October 2015
NRLI Class XV Fellows in Apalachicola. Photo by Jessica Ireland.
Director's Corner
Jonathan Dain

Most people I know who have visited Apalachicola fall in love with it. They can't help themselves; the flowing river, the historical waterfront, and the magnificent bay all combine to remind us of a time when life was simpler. On the surface,
Apalachicola is a sleepy place with a small-town feel. Sunglass-clad tourists dine on fresh seafood while birds lazily flap about the bay; both seem indifferent to the struggle between present and past tense that permeates the town and its seafood processing houses just down the road.

NRLI Fellows visited Apalachicola because the calm and shimmering waters of the Bay represent one of the most contentious and polarizing natural resource disputes in the State of Florida. For almost 30 years, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama have jockeyed for position over access to and control of water resources. At the center (and the margins) of the fight in Florida are the Apalachicola oystermen and women whose way of life is fast disappearing. Generations have plied the bay, fishing, crabbing, and tonging oysters. It is an economic system based on access to marine resources, but more importantly, it is a cultural system whose foundations have been rocked by decisions made elsewhere and by environmental changes few could have predicted. One member of our stakeholder panel described Apalachicola and its seafood industry as a "constant crisis interrupted only by disaster."

The situation is complex and full of uncertainty and high emotions are the norm. There are upstream issues - the thirst of an important and vibrant Atlanta; midstream issues - agricultural water needs; and downstream issues - bay ecosystem health and economic collapse. As a result, states squabble and sue each other while researchers search for causes, document impacts, and model scenarios. Like most environmental conflicts, the issues go beyond saving an extraordinary ecosystem. There are serious threats to individual and community health and to the economic and cultural viability of the entire area. For residents, it must seem like there are always new challenges alongside old arguments over who is responsible for the problems and what should be done.

In Apalachicola, we learned that t
hose who depend on the estuary have diminishing access to its dwindling riches and want more control over its future. They have clear, substantive socioeconomic needs, and they also want a fair and transparent process for decision-making and some semblance of dignity in the face of forced and accelerating change. Representatives of local interests joined an organization called the ACF Stakeholders, "A diverse group of individuals, corporations, and non-profit organizations throughout Alabama, Florida, and Georgia that represent all of the interests within the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin" ( Together, the members have developed a thoughtful and detailed proposal that offers a blueprint for breaking through decades-old intractability.

In the classic 60's tune "Dock of the Bay," Otis Redding looks out over the water and figures nothing will ever change. Those living in and around Apalachicola Bay look out and know that the opposite is true; everything changes, often when we least expect it. The ACF Stakeholders and local leaders are trying to wrest back control of decision-making and the future of the ACF basin; they are working to use conflict management as an opportunity for positive change.
In This Issue
Quick Links

Apalachicola River and Bay. Photos by Jessica Ireland.

Class XV Session 2 Newsletter
Apalachicola: Threats to a Productive Estuary

In this issue...

Session Overview

Curriculum Focus: Analyzing natural resource conflicts and collaboration  

Fellows' Article
Samantha Danchuk & Angeline Scotten
Class XV Fellow Spotlight
Erin McDevitt
Jody Lee
Tracy Wyman

NRLI Alumni Spotlight
Steve Allen


Click here to download a PDF.
Future Class XV Sessions
November 5-7, 2015
Wildland urban interface
January 7-9, 2016
Sea level rise
Key Largo
February 4-6, 2016
Endangered species & recreation
Crystal River
March 10-12, 2016
Agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee
April 7-9, 2016
Graduation & practicum presentations
NRLI Class XVI (2016-2017)
We are currently accepting applications for Class XVI which will begin in August 2016 and conclude in April 2017. The Class XVI schedule (including topics and venues) will be finalized and posted soon. For additional information, visit the NRLI website ( and/or contact NRLI Program Coordinator Jessica Ireland ( 
University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
2015 York Distinguished Lecture
Keynote Address
Dr. Naomi Oreskes
Harvard University Professor of the History of Science
Co-author of Merchants of Doubt
November 2, 2015, 3 p.m.
University of Florida, University Auditorium
Event is free and open to the public. Lecture will also be streamed live.
Dr. Naomi Oreskes is one of the world's leading historians of science. Dr. Oreskes is a Harvard University Professor of the History of Science. Her research focuses on consensus and dissent in science. She has won numerous prizes for her work, and has lectured widely in diverse venues ranging from the Madison, Wisconsin, Civics Club to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Her 2004 essay "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change," cited by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth, led to Op-Ed pieces in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and to Congressional testimony in the U.S Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Oreskes's research highlighted the disconnect between the state of scientific debate and the way it was being presented in the mass media and perceived by the American people. Teaming up with Erik Conway, her further research soon suggested that the reason we are all confused is that people have been trying to confuse us. The resulting book is Merchants of Doubt.
Click here for more information.