University group collaborates with local guides to help educate on coastal systems

Taking the research to where it matters most—our water.

One university group is collaborating with local guides to teach people more about our coastal systems.

Diving into Florida’s ecosystem, or in this case, paddling.

“I get to manage the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. It’s a 190-mile paddling trail within Lee County,” said Mike Hammond, coordinator for the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail.

Hammond makes no bones about it. “I have the best job in the world,” he said.

He has a point, just looking at the beauty of the mangrove tunnels.

“They help filter the water, they help reduce the risk of kind of tidal surges and hurricane events; they’re hugely important,” said David Outerbridge, director of the UF/IFAS Extension Lee County.

Just as our waterways intersect, so now will the University of Florida, Lee County and people like Hammond who make their living on the water.

They’ll share research and local knowledge. “To learn from them about the local ecosystems, but also to kind of get on the same page with them and extend the research of the University of Florida,” Outerbridge said.

“I just want to learn a little bit more, you know, get information that I also can pass on to my guides,” said Stefan Kuenzel, owner of Kayak Excursions.

Think of it as a symbiotic relationship.

“We can take that information and we can share it with others, share it with the tourists, our friends and family that come out and paddle,” Hammond said.

A connection our community will benefit from too.

If you’re interested in learning more about our local waters and the recreation possibilities below, check out these links:

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Briana Harvath
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