News Releases

FWC reaches out to the public in a variety of ways

As I See It

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Media contact: Chairman Rodney Barreto

Keeping the public informed about the activities of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is more than a full-time job. It is a part of every FWC employee's day-to-day duties, as well as the goal of agency outreach activities.

The FWC communicates with the public through a variety of formats, including print, in-person and electronic. Some interactions may be brief, while others may be more in-depth. FWC staff members respond to phone calls and e-mails, distribute news releases, answer questions from reporters, produce publications, present seminars and workshops, post new information on the agency's social media and websites and much more.

It is a challenging task to reach everyone who plays a role in fish and wildlife conservation in Florida, especially when the audience includes 18 million Florida residents and the many people who visit our great state. Yet, with an area of responsibility as large as the whole state, and with the diversity of species and habitats that fall under the agency's umbrella, the FWC recognizes that a well-informed public is a vital part of fish and wildlife conservation.

To reach the public directly with information about Florida's fish and wildlife, the FWC hosts and participates in a variety of outreach activities throughout the state. Outreach events such as festivals, trade shows, open houses and fairs provide not only opportunities to display and demonstrate the work conducted by the FWC, but also a venue for distributing resource information to event attendees. These events provide FWC employees the chance to explain their role within the agency, discuss their current projects and answer questions.

The FWC's participation as an exhibitor at the Florida State Fair is a great example of public outreach aimed at creating awareness of the agency and its mission. Each February, the FWC hosts an exhibit in the red barn at the state fairgrounds in Tampa. In 2010, many of the 354,000 fair visitors made their way through the FWC's exhibit during the 12-day event. As they strolled through the red barn, the slogan of "FWC is research, management and law enforcement" informed visitors of the three core agency functions. To emphasize the slogan, portions of the exhibit showcased items related to each of the core areas.

To highlight the FWC's current research projects, interactive question-and-answer panels accompanied graphic displays with photographs and video. Live largemouth bass and snook, as well as a panther and a black bear, were on display to draw attention to species native to our state and the important management messages relative to them. In addition, a Burmese python, a Nile monitor and a lionfish were present to emphasize the nonnative species issues that face Florida. The role of law enforcement in ensuring compliance with rules and promoting public safety was illustrated with a law enforcement airboat and a video promoting the "Wear-It" life jacket campaign.

The effectiveness of the state fair exhibit was enhanced by the presence of FWC staff from across the agency. While fairgoers were definitely drawn to live animals on display, law enforcement officers also drew quite a crowd. These knowledgeable officers took time to answer questions and share their experiences for those who might be interested in pursuing a similar career. Other FWC experts were on hand to share information about the agency's management activities and describe details of scientific studies that enhance knowledge of our state's fish and wildlife. The personal contact with FWC staff helps to "put a face" on the agency and encourages communication between the FWC and the public, which is critical to the success of conservation efforts.

Another outreach event designed to showcase the work of the FWC is MarineQuest. Visitors of all ages can experience science first-hand at MarineQuest, the annual open house of the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI). 2010 marks the 16th year of this free event, which will take place Saturday, April 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the FWRI headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg.

Visitors to MarineQuest can check out live animals in touch tanks, interact with some of Florida's top scientists and learn about fish and wildlife research in Florida. The science behind the FWC's management is presented for all ages. There are even special activities for children, including wildlife origami, face painting, the Japanese art of "gyotaku" fish painting and "reel" fishing for redfish.

FWRI has what I believe to be the finest staff of researchers in the world. Their passion for their work is clearly demonstrated in their enthusiasm and creativity to make science fun at MarineQuest. More information about this hands-on, interactive event can be found at http://research.MyFWC.com/marinequest.

The FWC participates in so many other outreach activities that it isn't possible to list them all. Some of the FWC's facilities regularly host outreach and educational programs, such as those at Chinsegut Nature Center in Brooksville, while other organizations often invite the FWC to participate in their events. The FWC also has partnership agreements with other organizations to enhance outreach efforts, such as the collaboration with the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center near Tallahassee.

You can view a list of many activities on the FWC's online calendar of events. You may also hear about other activities through local event organizers or your local news media. I encourage you to learn more about the FWC and its outreach activities by going to MyFWC.com.



FWC Facts:
Gopher frogs will travel great distances, up to a mile or more, to breed in temporary ponds year-round, laying eggs in shallow water.

Learn More at AskFWC