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Kickstarter campaign launches for Florida conservation

Less than 10 days before the controversial hunt for Florida’s barely-off-the-endangered-species-list-black bear begins, the Florida Wildlife Corridor will launch its Kickstarter campaign Thursday, Oct. 15th, to promote its new film and forthcoming book, The Forgotten Coast: The Return to Wild Florida, based on months of expeditions inspired by the Florida black bear’s journeys through the interior of the state.  

“[The Florida Wildlife Corridor] is hiding in plain sight -- we are all situated on the coast looking outward, and maybe forget about Florida heartlands,” says Florida Wildlife Corridor Executive Director Mallory Dimmitt who is spearheading the project and the expeditions behind it. She notes that there is an urgency to conservation and awareness as Florida’s population is estimated to reach 35 million by 2060. “We can still maintain wild Florida and all the creatures that rely on it as Florida grows.” 

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is both the name of the environmental advocacy organization as well as the term used to describe the territory it is dedicated to conserving: nearly 16 million acres of “lands and waters essential for the survival of Florida’s diverse wildlife” – including the 9.5 million acres already protected – that span the length and width of the state. 

The Forgotten Coast documentary is gleaned from the thousands of hours of footage taken during two Florida Wildlife Corridor expeditions traversing Florida undertaken by Dimmitt, wildlife Photographer Carlton Ward, Biologist Joe Guthrie, and Filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus on foot, bike and paddle. The idea, says Dimmitt, was to “explore wild Florida the way a bear or a panther could still travel through our state.” She says she hopes the film “inspires people to protect our quality of life, for all of Florida.”

During the first expedition in 2012, the team trekked more than 1,000 miles in 100 days from south-to-north, starting in the Everglades and finishing in the south of Georgia. From January to March of this year, the east-to-west expedition took the team from the Everglades Headwaters to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Florida Panhandle. 

The Kickstarter campaign will run until Friday Nov 20th, the day after the broadcast premiere of the film. The urgency to raise funds is critical and ambitious for the organization as Kickstarter is all-or-nothing crowdfunding, dependent on reaching the target fundraising goal of $37,000.  

The film’s exclusive broadcast premiere will air November 19th on WUSF-TV with a premiere event the week prior at the Tampa Theatre.  The new funds will allow the organizers to raise awareness and promote the film to PBS channels and film festivals around the country. 

Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission wins award for best practices

Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) was honored this month by Sustainable Florida, a statewide organization with a vision to “protect and preserve Florida’s environment while building markets for Florida’s businesses” through sustainable best practices. The group awarded its Best Practice Award for Community Engagement to EPC’s annual Clean Air Fair initiative.

“Our agency is really big on outreach,” says Jeff Sims, General Manager of EPC’s Air Division, which runs the fair. The fair, he says, “becomes a big interaction point for the public.” Sims says the award is new to Sustainable Florida this year and that the EPC was among stiff competition, about 20 businesses, competing for it from around the state. 

Margaret Rush, the EPC’s Sustainability Coordinator says beyond providing a forum for educating the public on what the exhibitor companies are doing – something that is not always easy to understand in the abstract – the Clean Air Fair also creates a unique networking opportunity for a cross-section of business, civic and governmental groups “to talk about minimizing pollution” and for businesses to gain peer-to-peer knowledge on sustainable best practices. 

Launched in 2001, the EPC’s Clean Air Fair is an annual event meant to celebrate the month of May as Clean Air Month, as designated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Air Fair is open and free to the public and exhibitors alike, with the aim of raising awareness and promoting environmental and sustainable practices.  

This year’s event attracted more than 1,000 attendees, with more than 50 exhibitors from a wide range of businesses – from solar management and conservation organizations to major companies like TECO and Publix. The bustling, open-air event purposely takes place at a location that is “great for pedestrians” at the Poe Plaza in downtown Tampa. In addition to live music, complimentary food items and other give-aways, for the past several years they have showcased alternative vehicles – such as the fully electric Tesla, which claims to get 270 miles to a single charge. The innovation on display, Sims says, “draws in people to the more cutting-edge stuff.” 

Rush says she is noticing a greater interest in sustainability ”especially if you can make an economic case for it as well as social. More and more [sustainable initiatives] are coming in line as the cost of ‘business as usual.’ It just makes sense,” she notes. “That’s why it is important to learn about them.” 

USF rolls out succesful share-a-bike program

Students at USF's Tampa campus now have an innovative solution to the challenge of maneuvering such a large property as the bike sharing program is rolled out. The Share-A-Bull Bikes program, which officially launched September 28th, allows students the opportunity to borrow one of the 100 bikes on campus to get to their destination.

