Gulf Guardian Award 2019: Dr. Christina Simoniello

[Music]>>Christina Simoniello:
Today, we’re at Fort DeSoto Park, which is a
park in Pinellas County, where Tampa Bay, the Alafia
River, the Manatee River, and the Little Manatee all
feed around into the Gulf of Mexico. And so, the students were
out here today learning about water quality, why
it’s important to measure, some of the things
that impact it. [waves crashing] They were snorkeling,
looking at the seagrasses, and collecting animals to
measure the biodiversity. [paddle hitting water] They were also
paddling and kayaking through the mangroves in
the estuaries to look at how the mangroves are very
important as recyclers of nutrients in the
environment, how they serve as nurseries
and habitat. Students that are living
in the city, many of them have never even
been to the beach. Today, was the first time,
I’d say, about 50 percent of the students was first
time they ever snorkeled, the first time they ever
saw seagrass, the first time they ever pulled in pinfish
or held crabs in their hand. So, it’s really
valuable for them to make that personal connection. And we talk about the data
portal, the information they collect here then
ties in with what they have their peers collecting
at the Galveston Bay Foundation off — all around the
coast of Texas. The Gulf of Mexico Coastal
Ocean Observing System, it’s one of the 11
regions of the U.S. integrated ocean
observing system. We have Florida all
the way through Texas. There are a lot of
physical oceanographers and meteorologists out
there doing their own thing, but it was
never connected up. So, the early parts of
GCOOS were connecting up those
pieces through the data management and
communications part. As we’ve evolved, we’re getting more into
the biological systems, so bringing in information
about harmful algal blooms and how do you mitigate
and understand and manage the economic effects and
the tourism relationships that are connected to
these science issues. A lot of the data through volunteer networks
and through students and through school
programs fill gaps. They fill important data
gaps, where the federal or state government might not
be able to access on a regular basis, they might
not have the funds to process information
all the time. So, this is really
contributing to real data that are important. [paddle hitting water] People care about what
they’re connected to, and by doing these things they
learn their environment, where they live. They also connect to their
community, so communities become stronger. I fell in love with the
work because it’s very diverse. There’s never the
same day twice. One day I’m working in
academia — with academia. One day I am helping
repair sensors on the sea floor. One day I am at a
council meeting for city councilwomen and men and
working with city planners on floodplain
management issues. Another day, I might be
working with Nature’s Academy or other
nonprofit organizations. It’s very enriching. I feel like every day
I’m working with these different communities. I’m learning more about
the world I live in and more of the reasons why
and how we need to do more protective and
educational activity. I’ve been involved in
education probably since eighth grade, coaching and
volunteering for different science kinds of
organizations. And it’s just a natural
extension of the research and the science that
I’ve always done. And to make it meaningful
and useful to people, you have to get kids out there
and educate them, so they can understand it. Doing is knowledge; doing is learning
to love the environment. That’s really the
fundamental premise of getting kids out in the
field is they’ll be a part of the environment and
be connected to it. [Music]>>Narrator:
Congratulations to Dr. Christina Simoniello,
the first place Gulf Guardian award winner in
the individual category. [Music]

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