Dr. Greg Tolley is the Executive Director and Professor of the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. He was the guest speaker at the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday, July 9, at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa.
Tolley’s current research interests focus on the influence of freshwater inflow on estuarine ecosystems and aquatic resources. However, he spoke to Chamber business members about the differences and similarities of blue-green algae and red tide, as well as the goal of newly created FGCU Water School. While water is a broad term, the focus of the school is on water security or its impact on the health of humans and ecosystem, and economic and social development.
“I like to think about how they connect with one another,” said Tolley. “If we get the water right, we have a healthy ecosystem and a healthy us. If we have a healthy ecosystem and a healthy us, we have healthy businesses and a healthy society.”
He explained that the water has been different this year – receiving half of the rainfall to date compared to 2018 and the Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing in pulses. “Water makes all the difference in the world here – in terms of what nutrients are being delivered to the system and how fresh water flows impact the system,” said Tolley.
Some of the water issues we are dealing with today were created because people weren’t thinking in a systems manner or how something done today might have an impact a decade later, he explained. “I want you to think about how all of these things are connected,” he said.
Tolley has been an active member of the community, having served on the boards of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, as well as the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium. He currently serves on the board of directors of Fish Florida, the Florida Foundation for Responsible Angling.
“We appreciate Dr. Tolley speaking to our members on the critical topic of water,” said Chamber President John Lai. “It’s important to understand the many impacts of poor water quality and how they are connected.”
The luncheon was sponsored by Captains for Clean Water, a grassroots non-profit organization that advocates for the elimination of harmful, large-scale Lake Okeechobee discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River estuaries by restoring the natural flow of Lake O water south into the Everglades and Florida Bay.
The next luncheon will be at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the Captiva Island Yacht Club, 15903 Captiva Dr. Registration is required and can be done at sanibel-captiva.org or by calling the Chamber at 239-472-1966.