“Since we have an urban campus with lots of traffic, we had to come up with an alternative to help students get where they need to go,” says Francis Morgan, Assistant Director for Outdoor Recreation. “There were three things that really pushed this initiative, one being that is would increase physical activity, the second being it would decrease carbon emissions and finally it would get people from one place to another.”

In order to participate in the program, students must enroll at which point they receive a 16 digit account code that they will use to unlock one of the bikes. Once they have unlocked a bike, they can ride up to two hours per day at no cost. Each bike is equipped with a GPS system, which helps student locate available bikes through a Smartphone app or through the USF website.

According to Morgan, there are over 1,600 active members who have registered to date.

“This program has been very successful,” he says. “In fact, it is six times more successful than any other bicycle system in the world.”

Share-A-Bull Bikes program is funded through USF’s Student Green Energy Fund, which is a student fee funded program that the student body voted on. The purpose of the fund is to reduce the carbon footprint on campus.

“This is something the students asked for, and from its success so far, it’s seems to be something they appreciate.”

Design Week art installations to transform Selmon Greenway

A pop-up festival, art installations along the Selmon Greenway and design-inspired events throughout the local region are all part of the expanded Tampa Bay Design Week in October 2015.

“As our urban core continues to grow and we discuss issues of mobility, it is critical to engage the public in a conversation about design's impact on our daily lives,” explains Design Week chair Kim Headland.

Interested parties are welcome to attend a design charrette session on September 25 and join a team, Headland says. After that session, teams will begin the process of building and displaying their final installation along the Selmon Greenway path, which opened in spring 2015.

Already, teams include members from an array of design disciplines, such as architects, landscape architects, graphic artists, artists, photographers, planners, interior designers and students. Those interested in the role that public art plays in the local community may want to join.

Design charrettes are “an opportunity for guided brainstorming” for teams to begin developing concepts around the TBDW theme, 'Mobility and Connectivity','' explains Headland, a member of event sponsor American Institute of Design Architects.

Topics for consideration include:
  • What design elements will encourage pedestrian activity?
  • How does design and art impact our daily routines in the city?
  • What role does tactical urbanism play in our downtown community?
  • How can design influence the experience along the Greenway and make it "uniquely Tampa"?
  • What is the future potential of our City's under-utilized areas?
  • How can design elements and space adjacent, positively impact the greenway?
  • How can design promote economic growth and development along pedestrian paths?
  • How do historic events and places impact future design on a variety of scales?
The main objective of Design Week is “to promote the importance of design to the broader community, while engaging the community in relevant conversations about how design shapes our built environment,” Headland explains.

The Design Week team hopes to accomplish that goal by demonstrating the impact of design on local community through temporary art installations by the design teams, which will be placed along the Selmon Greenway, between the Tampa Riverwalk and Jefferson Street.

Headland hopes to see the designs “engage festival goers in thinking about 'Mobility and Connectivity,’ specifically along the Greenway.”

Events for TBDW will begin October 9 and conclude with a “Made in the Shade" event and a pop-up festival on October 17th.

The free, family-friendly pop-up fest is set to coincide with Tampa’s Streetcar Fest on the same day. The TBDW lineup has also expanded to include stops in St. Petersburg: a Dining by Design event, and a panel discussion with Rogers Partners Architects and ASD about the new St. Pete Pier designs.  

“Tampa Bay Design Week brings together designers, enthusiasts, leaders and citizens to celebrate, inspire, showcase and grow Tampa Bay’s creative community,” Headland says.

For a full schedule of events or to learn more about the Sept. 25 design charrette, visit the Tampa Bay Design Week website

USF area in Tampa gets new pedestrian safety beacons

New pedestrian safety beacons have been installed along a one-mile stretch of 50th Street between Fowler and Fletcher Avenues in North Tampa. The goal is to help prevent accidents such as one that involved a University of South Florida student who was seriously injured in November 2014 while crossing the busy two-lane thoroughfare. 

The flashing beacons were officially unveiled on Wednesday (Sept. 16, 2015), and transportation officials spent the morning along the road passing out educational cards to pedestrians to help teach them about the new safety measures. Deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office were also out in force, pulling over speeding motorists. 

“Speeding is one of the biggest problems we face when it comes to pedestrian safety,” says Julie Bond, a senior researcher at the Center for Urban Transportation Research. “We don’t want people to be scared to walk. Walking is a healthy and enjoyable way to get around, and we want our community to enjoy these benefits and feel safe.” 

