Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On the Cutting Edge of Water Saving Science: A Look Back at 2016

By Michael Gutierrez

We're not usually in the habit of ending the year having to clarify what it is we do and why, but here we are. From my perspective, 2016 was a remarkable year in water research. Summer water quality issues in South Florida put our water in the national headlines for weeks (the debate rolls on). Then projections about future water demand in Florida underscored the need for continued work around water-use efficiency. Meanwhile our group of UF/IFAS water specialists on campus and around the state remained focused on providing solutions for present and future challenges, and I kept doing my best to find unique ways to communicate those efforts to you. What follows are some highlights from 2016.

Water researchers: Maria Zamora, Mackenzie Boyer, Eliza Breder, Michael Dukes & Bernard Cardenas
Statewide Work
One of the measures of successful research is how well it can move from design and data to real-world impact. For the Dukes research group (pictured above), the smart irrigation study in Orange County continued to inform policy this year when the Board of County Commissioners formally recognized the water-saving capacity of smart technology. There is already work around creating a watering restriction variance for smart device users

This year also saw UF/IFAS go even bigger on promoting and coordinating water-focused work in Florida by creating 5 positions for regional specialized agents in water. Each agent concentrates on the water issues specific to their sector. This year we profiled Dr. Lisa Krimsky from the South District. We’ll continue to profile the other water RSAs in 2017 to learn about the water issues of note in their sectors. In the meantime, keep up with their efforts on Twitter.

Irrigation Tools and How to Get Them
In my experience as a water resources tech with UF/IFAS I have never seen more interest in basic landscape irrigation know-how among IFAS staff around the state than in 2016. I wrote about one instance of assisting an agent in Lake County earlier this year. But we had other requests for help that we were not able to address. Fortunately, some of the best irrigation-focused programs in the state are currently lending their expertise to fashioning workshops where extension agents can learn irrigation system audit basics. How do I know they’re the best? Well in 2016 I had the privilege to work with both of them.  

Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit administers an irrigation rebate program as large as its region requires. This program is a model of UF/IFAS and utility collaboration. Further, despite their whopping load of field work they remain largely accessible online and eager to share their knowledge
On the Southwest coast of Florida is Manatee County Extension. Their mobile irrigation lab also executes an irrigation rebate program, the details of which I was so impressed with that I requested a ride-along this summer while in the area on other field work. The result of that meeting was a short video that tries to do some justice to how effective that team is in educating the public about water-use efficiency.
As more utilities move toward incentivizing smart irrigation technology, the demand for trainings and workshops for area irrigation contractors continues to grow. That’s where we come in. In 2016 the Dukes research group conducted 3 trainings in Southwest/Central Florida on proper installation and use of soil moisture sensors and weather-based irrigation controllers. Look for us in your area in 2017.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio at ASABE AIM 2016
Home Team
This year ASABE held their annual international meetings (AIM) in Orlando. Most of our water group presented research there and I had the opportunity to document really exciting student competitions like robotics and the fountain wars. AIM also served as an occasion for recognizing noteworthy work as Dr. Michael Dukes was honored with the John Deere Gold Medal and Dr. Kati Migliaccio won for Outstanding Associate Editor (pictured above). 

This was not the only honor Dr. Migliaccio would receive in 2016. This year the UF Water Institute recognized Dr. Migliaccio as a Faculty Fellow. Watch her Distinguished Scholar Seminar on the future of water management here.

For me collaborating with students is one of the more rewarding aspects of work in academia. At ASABE, UF ABE robotics team leader (and the future of precision ag) Amanda DeCanio was integral to me being able to complete the short video I was tasked with. Later, Ms. DeCanio agreed to reflect on her ASABE AIM experience for IrriGator.
UF ABE PhD Candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow Natalie Nelson continued contributing excellent entries to IrriGator this year – taking our readership along on her treks to conferences and researcher gatherings across the country. And while I missed my first Irrigation Show and Education Conference since 2012 this year, Food and Resource Economics PhD Candidate Maria Vrachioli attended as an E3 Learner and chronicled her experience with the wider irrigation industry for us as well.  

2017: You Are Invited!

