This has been a full and exciting year for us, and we want to thank each of you who has supported us, whether through partnerships, volunteering, financial support or participation. I wanted to share with you highlights of the exciting things that have happened here this year.
One of the biggest changes for us this year was a name change; after 18 years, Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy is now Phinizy Center for Water Sciences. The change helps consolidate our identity with Phinizy Swamp Nature Park and better identifies us as an organization focused on water issues. As part of the name change, rebranding of the organization allowed our marketing team to show their expertise and talent. Our team maintained a link to our history by keeping the iconic dragonfly but they enhanced the logo and color scheme making it consistent with our focus on stream and river research and education. Rebranding meant updating our website, stationary, and other marketing content too. While our team did much of the work in-house, it could not have been such a success without assistance, especially from graphic artist Larry Williams. Jr., and through financial support from the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
This year we educated over 3,000 elementary, middle, high school, and undergraduate students. That number helped us reach a milestone for our program: over 66,000 students have been educated through our program since 1996. In addition to field trips, we strengthened our adult education program with several Master Naturalist and Field Ornithology Programs. With the intent of continuing to build our education programs, we welcomed Jen McGruter as our new Environmental Educator. If it were not for our education volunteers, especially Bob Neugebauer, and the financial support of ESG Operations, we would not be able to provide this important program!
This year our Research Program has undergone new growth as well; we are currently working on 12 research projects that range in scale from individual species studies to two projects that assess water quality within entire river basins; twelve is the most number of projects that this organization has ever had at one time. As a result, we welcomed two part time and one full time researchers, Nate Hobbs, Kelsey Laymon, and Damon Mullis. We are thankful for research support from
the following entities: Augusta-Richmond County Utilities Department, Columbia County Water Department, PCS Nitrogen, International Paper, City of North Augusta, Georgia Southern University, Milliken & Company, Augusta-Richmond County Engineering Department, Georgia Department of Environmental Protection, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, The
Nature Conservancy, City of Thomson, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wells Fargo, Knox Foundation, Richmond County Mosquito Control, Georgia Department of Public Health, DSM Chemical, and Augusta-Richmond County Environmental Services Department.
Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is the home of our campus and is one of Augusta’s hidden gems. Whether you like exercising, watching wildlife, or just experiencing the beauty of our natural
resources, the park has something for everyone. Growth within the park this year included the development of the “Swamp Shop” in our Visitors Center, introduction of our mascots, Phin and Izzy, and a renewed commitment to update our kiosks throughout the park on a monthly basis. Much of the information that you see in the kiosks
and on the boardwalks and trails is interactive, leading you to websites with additional information on individual species in the park or to websites with frog and bird calls; the kiosks are maintained by Phinizy Center educators and researchers but have been enhanced by our dedicated volunteers, especially Priscilla Hollingsworth and Debo Boddiford. Through the hard work of many volunteers, the boardwalks and trails have never been in better shape. The park continues to remain free to the public and open from dawn to dusk every day of the year, that is only possible through generous member donations and the support of the
Augusta-Richmond County Utilities Department. Another great collaboration this year was with Cabela’s; we were honored that Cabela’s dedicated an entire wall to Phinizy Swamp and our organization, if you have not seen it, please stop by the new Cabela’s store to see the wall and support Cabela’s.
This year we have continued our popular events that the community has always enjoyed (Swamp Soiree, Guided Hikes, Bike Tours, Swamp Stomp, etc.) but we have introduced several new programs that have been successful in its first year, they include, Yoga in the Park, Nature Printing Classes,
Earth Day Celebration, and Family Camping Night. These events help support the overall operation of our organization while developing lasting collaborations and friendships. One of those collaborations developed this year was our Earth Day Celebration: this collaboration between Augusta-Richmond County Environmental Services, Georgia Regents University, and the Phinizy Center will provide one of the best celebrations of this important day within the CSRA for years to come! With all of this new activity this year, we welcomed Heather Milne to our organization as our Events and Volunteer Manager.
If you haven’t noticed, the expertise of our volunteer workforce has always been important to the fundamental operation of our organization, this year has been no exception. Our volunteer workforce of 163 individuals and 7 groups has logged in over 1,200 hours to provide hikes, clear and maintain trails, stabilize and maintain our boardwalks, and clean up the park. As an example of the continued growth of our organization in all areas, one of the highlights of the year in our volunteer area was our Rivers Alive Cleanup, this year we had 98 people volunteer and clean up over 1-ton of trash from the Butler Creek watershed!
The Phinizy Center for Water Sciences could not exist without your support, either through a membership, volunteer activity, participation in adult education class, or purchasing a t-shirt in the Swamp Shop. We thank you for your support and continued interest. Please let us know what else you would like to see at the park, on our website or social media, or what other things you would like us to offer through our research, education, recreation, or public involvement activities.
From our family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Oscar Flite, Ph.D.
CEO / Sr. Scientist