The $70,000 pedestrian safety improvements along 50th Street are part of a larger initiative in the USF area. In early 2015, $5 million in improvements were completed along the congested stretch of Fletcher Avenue between Nebraska Avenue and Bruce B. Downs, just west of the USF campus. Speed limits along that portion of Fletcher Avenue were also reduced from 45 miles per hour to as low as 35 miles per hour.

“This is really an extension of the pedestrian safety enhancements that were recently completed along Fletcher Avenue,” Bond says. The flashing beacons along 50th Street, which benefit students walking to and from several apartment communities just east of the campus, pave the way for further pedestrian safety improvements around USF. In the next year, similar pedestrian safety enhancements will be completed along 42nd Street and 56th Street. 

These projects are funded and supported by a consortium of organizations, including the CUTR, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Department of Transportation. Another major advocate is WalkWise Tampa Bay, a grassroots initiative that aims to educate local citizens on pedestrian safety. The organization also offers free, personalized pedestrian safety presentations. 

“We need to talk to more people,” Bond adds. “Education is the only way we can help pedestrian and motorists safely co-mingle on the roads.”

Who's hiring? College, construction company, custom T-shirt designers, and more

Create custom T-shirts for customers around the country at Big Frog in Clearwater; take part in exciting biology lab research at the University of South Florida's Tampa campus; or promote the local area to international eyes in a media relations role with Visit Tampa Bay.

All of these and more are part of the 83 Degrees Media monthly Tampa Bay jobs roundup. Here's who's hiring in the Tampa, St. Pete and Clearwater area in September 2015:
Big Frog of Clearwater

The custom designed T-shirt retail store seeks a Graphic Artist/Retail Consultant for the Clearwater location. Job responsibilities will include management of daily retail operations, generating quotes for custom work, creating custom artwork, and printing and fulfilling orders.

The successful applicant will have a working knowledge of graphics programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator or CorelDraw, or a related program. To learn more about the role or to apply, click here.

Bloomin’ Brands

The popular Tampa-based parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill and other well-known national chains is hiring for a Digital Marketing Manager for Carrabba's Italian Grill. Responsibilities will include writing and editing blog and other social content; conceptualizing seasonal campaigns and other promotions and social program strategy; monitoring social media channels; and more.

A Bachelor’s degree with a copywriting or journalism background preferred; the successful applicant will have 3-5 years of related business experience.

The company is also hiring for a Director of Marketing Communications for Bonefish Grill. The role includes assisting with strategic planning and development of marketing communications programs; implementing various advertising initiatives across multiple print and digital platforms; developing strategies to drive system traffic, revenue and growth; developing partnerships with internal management stakeholders; and more.

To apply for either position or explore other opportunities, click here.
Ryland Homes

The construction and home design company seeks a Homebuilding Supervisor for the Tampa team. The role will include managing all aspects of homebuilding while maintaining a budget; keeping construction on schedule and managing materials; monitoring cleanliness and safety standards; obtaining necessary building inspections as required; and more.

Successful applicants will have a B.A. or B.S; be familiar with current building codes; and have at least 2-3 years of experience in high-volume production homebuilding.

To apply or learn more, visit the company website

University of South Florida

USF is seeking a full-time Research Lab Assistant in the Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Biology at its Tampa campus. The candidate will work in the research laboratory of Dr. Kristina Schmidt, study mechanisms of genome instability in human cells; participate in scientific research such as analyzing data and performing genetic assays; and perform general lab maintenance duties such as ordering supplies and maintaining inventory.

A B.A., B.S. or M.S. in Biology and basic knowledge of molecular laboratory techniques is required. Interested parties should email a resume and 3 letters of recommendation, as a single PDF, to Schmidt  (Find her email here).
Visit Tampa Bay

Not-for-profit corporation Visit Tampa Bay, a tourism and economic development driver in the region, seeks to fill a full-time role in National Media Relations. The role will include serving as a PR liaison responsible for national and international media relations; copywriting external and internal content such as sales brochures, destination guides or website, e-mail and online content; identifying and maintaining appropriate media outlets and contacts; compiling editorial calendars and weekly editorial leads; and more.

A Marketing, Communications or Journalism B.A is required, along with a minimum of 5 to 8 years of marketing, PR or communications experience, and at least two years of experience in Tourism Marketing; destination marketing experience also required.

Visit Tampa Bay also seeks a full-time Sales and Promotions Coordinator. The successful applicant will be knowledgeable in CRM, Salesforce or other industry software; hospitality experience and a degree in hospitality, business or a related field preferred.