The fall of 2016 found us dedicating considerable lab time to pressure regulating sprinkler bodies. This work helped inform what will eventually result in EPA WaterSense certification of spray sprinkler bodies (SSB) as water-saving devices. Despite the solitary nature of this lab work – research associate Bernard Cardenas toiling at the testing apparatus for hours with different sprinkler brands - we found inventive ways to bring our audience/the greater public into the lab with us. Similarly this summer, Dr. Michael Dukes and I translated a sensor wiring mishap and some great corrective work in Pasco County into an elucidating dialogue about water saving technology and perception. Look for this piece to go national in 2017’s first issue of Irrigation Today

We’re going to stay on the cutting edge of irrigation research because that’s where we need to be. See you in the new year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mehrhof Gardens: Florida-Friendly Landscaping in Our Own Back Yard

This summer I was involved in documenting the planning and execution of UF’s newest Florida-Friendly Landscaping demonstration piece: Mehrhof Gardens. Named after the buildings in its vicinity, Mehrhof Gardens helps beautify a highly visible, well-trafficked area of campus while serving as a living example of sustainable landscaping practices.

How Sustainable is Sustainable?
But can you really maintain an aesthetically pleasing landscape sustainably? This is a pressing question of late. This year the 1000 Friends of Florida, UF GeoPlan Center and FDACS released the Florida 2070 report. Its projections of future population growth, land-use alterations and greater demand on resources paint a sobering picture about what’s ahead for the Sunshine State. In light of this information, some in the know are reacting with austere prescriptions, while others are confident that we have solutions for tomorrow’s challenges.

In the meantime, when you're in the neighborhood stop by Mehrhof Gardens and maybe you’ll be inspired to add a Florida-Friendly touch to your home landscape.

Mehrhof Gardens: The designers speak!  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Irrigation Show & Education Conference 2016: A Student’s Perspective

Last week, UF Graduate Student Maria Vrachioli attended the Irrigation Association’s Irrigation Show and Education Conference as a participant in the immersive E3 Program for students and instructors. This is Ms. Vrachioli’s report back.

I am a third year PhD student in the Food and Resource Economics (FRE) Department in the University of Florida.  As an economist, I have focused on creating applied mathematical models to analyze water efficiency and productivity in the agricultural sector, where the ever increasing demand for food is challenging us to develop more efficient and sustainable ways of exploiting our natural resources. 
Maria Vrachioli - PhD Candidate, UF

Given that agriculture is the biggest consumer of fresh water in the world, irrigation is at the epicenter of this dilemma. To this end, my doctoral dissertation will be focused on understanding how the adoption of new irrigation technologies by farmers can allow them to use a scarce water resource more efficiently, while maximizing their profits. With the support of colleagues at the World Bank, this analysis will be applied on a data base of water consumption and agricultural production in Morocco.

E3 Program Ready
Attending the 2016 Irrigation Show and Education Conference as an E3 Learner will be a good way for me to bridge my academic research on agricultural water use with the latest technologies and practices in irrigation. I took two courses during the event: 
  • Agricultural Irrigation Specialist
  • Principles of Irrigation: Agriculture

Classroom POV: Irrigation is part theory and practice
These courses gave me a really good base on which I can build my future research and let me understand deeply the terminology used by the experts in the irrigation field. I would say that I enjoyed both of the courses, but the Principles of Irrigation in Agriculture course was a little bit more interesting for me as through this 2-day course I was afforded a good review of all the information I learned in different irrigation classes at university.

In the General Session presentation
One of the things that I found really surprising was despite the fact that we have so many efficient irrigation technologies available for farmers, sometimes training is lacking for them to properly adopt new irrigation technology. This results in less efficient irrigation practices and less profits for the farmers.

I spent many hours in the show floor of the IA event and I was really surprised by all the new and innovative technologies presented there. You could find all kinds of companies related to agriculture and landscape irrigation.

Hear the Bringing Water to Life Podcast live from the expo floor
Advice for 2017
Attending the Irrigation Show was an amazing experience for me and I strongly recommend students to attend it in the future. I strongly believe that applying to E3 cannot only help you build on your theoretical and practical skills through the courses, but also it is the best way to expand your network and why not get in contact with your future employer in the irrigation industry.

See you in Orlando, FL!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

“It’s really about communicating”: An Interview with Dr. Eric McLamore

This November, Dr. Eric McLamore, associate professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, was honored with a USDA Excellence in Teaching award in the New Teacher category. Dr. McLamore is popular among students in the ABE department for his wide-ranging research and a grant writing course he teaches which includes learning about and creating digital media. In fact, not too long ago Dr. McLamore worked with IrriGator on a short video about air conditioning condensate irrigation.

In this same collaborative spirit, Dr. McLamore recently shared with us some thoughts on his current research and receiving a teaching award.

