Year in Review



The 1998-1999 school year was a successful year of events and recruitment for the University of Miami Student Chapter of the Florida Water Environment Association. Biweekly meetings, WEFTEC conference attendance, camping and canoe trips to local ecosystems, volunteer ecological restoration and Earth Day activities, participation in the ASCE environmental design competition, maintenance of a library, and a 50% increase in membership over the previous year, were hallmarks. Events were planned and carried out by the Executive Board, comprised of Walter Wilcox, President, Vandin Calitu, Vice President, Monika Kormienko, Treasurer, Gregorio Chavarria, Secretary, and Tracie Lutchmansingh, Historian, with guidance from Prof. James D. Englehardt, Chapter Coordinator. The following is a summary account of Chapter activities for the 1998-1999 school year.


This year, the 71st annual Water Environment Federation Conference (WEFTEC’98) was held in Orlando, FL. Taking advantage of the accessible location, six members and the Chapter Coordinator traveled to the conference. Members attended many technical presentations, and viewed some of the over 700 expositions relating to current academic research, technological advancements, and corporate opportunities. A highlight was the Conference career fair, which members also took advantage of. A further highlight was the presentation by Dan Meeroff, President Emeritus and current member of UM FWEA. Dan’s thesis, "Development of Filtration Processes for Separation of Emulsified Bitumen Fuels from Water," placed third nationally in the Masters student category of the FWEA Student Competition.


An objective of the Chapter is to foster a first-hand understanding of the environment which environmental engineers are charged with protecting. Thus, trips to local ecosystems are an integral part of Chapter activities. Camping trips to the Everglades for paid members of UMFWEA were also helpful in recruiting new members. Two successful Everglades trips were taken during the 1998-1999 school year. Both trips involved overnight camping at Long Pine Key Campground in Everglades National Park. Members were able to explore the many trails and natural features that the Everglades has to offer. Both trips also involved excursions by canoe into Florida Bay, where two sighting were made of Great White Herons, in addition to flocks of Roseate spoonbills and many other herons, egrets, raptors, crabs, fish, and alligators.


On each camping trip,members gained a first-hand appreciation of the beauty, wonder, and vulnerability of the natural Everglades. Members learned about the ecosystems comprising the Park and the Florida Bay area of the Everglades, and about ongoing Everglades restoration efforts. This experience led to an awareness of the importance of the Everglades, and the need to preserve the natural system for future generations.



The last trip of the fall semester was a canoe trip to the Loxahatchee River located in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This trip allowed members to get close to the river and appreciate a new ecosystem. The all-day event included social activities in which members and faculty were able to interact and get to know each other. Educational benefits included first-hand familiarity with the marine and freshwater ecosystems that include the river, appreciation of the natural ecological balance that must be protected, and acquisition of a sense of responsibility in the practice of engineering.



Again this year UM FWEA participated in the Environmental Event of the ASCE Regional Student Design Competition, held in Birmingham Alabama in March 1999. Four FWEA members traveled with ASCE student members to the competition. The competition consis ted of designing and building a system to treat a lake water having high levels of nitrate, phosphate, copper, and lead, as well as high turbidity, to EPA drinking water standards. The UM FWEA team spent weeks preparing the apparatus (consisting of filtration and ion exchange treatment) and performing practice runs to estimate removal efficiency. The group was ultimately rewarded with an eighth place finish out of 23 participating schools.


Every year the University of Miami holds an Earth Day event. This year the UM chapter of FWEA participated in the event by sponsoring an information booth at the Earth Day fair. The booth was supplied with fliers and brochures about the significance of preservation and conservation of natural resources. Members were available at the booth to answer any questions from fair goers. The booth was nicely decorated and attracted many students. This event provides an opportunity for the UM FWEA Student Chapter to reach additional students in the University who are not associated with environmental engineering, but who still may be interested in joining FWEA.


The UM FWEA Library has been updated regularly, with materials that are continually being donated. Members have catalogued every publication that is available at the library. This FWEA library room is also equipped with two computers and associated environmental engineering software. The Chapter hopes to have Internet access for these computers by next year so that students can utilize the Internet for research while working in the library. This would be a great resource for members, and would also provide an opportunity for students to access the UM FWEA web site. The UM FWEA homepage is in the process of being updated. In the next few weeks the web page format should be finalized and linked to the primary FWEA site.


Continuing the tradition of previous years, the UM FWEA chapter is once again coordinating a trip to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, to allow members to participate in the largest coastal restoration project in the United States. This is the third time that the Chapter has participated in the volunteer restoration effort, which was initiated following the uprooting of exotic Australian Pine woods by Hurricane Andrew. Students will help remove exotics invading the park, and will plant native species to help stabilize the coastal strand. The set date for this trip is April 25, 1999.


Elections for next year’s officers will take place on April 21, 1999. Plans for next year include the reestablishment of the seminar series from last year, semester trips, and continued participation in the ASCE Design Competition. Participation of UM FWEA Student Chapter in the FWEA Design Competition is also under continuing discussion by the Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering. The Chapter remains committed to continued operation of, by, and for the student members, and to the fostering of an ecologically-responsible approach to design in the engineers that will shape our environmental future.


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