Job responsibilities include assisting a team of National Sales Managers, including guiding preparation for sales presentations; bid proposal creation and assembly; planning and preparation of a tradeshow booth; preparing and processing sales leads, bookings and other related communication; and more.

To learn more about salary and benefits for either position, head to the Visit Tampa Bay website. To apply, send your resume to: HR@VisitTampaBay.com
Hiring in the Tampa Bay region? Send a note to tips@83degreesmedia.com. Hired? Reach out on Twitter @83degreesmedia if our job listings put you on the path to success.

Florida Farm Bureau offers grants to local schools for agriculture, gardening projects

Florida's teachers have an opportunity to grow their classroom budgets this school year by snagging one of dozens of mini-grants from the Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) -- but they'd better hurry to beat the Sept 15 application deadline.

The organization is awarding $9,500 in grant money for creative school projects that teach students from Pre-K through high school about the importance of one of the state's top industries.

Core academic subjects like math, English and science are essential to agriculture, and the grants are meant to encourage teachers to incorporate it into their curriculum, says Michael Rogalsky, Field Services Director for the Federation.

"The idea is to familiarize children with where their food comes from," says Debra Jones, Rogalsky's assistant.

Teachers are asked to think outside the box, and the Farm Bureau will kick in up to $250 to help fund each project chosen.

Last year, 57 Florida teachers received grant funding for agricultural projects ranging from schoolyard gardens, to projects involving honeybees, fish and quail eggs, says Jones.

Pizza gardens, where students grow the ingredients needed to make pizzas they prepare for the class, are especially popular, she adds.

Last year, many of the schools in the FFBF's District 5 -- which includes Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas and other Central Florida counties -- opted to grow hydroponic gardens.

Among them: a class at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa, 4th and 5th graders in the gifted program at Valleyview Elementary in Lakeland and Plant City High.  

Jones says she was surprised to discover that only five schools in District 5 have applied for a grant for the 2015-2016 school  year, and she encourages teachers to make the most of the opportunity.

The mini-grant program is part of the Florida Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee’s push to support agricultural education in the state's classrooms, and recipients will be selected by the committee.

But the funding doesn't stop there, says Jones.

"A lot of our county farm bureaus will pick up the ones we don't fund, just to get gardening back in the classroom."

Grant applications are due Sept. 15. Winners will be notified by Nov. 15 via email. Teachers can apply for the grant by visiting the Florida Farm Bureau Federation website.

Tampa exhibit features photos of sealife, oceans

Something fishy is going on in downtown Tampa.  

Marvels of the Reef opens Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (FMoPA). The exhibit was produced in collaboration with the Florida Aquarium and runs through the end of the year. 

The collection, which showcases “mysteries of the sea” by seven international photographers whose work has appeared in National Geographic, is also intended to highlight the importance of environmental protection and environmental studies, a theme of relevance to the Tampa Bay community. 

“We are surrounded by water, which is important for every aspect of day-to-day life, [yet] it can be overlooked how important our bay is in Tampa,” says FMoPA executive director Zora Carrier. The exhibit, she says, “places the viewer at the scene of interaction; the images emphasize the spectacles of deep sea life and appreciation for aquatic nature.”   

“It’s an honor to partner with the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts on this exhibit,” Thom Stork, president and CEO of The Florida Aquarium said in a press release. “Through this exhibit, our community has yet another way to revel in the beauty of the ocean and hopefully become inspired to protect this very important asset.” 

A portion of the show’s proceeds will go toward the Florida Aquarium’s conservation efforts including the rescue and rehabilitation of animals.

About a five-minute drive from the Aquarium in the Channel District, The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, is located inside the Cube next to the Sykes building in the waterfront arts district in downtown Tampa. It is one of fewer than 10 museums in the United States dedicated exclusively to photography and one of two such museums in Florida.

Carrier says the two museums are working on putting together a weekend to give free admission to members of the opposite organization. 

Team beer challenge at St. Pete Shuffle to benefit Florida's waterways

Sip freshly poured beer, say hello to a new friend or neighbor, and support local Florida waterways during the Great Beer Challenge on August 29 in St. Petersburg. Do all of this while teams of four compete in a shuffleboard showdown at the world’s largest and oldest shuffleboard court – St. Pete Shuffleboard Club, which opened in 1924.

The inaugural Great Beer Challenge, sponsored by Atlanta-based Sweetwater Brewing Company, will feature craft beer from the brewery, an array of games, and the opportunity to meet other locals.