USDA Excellence in Teaching award recipients for UF/IFAS: Eric McLamore and Nicole Stedman 
What do you focus on in your research?

We make biosensors – measurement technology for measuring small molecules, viruses, cells and everything in between. Most of our work is applied within food safety or water quality; although we do some medical and nutritional work as well.

Right now we have a big project where we’re trying to measure a bacterium in food called Listeria monocytogenes – it’s a particularly dangerous organism that affects children and the elderly. It’s a major problem across the world. We’re working in the US with food producers on both the water quality side – things like irrigation water within the farm and also the processing facility. And we’re also working overseas. We have a project in Colombia working with displaced refugees monitoring that pathogen as well as others on food - trying to help people who are very vulnerable from a health standpoint. We also have some work initiating in that same sort of humanitarian context in Malaysia right now.
La Toma: Colombian community impacted by small-scale gold mining
I mentioned that we measure small molecules. One of the larger things we’re measuring in a similar humanitarian effort in Colombia is mercury. That project is focusing on illegal gold mining which is prevalent in that region of the world. We’re working with a community of displaced Afro-Colombians and indigenous tribes who live in the mountains. The illegal miners use mercury to create what’s called amalgamate - which is how they extract the gold. The miners don’t understand the damage that they’re doing to the environment and to themselves and the indigenous communities by using so much mercury. We’re finding levels hundreds of times higher than what the World Health Organization allows in any drinking water. We also measure fish that the locals consume. We’re trying to put together a project where we can assist the community as well as help train the miners who are exposed to the most dangerous levels of mercury.
Read a WHO report on gold and mining health
You teach a grant writing course which emphasizes the usefulness of digital media in terms of professional development. How do you use these tools in your research?  

This is enormously important. In engineering we do a lot of nanomaterials and chemistry and physics and all these things – the fundamental sciences drive what we do. But at the end of the day it’s really about communicating it to people and making sure that they know where we’re coming from, they understand how to use the science in the way that we intended it to be used. 

Sampling and testing for mercury in water
And that really comes down to oral communication, digital media - these sorts of things. From a technology standpoint as well, the sensors typically output data that goes to a smart phone. So we’re getting to a point now where we’re going to start creating apps. We’re going to develop some of those things for the communities so that it’s user-friendly and not so sciencey.

Right now on the mercury project we’re working with a filmmaker in Colombia. We have several videos online. We need to get the message out and give a voice to the people who need help.

What does it mean to be honored with the new teacher award at this stage of your career?

It was primarily associated with the humanitarian work and bringing that kind of research into the classroom. It’s humbling and it’s a big honor. Just standing in the room with some amazing people who have been teaching their entire career and learning from them about all the things they do gave me a lot of confidence in what I’m doing.

Researchers and community leaders meeting 
What are some projects you’re focusing on in 2017?

The big thing is these two humanitarian projects. There are a lot of other projects that we’re working on that are important. For example, I have a student who is trying to make a type of breathalyzer, but it monitors a compound associated with diabetes that is the number one diagnostic tool for preventing death in children – it’s called diabetic ketoacidosis. He’s monitoring a specific maker in the breath that’s kind of difficult to measure with ornery kids who are sick and can’t communicate as adults can. Hopefully we can make a cute, fun breathalyzer that monitors this marker and helps these kids stay out of the emergency room because it’s a deadly problem. We have some other very important projects, but the humanitarian work has been a focus of the last year and will probably continue to be for the next four or five years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Focusing Irrigation Conservation Programs to Maximize Savings

By Mackenzie Boyer

Want to know how much potential a water utility customer has to conserve irrigation? First you need to know how much water they’re using. What about figuring this out for every customer in a utility? You’ll want to check out our recently published article “Mining for Water: Using Billing Data to Characterize Residential Irrigation Demand.” 

Treasure Trove
A utility’s monthly water billing records can hold a wealth of information - a gold mine, we would say. The monthly records, even when water meters measure only indoor and irrigation water combined, can provide a great insight into irrigation behavior of individual customers. And if the utility also has parcel identification data linked to their billing records? Jackpot. 

Research area

Tampa Bay Water just happened to have some very detailed, very comprehensive billing data for their six member governments (Pasco County, New Port Richey, Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, Hillsborough County, and Tampa). Our analysis of their data used over 30 million monthly billing records of over 165,000 customers - comprehensive, to say the least. The monthly total water use (indoor and outdoor combined) and parcel data were used to estimate each customer’s monthly irrigation demand (what we estimate customers actually used for irrigation). Each customer’s monthly gross irrigation required (GIR, what we estimate a landscape actually needed to be well-watered) was estimated using parcel, weather, and soil data.

