Joseph M. 'Donny' Smoak, Ph.D, in the Everglades.

Environmental Science professor invited to China climate change conference

Joseph M. “Donny” Smoak, Ph.D., associate professor of Environmental Science, is among a handful of U.S. scientists invited to present at a climate change conference in China next month.

Nanchang University will cover travel expenses for Smoak to make a one-hour presentation at the International Workshop on Global Change and Aquatic Ecosystems, May 27-29.

Smoak recently was awarded a National Science Foundation grant for research in Everglades National Park. The $168,582 grant is part of the National Science Foundation’s Water Sustainability and Climate program. The research will help scientists better understand how coastal wetlands respond to sea-level rise and climate change.

The conference invited Smoak because of his “tremendous accomplishments in the field of aquatic research,” according to the invitation from Professor Jinbao Wan of Nanchang University.

The goal of the conference is to “provide a better understanding of the causes and consequences of ecosystem degradation and highlight the implementation of proper strategies for the restoration of impaired aquatic ecosystems in China,’’ Wan wrote.

The topic of Smoak’s presentation is “Carbon Sequestration and Climate Change Considerations.” He also was invited to present afterward at the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing.

“I am honored to be invited to a conference devoted to such a globally important topic as climate change,’’ Smoak said. “Many of the issues we are studying in the Everglades are at work in China because many aquatic systems there also have undergone major human alterations and are being influenced by climate change.”

Norine Noonan, regional vice chancellor for academic affairs, said Smoak’s invitation reflects USF St. Petersburg’s recognized strength in environmental science. “Donny Smoak’s research in the Everglades will make an important contribution to our knowledge of the impact of climate change worldwide,” she said.

USF St. Petersburg Interim Regional Chancellor Bill Hogarth announces the launch of the first car-sharing program in Pinellas County.

USF St. Petersburg introduces car-sharing program

USF St. Petersburg has launched its first car-sharing program, an affordable transportation alternative that will be available for for students, faculty and the general public.

The new program, announced today by St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and USFSP Interim Regional Chancellor Bill Hogarth, will be operated by WeCar by Enterprise, which runs a similar program at USF Tampa.

The program was initiated by the Center for Urban Transportation Research at USF Tampa in partnership with WeCar by Enterprise, the Florida Department of Transportation District Seven and USF St. Petersburg. The program is open to USF St. Petersburg students, faculty and staff immediately and to the general public in the coming weeks.

The membership-based, automated car rental option offers an environmentally sustainable, efficient and cost-effective alternative around the clock. Two vehicles, a Nissan Cube and a Fiat 500, will be available for registered members at covered spots at the USFSP parking garage, 250 5th Ave. South. More cars can be added depending on demand.

“We are extremely pleased to offer this affordable transportation option to the downtown community,” said Dr. Hogarth. “We hope the program will reduce the need for cars on campus and contribute to our ongoing sustainability efforts.”

Attending the launch of the WeCar program were (left to right) Student Government President Mark Lombardi-Nelson, Mayor Bill Foster, USF System Trustee Debbie Sembler, Interim Regional Chancellor Bill Hogarth and City Council Chair Karl Nurse.

Attending the launch of the WeCar program were (left to right) Student Government President Mark Lombardi-Nelson, Mayor Bill Foster, USF System Trustee Debbie Sembler, Interim Regional Chancellor Bill Hogarth and City Council Chair Karl Nurse.

Mayor Foster praised the initiative as the latest example of the longstanding partnership between the city and its only public university. “As the first green city in Florida, St. Petersburg is committed to being a good steward of the environment,” Foster said. “This program will enhance St. Petersburg’s reputation as a livable city.”

The program is a perfect fit for St. Petersburg’s pedestrian-friendly environment and large population of downtown residents who may opt not to own a vehicle.

Under the program, USFSP students who are registered members 18 or older can reserve a car online. They access the vehicle using a membership card and then return it to the same location. Fuel, basic physical damage and state-required liability protection are included in the standard rate plan, which begins at $8.50 an hour. Non-students must be at least 21.

Car-sharing programs are especially popular with students because they provide a solution to car rental age restrictions as well as financial concerns associated with having a car on campus. A credit card is required to register.

The program is designed for short trips, such as a day at the beach or shopping at the mall. Full-day rentals are also available.

“Our car-sharing program is a sustainable, totally automated and efficient mobility option that can help alleviate parking and transportation challenges at universities across the country,” said Ryan Johnson, assistant vice president of WeCar and Rideshare for Enterprise.

USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) conducted a study of the car-sharing program’s impact on travel behavior. “The study, funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Transportation, found that participants in car-sharing programs modified their travel behavior based on a dynamic price structure,” said Julie Bond, senior research associate at the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research.

USF St. Petersburg’s downtown location is a plus, said Mayor Foster, because hundreds of apartment and condo dwellers live within a short walk of the WeCar site.

WeCar programs are supported by the extensive Enterprise Rent-A-Car neighborhood network of more than 5,500 rental offices located within 15 miles of 90 percent of the U.S. population. Local Enterprise operations maintain cars and have the flexibility to add WeCar vehicles to meet demand. The company operates car-sharing programs at more than 50 colleges across the U.S. and Canada as well as corporate, government, military and downtown locations.

Eckerd College launched a similar program last summer, run by U-Haul, open to students, faculty and staff.



Historic Williams House

Big, slippery words: “sustainable and authentic”

My first introduction to travel writer Herb Hiller was a book that Professor Gary Mormino suggested, Highway A1A: Florida at the Edge.

The second time, I met him and filmmaker Caroline McKeon in the Snell House (home to USFSP’s Honors Program and Florida Studies programs). Hiller and McKeon were planning a conference, Sustainable and Authentic Florida, which is scheduled for October 17-19 in nearby Anna Maria Island.

After discussing their conference plans with Mormino and Florida Studies Program director Chris Meindl, we all strolled down the street for lunch at Kahwa, a great local coffee shop.

Walking and talking with Hiller, it became clear that we have much in common. Besides similar environmental and travel ethics, we also share a fondness for what Hiller calls “authenticity” of local experience, though I’m still bending my mind around what that term actually means in this context.

Descriptors like “unique” and “place-based” barely scratch the surface. Deep connections with local ecosystems and economies (e.g., “mom and pop” businesses) are certainly implicated.

Perhaps embracing authenticity means fostering historical and cultural continuity, like vernacular architecture, but I also hope that it can be open to diversity and the global exchange of ideas.

(Free market intellectualism ought to be a pillar of the information age, no?)

Green Lodging Florida sign

Green is everywhere. Photo: Tim Hipps, U.S. Army

“Sustainable” is a similarly slippery word. Now that it’s trendy to be “green,” it gets my hackles up when such adjectives are mis- or over-used. Yet these are conversations we need to be having across all disciplines.

The three pillars of sustainability – environment, economy, equity – are complex and demanding of thoughtful inquiry. Engaging “Sustainable and Authentic Florida” is doubly so.

I’ve kept in touch with Hiller and McKeon since our first meeting and they’ve enlisted me as a participant and blogger for the upcoming conference. It promises to be an intriguing event, a continuation of my Florida Studies experience as well as food for thought on my gap-year travels.