Chris Favaloro, one of the event’s organizers, says that staging the special event at St. Pete Shuffle “was an easy choice. The City of St Pete is exploding and the community is friendly, strong and together.”

That sense of community, combined with the talking point distinction of being the oldest and largest shuffleboard court in the world, makes the group "happy to be there," Favarolo says. "With our enthusiasm for craft beer and meeting new people, we saw this as an opportunity to introduce something exciting and reinvent the weekend events that Tampa Bay loves." 

Other, similar events “are typically places where you go with your friends to have a few drinks, try some food and go home. You never end up meeting someone new," Favaloro explains. But during the Great Beer Challenge, Favaloro says that event organizers hope to see new friendships form.

To help ease participants into working together or mingling, Favaloro says that event organizers will employ an array of “social ice-breakers to encourage meeting new people outside of your team.” 

The Great Beer Challenge is anticipated to bring out between 40-60 teams of four, giving locals the opportunity to meet and mingle with around 150-250 participants. For $30 in advance or $45 at the door, challengers in the event can score commemorative swag from local sponsors or vendors; enjoy games like cornhole, flipcup, and, of course, shuffleboard; or simply attend the event as a spectator (tickets are $20).

A limited amount of teams can participate in the shuffleboard events, so head over to the event website to learn more or sign up. Groups of four who register together will save $10. Don’t have a team of four? No problem; event organizers will assign you to a group.

"Our event is focused around meeting new people and having fun,” Favaloro says.

When it came to selecting an event sponsor, “we have done our due diligence,” he explains. “Sweetwater Brewing Company was born with the same mission in mind: to connect good people with good beer.”

Another one of the reasons that the group called upon Sweetwater Brewing Company to sponsor the Great Beer Challenge is the beer brewery’s connection to the Sarasota-based nonprofit group Suncoast Waterkeeper.

Suncoast Waterkeeper “focuses on protecting and restoring the Florida Suncoast’s waterways,” Favaloro explains. “We love this and support this.”

Five dollars from each ticket sale will be donated to the organization.

The Great Beer Challenge will be held from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, August 29, at St. Pete Shuffle, 559 Mirror Lake Drive N in DTSP. To purchase participant or spectator tickets, visit the event website.

“The goal of the Great Beer Challenge is to introduce a new type of social event to Tampa Bay,” Favaloro says.

HART CEO earns White House recognition as innovator in transit

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has a slogan: Driven to Serve You.

The public transportation authority serving Hillsborough County is currently experiencing record numbers of riders, expanding the TECO streetcar line, employing innovative technology and enabling young professionals to go carless.

Now HART CEO Katharine Eagan is garnering national attention for HART with her nomination for the White House "Champion of Change" program as an innovator in transportation for the future.

Eagan is recognized in the category "Beyond Traffic: Innovators in Transportation." The U.S. Department of Transportation and the White House Office of Public Engagement will host the winning White House “Champions of Change” focused on this category at an event on October 13, 2015; selected individuals will be notified in late September.

For consideration, individuals must have shown outstanding leadership in transportation and innovation in developing and implementing strategies for enhancing transit systems for the future.  

Eagan credits “the hard work of our entire team” at HART for the recognition.

“As a team, we are incredibly proud that our efforts to be a change agent and a transportation agency of choice have been noticed on a national scale,” she says. “Personally, I’m honored to be considered, and excited to build on this momentum as we keep moving forward.”

One of the drivers behind Eagan’s nomination: technology. HART is pursuing updated fare technology for eight Tampa Bay area counties, Eagan says.

If implemented, Hillsborough, Citrus, Hernando, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties would utilize the same fare technology – including “smart cards and bus passes that you purchase from and scan on your phone,” Eagan explains. 

HART, which was founded in 1980, will also be the first transit agency in the state to be ISO 14001 certified, Eagan says, “which draws environmental stewardship and sensitivity into all aspects of how we deliver service.”

Eagan credits HART’s innovation in tech and transit to necessity: “We don’t have the time to wait! Like many public agencies, we shrank our administrative staff during the recession, but technology kept evolving and new challenges arose in transit and transportation.”

Business as usual, Eagan says, wasn’t cutting it. “So what would?”

Solutions like a low-cost semester pass for Hillsborough Community College students “made transit more affordable and didn’t require a special fee,” Eagan explains. “That’s been a very popular innovation.”

Another example of change: HART’s newly revamped website.