Managing and manipulating the data required some heavy computing power. The statistical programs SAS and R were used, with R selected specifically to run a series of 875,000 calculations at UF’s High Capacity Computing Center. (It still took the computing center over a week to run all the equations.) ArcGIS was used to map customer locations and determine their site-specific weather and soil conditions. We grouped customers by their irrigation habits by comparing their demand to GIR (how much they irrigated compared to how much their landscape needed). Our groups were: high, medium, low and occasional irrigators.
Stay the Course
We found that many, many customers in the Tampa Bay region do not regularly irrigate (our occasional irrigator group). For this 85% of customers, the old adage “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” holds true. These customers should not be actively recruited for conservation programs because we don’t want to inadvertently increase their irrigation by recommending irrigation practices that use more water than their current practices.

Each occasional irrigator did not irrigate much, but the group was so large that the occasional irrigators were responsible for 51% of irrigation utility-wide. In contrast, only 2% of customers were classified as high users, and these customers were responsible for 9% of the irrigation demand.
Keys to Success
Successful irrigation conservation programs are far from one size fits all. Conservation programs should be targeted to the high user customers to maximize the water savings potential. Utilities often have the tools in their historical monthly billing records (even without the comprehensive data of Tampa Bay Water) to estimate how much irrigation customers use. Using this knowledge, they can direct conservation efforts to those who could benefit the most.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Smarten Up for 2017: A SWAT Training in Southwest Florida

Last week the Dukes research group conducted its third smart irrigation technology training of 2016. This collaboration with Tampa Bay Water and Florida Irrigation Society packed the Brooker Creek Preserve’s auditorium with area contractors, municipal reps, Extension faculty and local water management district staff eager to learn about water-saving technology.  

Best Practices
Following proper design and regular system maintenance, irrigation best practices also include using smart water application technology to avoid unnecessary irrigation. 
During the training, presenters covered types of smart technology and proper installation and programming. They also drew lessons from recent field experiences to underscore the importance of correct wiring to maximize device effectiveness.

Hands-on station with water-use expert Bernard Cardenas (courtesy: Dave Bracciano)
Frank Galdo explains it all
Guest presenter Frank Galdo of Pasco County Utilities (pictured above) stepped in during the latter section to discuss how two types of sensors (rain and soil moisture) can be used on one irrigation timer – a scenario his team encountered and diagnosed this summer.

In the Clouds
Seven vendors were also in attendance last week. Despite the growing popularity of the cloud-based irrigation timer sector, trainers kept the focus on soil moisture sensor and weather-based irrigation controller basics.

Fresh from Denver: team Rachio talks cloud-based tech
Vendors, however, had plenty to present on their unique interpretations of cloud-based irrigation technology – which allows for WiFi-enabled weather-based programming as well as remote access to your timer from any mobile device.

...without whom none of this would be possible
Looking Ahead
For anyone attending this year’s Irrigation Show and Education Conference (next month in Las Vegas), you know that smart water technology is continually improving. And the Dukes research team will continue to train irrigation professionals throughout Florida on these proven water-saving devices. See you in the new year!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One Water Saving Sensor Too Many? - A Dialogue

By Michael Gutierrez

Over the summer an area utility came to us with a technology problem. Due to an incentive-based program, soil moisture sensors were being installed on new housing development irrigation systems. This is just the kind of best practice we love to hear about. In this instance, however, the installers elected to add rain sensors as well. Wiring issues ensued.

This month the Dukes research group is conducting its 3rd smart water technology workshop of 2016. To mark the occasion, water-use expert Dr. Michael Dukes agreed to a discussion on the above “two sensors” situation so we can all better understand the installers’ intentions and what went wrong. This is also a preview of some of the topics that will be addressed in next week’s training.  

Dr. Michael Dukes instructs during a smart water technology training earlier this year
MG: Rain sensors v. soil moisture sensors – which is more effective?

