DEP Staff Earns International Recognition for Environmental Education Efforts

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection received two awards from the World Water Monitoring Challenge for its environmental education and awareness programs throughout the state. The Office of Environmental Education was awarded the Group Champion award for the entire North American continent, and Jackie Turner of the Florida Park Service won the Individual Champion award for the North American continent for her work in the Wakulla Springs State Park.

“The Department is honored to have Jackie Turner and the Office of Environmental Education lead our water quality education initiatives,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. “Committed employees like these are the reason our agency is so successful, and they are ensuring that the next generation is excited about environmental protection.”

In 2012, the OEE registered 210 sites statewide – more than other state in the nation. Over the five month span of the challenge, those sites gathered more than 4,100 participants including students, teachers and other community groups. The office served as the spearhead for the entire state effort by promoting the challenge, providing training to staff and volunteers, registering participants and managing the data collected.

In addition to the OEE staff, the Department was able to integrate the Learning In Florida’s Environment program into the challenge, which is specifically designed to offer access to teachers and students from underserved schools into Florida’s ecosystems to enhance learning opportunities. The Department was able to apply the LIFE program at 18 locations as well as the seven District offices.

Jackie Turner of the Florida Park Service was the Department’s other award winner, receiving the Individual Champion award for the North American continent. Jackie is a Park Specialist at Wakulla Springs State Park and has been participating in the World Water Monitoring Challenge for the past six years.

“We are so proud of Jackie for winning this award, but even more so for her commitment to water quality,” said Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. “Her dedication and ability to connect with children will multiply the Department’s efforts in the future through the education of our residents.”

Jackie’s program takes students, teachers and parents on a tour of the Wakulla Springs State Park’s vast spring and river system in groups of up to 15 for a full day of exploration and learning about water quality and plant life. In addition, the tour includes a look into the microbiological makeup of the waterways, where participants can gain a deeper understanding of the complex systems within Florida’s environments.

For more information on the World Water Monitoring Challenge, visit their website at

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