One of the first agencies to use real-time bus arrival tool OneBusAway, HART has also developed partnerships with MegaBus and RedCoach to bring more routes to downtown Tampa from across the state; additionally, the MegaBus Orlando-Tampa route will expand to include Burnett Park and Ride in eastern Hillsborough County.

HART routes include fixed and express bus service, as well customized services like HARTplus, which offers door-to-door paratransit in vans, and HARTflex, a neighborhood connector route. The agency is seeking partnerships with taxis to make these services even more viable, Eagan says.

A partnership with “private transit providers [including private cabs, Uber and Lyft] to provide a rideshare-style program as part of our 'first mile, last mile' solution” is being considered, Eagan says.

Eagan, who earned a BA in history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and an MPA at Angelo State University, has been HART CEO since May 2014. Eagan has earned prior recognition for her leadership and track record in transportation: she was placed on the 2012 Mass Transit 40 under 40 List and was named the National Association of Women in Construction's Rookie of the Year in 2012. 

Concentrating efforts on the goals of increasing ridership, refining HART’s community image and setting “the transit agency bar higher as a trendsetting innovator” led to success for the agency, Eagan says.

“Thanks to the great work of our over 750 employees, we are better positioned today to provide the Tampa Bay area with quality service and choices.”

In other words, Eagan – and HART – is driven to serve you.

St. Pete startup aims to save lives with surfboard leash tourniquet

Save a limb for around $50.

That’s the idea behind OMNA Inc, a St. Pete-based startup company that has developed water-friendly tourniquets, which can be used in a sticky situation.

OMNA Inc. Founder and CEO Carson Henderson devised the combination product as a way to help safeguard surfers and swimmers against bleeding injuries from shark attacks or other water hazards.

The idea of an amphibious tourniquet leash, or tourniquet leg rope, came to Henderson after a close encounter with crocodiles and other predators during a 2012 Costa Rican vacation.

Henderson, who was working as a security contractor for the U.S. military in Iraq at the time, explains, “I went surfing with some friends I made there, and we took a boat across a river to get to a surf break. The surf ended up being so good that day that we surfed until it was dark out. When we got back to the river to take a boat back, all the boats were gone.”

No problem – except for the sharks and crocodiles that are known to linger near the mouth of the river. So the group took a chance, gathered their boards into a tight formation, and paddled to safety as quickly as possible.

Although nothing happened, it got Henderson thinking: How many people in the water had run into trouble due to shark attacks or other hazards that cause massive bleeding injuries? As it turned out, enough to warrant a fresh new solution: a surfboard leash with a built-in tourniquet.

“I started researching and identified a recurring problem of people in the water needing tourniquets. I subsequently sketched, filed patents, and began prototyping,” Henderson says.

Along with a tourniquet leash aimed at surfers, Henderson devised an amphibious tourniquet leg rope, which could be used for water-related activities from diving and spear fishing to performing lifeguard or first responder duties.

OMNA “is in the business of saving lives,” Henderson says.

A former recon Marine who was selected as the June Commander’s Call award recipient from veteran business funding organization Street Shares, Henderson earned an AA from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a BS in Organizational Leadership online course work from National University of La Jolla, CA.

“I did the majority of my online coursework from Iraq and Afghanistan in my off-times, when I was not running missions,” he explains. “I was doing coursework chipping away at my BS degree.”

After completing a Certificate in Business Administration from Bond University, Gold Coast in Australia, Henderson left his MBA studies to pursue business fulltime.

The term OMNA comes from Henderson’s days as a recon Marine; it stands for “One Man National Asset” and refers to “people who could do everything. Recon Marines also identify with the jack-of-all-trades slogan, and the company name pays homage to that heritage.”

The startup company has a Prefundia page and may launch a Kickstater campaign. Currently, the bootstrapped company consists solely of Henderson and the occasional freelancer.

Pricing for the Omna Tourniquet leash ranges from $34.99-$59.99. Pre-orders for the leash are now available, with general sales set to begin in fall 2015.

“Our pricing strategy is by price and not volume,” Henderson says. “We are offering two products for one, so we believe this price is fair for the value and quality we provide for our customers.”

Henderson anticipates that product delivery to customers who pre-order will begin in September. Post-general sales launch, Henderson plans to develop partnerships with retailers and wholesalers to sell the leash in stores.

While the tourniquet leash fulfills a niche market role for water board sports, Henderson would like to see OMNA’s amphibious tourniquet stocked by “traditional sporting goods and hunting stores.”