MD: Soil moisture sensors are definitely more effective than rain sensors. We’ve shown that time and time again. They’ll reduce irrigation two to three times more under the same conditions. And longevity is better in soil moisture sensors. Despite this, rain sensors have been around for a long time and they are in everyone’s way of thinking – everyone being contractors, practitioners, utility people. To us, being close to the research it makes sense just to use a soil moisture sensor. “Why would you consider a rain sensor based on all this research?” Well, for practitioners one of the things that is on top of their mind is seeing an irrigation system run when it’s raining. A rain sensor would stop that. Their next thought is “why not add a soil moisture sensor. Wouldn’t my results be even better?”

A soil moisture sensor properly installed in an undisturbed soil profile
MG: As people that specialize in encouraging best practices, we like seeing practitioners install water saving devices. In reality, one well-installed, functioning device on a system is a rare thing. Two devices is something I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.

MD: In this instance, the only reason is to get the instant shut-off that a rain sensor would provide during a rainfall event. But think about it this way: we only have a limited amount of research on testing a soil moisture sensor with a rain sensor together and in that limited study there was a benefit. It wasn’t a great deal, but there was a benefit. But think about the conditions where you get a benefit: there has to be irrigation during a rain event and if you only have several irrigation events scheduled per week that means everything has to line up perfectly. I’m not sure how likely that is. The benefits to adding a rain sensor is probably marginal because we already know they require more maintenance. You’re adding something that needs more maintenance for some perceived benefit which is not all that great.

Rain sensor: going the extra mile and getting it right
MG: This is what I was thinking. Installers may not be so familiar with the research, but they know rain sensors. What it’s like to work with these devices. Why…

MD: There’s another angle on this though: the soil sensor technology we’re discussing in this instance is slower in reacting to moisture. So the addition of a rain sensor may actually help address this. It’s not a terrible idea.

MG: So intentionally or not, installers in this instance may have compensated for a short-coming of one device by adding another.

MD: That’s exactly right.

MG: I just stumble on the idea of willingly pairing two devices, when you know one will deteriorate before the other.

MD: Perception is reality. Perception is a big deal. We’re in the process of publishing a paper on the OCU research. And surveying homeowners participating in that study, their perception of water savings was more important than the actual water savings in their attitude of whether they were going to continue using smart irrigation technology in the future.

The Orange County Utilities (OCU) study also includes weather-based irrigation controllers (WBICs)
MD: The important part here is: having a rain sensor to prevent a system from running when it’s raining, that goes a lot toward perception. Having a system with only a soil moisture sensor is probably not a real problem in the long run, day in and day out over the year. But let’s say a developer sees a system watering in the rain one time. That may mean the difference between these new homes continuing to get this technology or not getting it.

MG: The only reason we’re actually aware of this "two sensors on one timer" practice is that something went wrong. Can you talk about this?

MD: What happened was the timers in this instance have a rain sensor port and the installers wired both sensors to that port. They intended an either/or scenario to interrupt irrigation. But when both are wired in this way they are in parallel, so both have to trigger to interrupt irrigation. They needed to be wired in series, so either/or would break the circuit.

When the soil moisture sensor can wire into the rain sensor port, a series connection is necessary (courtesy: Francis Galdo)
MG: In summary, if you insist on using two devices – rain sensor and soil moisture sensor – with your timer….

MD: Know your wiring.

Catch the Dukes research group in Tarpon Springs next week for more in depth insight

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Diverse Humans Create Diverse Robots

By Amanda DeCanio

This July, I had the honor of leading UF’s ASABE Robotics Team to the Annual International Meeting (AIM) in Orlando, Florida. I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of my team’s most telling moments thanks to this experience.

In the lead: Amanda DeCanio
The Task Before Us
For 2016, student teams were tasked with designing two autonomous prototype citrus harvesting robots. The overall goal was to collect, sort, transfer, and deposit orange and green ping pong balls, representing healthy and unhealthy oranges.

A mild-mannered part, but crucial to the process

The robot field of battle...and harvest 
Through this process our team collaborated on a design concept, came together for practices and team meetings, trusted each other's skills, and fanned each other’s desire to learn. I really enjoyed working with each member of my team and I am still smiling with the performance we showed and sportsmanship we demonstrated in those short two days of competition.

UF ABE's ASABE Robotics Team 2016
Eduardo Carrascal, Hao Gan, Akram Gholami, and Thiago Onofre were dedicated, passionate, and enthusiastic on a subject none of us specifically had much practice in. It was refreshing to work alongside such a diverse group of individuals and exciting to learn about each of their interests and backgrounds. We came together as a unit, played on each other's strengths, and closed the gaps on each other’s weaknesses.

