Interfraternity Council sponsors students for conservation summit

To some members of Greek Village, the environment was a cause to spring into action.

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) opened applications for students to be sponsored to attend the Florida Springs Conservation Summit. The event, coordinated by the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, will take place on March 5 and host experts ranging from local government to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials.

The sponsorship of four students is part of IFCs initiative to support awareness and protection of the states natural groundwater springs.

Van Hoda, director of philanthropy for IFC and a senior majoring in religious studies and classical civilizations, said IFC took on the project in late November after Hoda read an article in the Tampa Bay Times about Floridas freshwater springs, which are facing an increasing number of problems, including exposure to pollution and salinity, reduced or even reversed water flows and increasing appearances of toxic algae blooms.

When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the springs From then on I was hooked, Hoda said. IFC decided to make the betterment of Floridas springs its uniting cause this semester, Hoda said. We wanted to do more than just raise money. We wanted to build awareness We dont want people to sit around with this issue thinking its somebody elses problem Students should be aware of their role they can play as individuals.

Robert Knight, founder and director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, said he worked with the problem of the states springs, which have seen decreased flows and increased nitrogen pollution over the years.

The springs, he said, connect the entire Florida ecosystem in some way, and provide hundreds of millions of dollars to the states economy through the tourism and wildlife industries.

As the springs go, so goes much of our environment and economy, he said. They are what make life happen in Florida.

Knight, who teaches a graduate course on Floridas waterways at the University of Florida, said he is appreciative of the initiative by IFC and students who attend the event are able to witness first-hand the different levels of environmental protection policies.

Its an incredible experience for (students) to apply their education in the real world, he said. The purpose of the summit is to go to the next step and discuss the solutions to these problems.

Alexander Crews, vice president of administration for IFC, said IFC hopes all students, including non-Greeks, will apply for the summit.

We are trying to reach out to everyone in the USF community, Crews said. We are all living in Florida and touched by the same ecosystem. These springs are dying, but they are what make Florida special to live in.

IFC will accept applications, which consist of a short essay explaining the role or impact of Florida springs and an attached resume, until Feb. 26. Submissions and questions can be sent to Hoda at Winning applicants will be chosen by the IFC executive board.