“We want to get these products to people to help enhance life-saving capabilities, in and out of the water,” Henderson says. “A person can bleed out in as little as three minutes. A tourniquet can be worn for roughly one to three hours without the loss of limb. You will not lose a limb if you use a tourniquet.”

Eckerd College alum launches eco-friendly sunscreen, cosmetics line

Each summer, boatloads of sunscreen are sold to beach-goers throughout the country. But where do the contents end up? Often, in the oceans.

Studies have shown that the chemicals found in many sunscreens or skin care products that contain sunscreen can contaminate, and even kill coral reefs (some can also cause problems for humans).

Enter Stream2Sea, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based startup company that aims to revolutionize the way we swim with eco-friendly sunscreen and skin care products that have been deemed safe for marine life.

Entrepreneur Autumn Bloom, who received a chemistry honors B.S. from Eckerd College in 1997, founded Stream2Sea. After starting and later selling off specialty cosmetics company Organix South, the Eckerd alum dove into the idea of protecting endangered ecosystems from human activities.

“Over 6,000 tons of skin care products enter coral reefs from tourist activities alone,” Blum explains in a blog post on the Stream2Sea website, adding that additional contamination products entering waters through runoff or sewage are not included in that statistic.

And even though other sunscreen brands on the market today may call themselves " 'ocean friendly,' many contain ingredients that are known to harm the fragile ecosystems and marine life of our waters,” Blum writes.

After developing Stream2Sea’s initial line of eco-friendly sunscreens and body care products, Blum, with the help of the Eckerd College Alumni Relations department and her mentor, Dr. David Grove, selected a team of scientists and students at Eckerd to conduct testing and research.

The research team, which included Assistant Professor of Biology Denise Flaherty and Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Science Koty Sharp, along with several of their students, worked with Blum on scientific trials refine her products.

“It was wonderful working with the knowledgeable professors and students at my alma mater,” Blum writes. “Watching the students apply their lab skills and education to my ‘real world’ requirements, proving the safety of Stream2Sea products, was an incredible feeling.”

Flaherty, who tested the products on fish with her students, says in a news release that the opportunity to work on applied research in the field and in the lab was a special one for students.

“Being able to see a project like this all the way through was very meaningful,’’ she notes.

Sharp’s team, which included Eckerd College marine science seniors Takoda Edlund and Samantha Fortin, spent a week in the Florida Keys collecting coral larvae samples to use for testing the Stream2Sea products. While sunscreen had been tested before on living corals, tests had never been done on coral larvae, Sharp says.

Stream2Sea products were tested on coral larvae and fish at the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Laboratory in Sarasota. Tests concluded that the Stream2Sea products showed no evidence of harm to fish or to corals.

Participating students were so excited to see the positive results that “they actually cheered when every single fish was still alive after 96 hours of swimming in the shampoo-laced foamy water,” Blum writes.

Stream2Sea has identified a list of ingredients to avoid, such as nano particles that can flake off of skin as we swim as well as an ingredients dictionary to help consumers make sense of biodegradable cosmetics that are eco-friendly. 

Moving forward, the company will continue to invest significant funding into testing, Blum writes, “so that we can state, with complete confidence, that we are the safest product on the shelves.”

Stream2Sea sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner and lotion are in stock on the company website. Prices range from $3.95-$16.95.

Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge announces finalists in blue economy competition

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) has announced five finalists in the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge competitive grant opportunity. Thirty teams submitted proposals that focus on key issues surrounding the “blue economy” of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including seafood sustainability, eco-restoration, marine-based medicine and technology. 

The following teams were chosen to proceed to the next stage of the challenge with their proposals to sustain and stimulate our blue economy:
  • Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater 
  • Antibiotics from the Sea 
  • Cancer Therapies from Sharks 
  • Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable Seafood System 
  • Taking Back the Lion’s Share

“Gulf Coast selected these five finalists because of the potential for their business solutions to have a real economic impact in our region,” says GCCF Director of Marketing and Communications Greg Luberecki. “We engaged a panel of experts to review all of the applications, along with Gulf Coast staff. … It will be up to the finalists to now show us how they can positively affect our blue economy and provide a community benefit in the process.” 

Challenge finalists “Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast” and “Taking Back the Lion’s Share” will explore fishery-based solutions for native mullet and invasive lionfish, respectively, to restore and sustain the marine ecosystem and economy of the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Cancer Therapies from Sharks” and “Antibiotics from the Sea,” two projects backed by Mote Marine scientists, explore the biomedical potential of sharks and marine bacterial organisms to develop medical treatment options to fight cancer and infections. 

“Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater,” another Mote-backed project, seeks to refine solar-powered filters to provide affordable, clean water around the world.