Start Tinkering
Robots are unpredictably cool! If you have never played with robot parts, like an Arduino or a breadboard, pick some up and challenge yourself to make a motor spin. The first moment I ran a full circuit and made a motor start and stop under my command, more than just the gears clicked: I felt in control. I felt I had the power to command motion and robotic decision even though I knew my motor could not “think” on its own accord.

Harvest ready robots
A warm thank you to Dr. Ali Pourreza, Dr. Daniel Lee, and the UF ABE department; for believing in our shared goal and for pushing us out of our comfort zone to risks that in effect improved our overall experience.

As humans, our originality can be considered one of our greatest strengths; robots, on the other hand, can be mass-produced. Therefore, in the advancement of robotic technological design, we have a responsibility to maintain that creativity and boldness we innately possess. 

Relive the 2016 ASABE AIM Robotics Design Student Competition
(An ASABE & IrriGator collaborative production)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Messages, Asks and Leave-behinds: Geosciences Congressional Visits Day 2016

By Natalie Nelson

For the past 9 years, a collective of professional societies representing earth and space sciences, or “geosciences,” has invited scientists to travel to our nation’s capital and participate in Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (Geo-CVD). Geo-CVD aims to connect scientists with policymakers on the Hill in order to increase legislators’ awareness and appreciation of geoscience and science research. You might be wondering, what exactly falls under the umbrella of geoscience? Answer: anything related to the dynamics of earth and space! This includes, but is not limited to, the disciplines of geology, meteorology, climatology, oceanography, and – most relevant to this crowd – hydrology and water resources. As a PhD student and researcher studying Hydrologic Sciences through UF’s Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, I’m also a geoscientist.

This year, I applied to partake in Geo-CVD through the American Geophysical Union, and was ultimately invited to participate! In addition to being involved with all of the science policy goodness, I “took over” the AGU Instagram account as a #guestgrammer to give its followers a glimpse into Geo-CVD happenings. Some of those posts are included below, but you can also check them out directly @americangeophysicalunion.

Day 1: Communicating with Congress Workshop
Geo-CVD includes two parts: a half-day workshop to inform participating scientists of current legislation and the ways of the Hill, followed by a full day of meetings with congressional offices. At this workshop, we learned that each meeting on the Hill includes a message, asks, and leave-behinds. The message describes the driving motivation for the visit. Asks are specific actionable requests of policymakers, such as creation or co-sponsorship of legislation to address a particular need. Finally, leave-behinds include flyers and informational materials that can be left with the office for future reference.
At AGU Headquarters (top), scientists learned about the way in which meetings with congressional offices are structured. Below, a picture of part of one of the leave-behinds we gave to Florida legislators.

For Geo-CVD, we were armed with a message, asks, and leave-behinds (including one leave-behind I made on Florida’s Water Resources: Pertinent Issues and References). Our message was that strong and sustained federal investments in geoscience will support resilient communities, strengthen our global and economic competitiveness, enhance national security, and sustain a highly skilled workforce. Our ask was for congress to support strong federal investments in geoscience research and education, and we also asked that members of the House join the newly-formed House Earth and Space Science Caucus, and members of the Senate sign as co-sponsors on the Earth Science Week Resolution.    

Day 2: To the Hill!
We split into geographically-specific teams and made our way to Capitol Hill. Team Florida turned out to be a one-woman show (me!). With the company of Brittany Webster, Public Affairs Specialist, and George Marino, Public Affairs Intern, of AGU, I made my way to the offices of Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Florida Representatives Alcee Hastings, Ted Yoho, and David Jolly. We mostly met with legislative aides focusing on environment and energy policy, and met with Representatives Ted Yoho and David Jolly directly.

A photo posted by American Geophysical Union (@americangeophysicalunion) on

While going from office to office, I quickly realized how important it is for scientists to visit with the men and women in charge of appropriating and authorizing federal funding for science research, and creating policies that are (hopefully) informed by our objective and non-partisan science. The need for engaging both sides of the aisle on science issues is great, and there are no better stewards for science than scientists themselves! You don’t have to go to DC to advocate for science - a simple phone call carries more weight than you would probably expect. One Legislative Assistant (from a non-Florida office) shared with us that his office receives almost no calls from constituents concerned about issues related to science and funding for scientific research, and that this problem was not unique. Let’s change this!

If you’re interested in sharing your science with policymakers on the Hill, AGU hosts three Congressional Visits Days (CVD) per year – Climate Science CVD (Februrary) AGU CVD (April), and Geo-CVD (September). Apply!