where my family and I spent nearly every vacation, long weekend and most of our summers.
As a wetland scientist, the majority of my time is spent participating in large-scale, ecological studies that are designed to better understand wetland ecosystem processes and serve as a basis for implementing science-based management strategies to restore and preserve wetlands in the Upper St. Johns River Basin. While in the office, I work with computer programs to analyze biological data that helps to manage the wetlands that we have restored or are conserving. One powerful tool we have is using a geographic information system (GIS) to map wetlands and to analyze spatial patterns of plant community change and how it relates to water, fire, and mechanical or chemical control.
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is to get out and experience the beauty of the wetlands and the water resources we are protecting, especially when out on an airboat. I also love to work with the people from the district, in other state and federal agencies, at universities, and even with colleagues from around the world. I am energized by their enthusiasm for the work of protecting and restoring wetlands. The wonderful thing about working in a STEM career is that it’s not only a vocation, but also an advocation!
(This article is part of our March STEM campaign where we are featuring district staff in science, technology, engineering and math fields. For more articles and related info check out our webpage at www.sjrwmd.com/STEM/staff)
Board approves Fellsmere Water Management Area public access project
Good news for boaters and anglers anxious for fully developed boating access to Fellsmere Water Management Area (FWMA) in Indian River County. The district’s Governing Board on March 13 approved an agreement with Fellsmere Joint Ventures that will allow for construction of a boat ramp and other amenities at the northeast corner of the 10,000-acre reservoir.
District to evaluate project to restore Lake Jesup flow, improve water quality and habitat
The district’s Governing Board on March 13 approved a feasibility evaluation of a proposed project to restore the flow between the St. Johns River and the eastern portion of Lake Jesup. The project would potentially enhance water quality and habitat in the lake and is supported by local stakeholders and Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs.
District proclaims April 2018 as Springs Protection Awareness Month
For the fifth consecutive year, the district’s Governing Board has approved a proclamation designating April as Springs Protection Awareness Month. The annual designation helps increase awareness about the importance of Florida’s springs and encourages residents and stakeholders to participate in the protection of springs.
April is Water Conservation Month
The district’s Governing Board on March 13 approved a proclamation designating April as Water Conservation Month to encourage awareness about the importance of water conservation.
February rainfall below average across the district
February proved to be a dry month for the 18 counties within the district, with most of the district receiving less than an inch of rain. By comparison, average February rainfall for the district’s southern counties ranged between 2.5 and 3 inches.
Water conservation tip
This week in district social media
- Thanks to district staffers Susan Davis and Mat O’Malley for submitting photos and information this week.
- A big shout out to our local government partners who are already joining the district in declaring April as Water Conservation Month! These partners include the cities of Altamonte Springs, Belle Isle, Fellsmere, Flagler Beach, Hawthorne, Indian Harbour Beach, Leesburg, Ocoee, South Daytona, St. Augustine Beach, West Melbourne, Winter Park, the towns of Beverly Beach, Frederick, Grant-Valkaria, Indialantic, Interlachen, Malabar, Marineland, Melbourne Village, Micanopy, Orange Park, Pomona Park, the Space Coast League of Cities, and Lake, Putnam and Volusia counties.
- Slow and steady? Not this one! District staff spotted a gopher tortoise near the Moses Creek Conservation Area in St. Johns County and captured it on video. #gophertortoise #mosescreek #tortoise #reptile #reptilesofinstagram #mosescreekconservationarea #herpetology #sjrwmd
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