Read more about the Challenge competition is this 83 Degrees feature.

The GCCF has awarded each finalist team a grant of $25,000 to develop a prototype and refine its business plan, which the foundation’s judging panel will review in November. The winning team will be awarded a grant of up to $375,000 from the GCCF to fully develop its blue economy solution. In the meantime, Luberecki says the public is encouraged to follow the finalists on the Gulf Coast Challenge website as they make periodic progress updates. 

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognized Innovation Challenge team “Living Shorelines” for having the most online votes and community support. The foundation awarded the team a $5,000 People’s Choice Award grant to pursue its seawall restoration proposal.

“All of the ideas submitted for the Innovation Challenge had merit. Each was original and rooted in great thought,” Luberecki says. 

“We have seen momentum build behind several that weren’t named finalists, and Gulf Coast will do what it can to help propel those ideas as well. That’s a great byproduct of this challenge: We are focused on our five finalists moving forward, but the other teams have had a great platform to promote their ideas, and many have garnered real interest outside of our challenge.”

Tarpon Springs launches new water treatment system

Tarpon Springs is the latest Tampa Bay area community turning to an alternative water treatment system to ensure that residents have a safe, affordable supply of drinking water far into the future.

A new reverse osmosis water treatment facility is designed to take brackish or slightly salty groundwater from the Floridan aquifer and send it through a series of filtration systems and treatments to make it safe to drink.

The project has been in the planning stages since 2002, when the city first undertook a feasibility study. It was approved by a local voter referendum in 2006 and groundbreaking took place in 2013. The Southwest Florida Water Management District provided $20.1 million in funding.

Combined with city-owned fresh groundwater treatment facilities, the new reverse osmosis treatment facility will boost Tarpon Spring’s water supply to 5 million gallons of drinking water per day, a quantity that is expected to meet the city’s water needs for the next 20 years, say city officials.

In comparison, the previous system relied on water purchased from Pinellas County and Tampa Bay Water, along with city-owned fresh groundwater treatment facilities, to deliver some 3.2 million gallons daily.

According to Judy Staley, City of Tarpon Springs Research and Information Officer, construction of the reverse osmosis water treatment facility will allow Tarpon Springs to achieve greater water supply independence and more local control over costs, water quality and planning for future needs.

Earlier this summer, Clearwater cut the ribbon on its own reverse osmosis water treatment facility – the second one that is now in operation in that community. In addition, Clearwater is undertaking a pioneering project that will recharge the Florida aquifer with up to 3 million gallons per day of reclaimed water that’s been purified to higher than drinking water quality. Tracy Mercer, Director of Public Utilities for the City of Clearwater, says that project “is like banking water for the future.”

Tampa also announced plans this summer for a proposed project that would allow the city’s reclaimed water to be filtered naturally over time through SWFWMD wetlands.  That project still requires permitting and is not expected to be completed until some time in 2020.

Tampa hotels plan to conserve millions of gallons of water by 2016

Local hotels and motels could begin to conserve 5 million gallons of water by 2016 – all without impacting the guest experience.

The Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association (HCHMA) has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative. Through a voluntary effort, HCHMA aims to reduce water consumption in the Tampa Bay area lodging industry.

“We have a unique opportunity to have our larger hotels lead the way in this effort,” HCHMA Executive Director Bob Morrison said in a news release.

Clearwater-based Terlyn Industries, which specializes in industrial water treatment, will help HCHMA “modify existing building cooling systems in such a way that those properties will see significant improvements in water consumption efficiencies,” Morrison explains.

Large hotels use cooling towers to treat the condensation water that gathers in central air conditioning units. The towers can account for 25 percent of a hotel’s total water use, so updating them to operate more efficiently can decrease energy and water consumption.

Terlyn Industries is offering Tampa Bay hoteliers a complimentary cooling tower water conservation study. For more information, visit the conservation study website.

HCHMA, which represents county hotels, motels and resorts, was initially organized in 1937. Prior to setting the goal of conserving five million gallons of water by 2016 for the EPA’s WaterSense H2O Challenge, HCHMA members made voluntary water conservation efforts through the Water Conservation Hotel and Motel Program. The “Water CHAMP” effort was developed through a partnership between Hillsborough County, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the City of Tampa; it focused on efforts to conserve water through retrofitting toilets and faucets in local hotels, as well as designating towel and linen reuse programs.

WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Initiative program participants must register to “ACT” with the EPA: assess water usage, change products or processes when necessary, and track results. 
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