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
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.
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
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.