Students win scholarship for annual Everglade Coalition Conference

Growing up in Tampa, ecosystem and policy major freshman Laruen Novorska recalls looking at animals, marine life and the oceans of South Florida. When she started to notice red tide, or harmful algal blooms in the waters near her home, she knew she wanted to do something to address and educate others on environmental issues in Florida.

Norvorska dedicates her time to environmental protection through sharing her insights. The Everglades Coalition Conference provided Norvorska with an opportunity to speak about her experience living in South Florida and learn from other speakers about ways to protect the Everglades.

“I think it’s very inspiring to be able to be in a room with people who are making a difference and who are really putting themselves out there and advocating,” Norvorska said.

Norvorska and sophomore ecosystem and policy major John Bianchini, along with three other UM students, were awarded the scholarship to attend the conference on Jan. 26-28 at the Ft. Lauderdale Marriott, Coral Springs.

Norvorska had the opportunity to speak about the economic, social and political roles of the environment on one of the panels.

“A lot of what I talked about was hope,” Norvorska said. “I think hope is something that I really struggle to find as a lot of our environmental problems surface.”

The conference focused on restoration of the Everglades through topics such as watershed protection, wildlife management and climate change solutions. Speakers discussed the implications of these subjects and recommended laws that could mitigate the fallout of these problems.

“A big focus of the conference was environmental policy and environmental law, so it was a really good way to network with environmental lawyers,” Norvorska said. “I was really happy and inspired by a lot of the things that I saw at the conference and the people I spoke to and what I heard.”

Native American tribal leaders also spoke on a panel, where they shared their perspective on the Everglades.

“It was just really cool, everybody from different angles of the Everglades coming together and kind of speaking with their experiences and their work, and really working together for a major restoration plan,” Bianchini said.

The conference also had networking opportunities for scholarship recipients who are looking to pursue careers in environmental protection.

“It was so amazing making connections that possibly could lead to either internship or career opportunities,” Bianchini said. “We talked about the future and how the students, a lot of the people there were of the earlier generations.”

The Everglades Coalition is a group of 57 conservation and environmental organizations that work to protect the greater Everglades ecosystem. This was the coalition’s 38th annual conference, where these organizations were able to share the protection work they have completed.

While the conference only happens one day of the year, students like Norvorska and Bianchini emphasized the importance of making smart decisions for the planet every day.

“Take any opportunity to try to make a difference in your community, whether it’s picking up trash that you see, or joining an organization and actually getting involved,” Norvorska said. “I think the easiest way you can get involved is to educate yourself about the environment and specifically about the Everglades.”