New UF/IFAS Extension Lee County Director to Nurture Area’s Natural Assets

FORT MYERS, Fla. — As he grew up in Bermuda, David Outerbridge saw the natural beauty of the island nation and wanted to preserve it. That environment set the foundation for his new position as director of UF/IFAS Extension Lee County.

In that role, Outerbridge sees himself nurturing relationships to preserve the beauty that covers swaths of Lee County. He describes his new job as fostering natural phenomena that feed humans, “both figuratively and spiritually.”

With more than 600,000 residents, Lee County is divided between urban and rural interests. On the coast are cities like Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Inland are farms and other natural land uses.

“Lee County is a populous county with interesting dynamics environmentally and socially that offer a huge potential for communicating research for the public good,” Outerbridge said.

Fortunately for Outerbridge, he inherits a staff of knowledgeable and experienced faculty who can perform those outreach efforts.

Additionally, Lee County’s Parks and Recreation Department helps UF/IFAS Extension by providing volunteers for the UF/IFAS Master Gardener and UF/IFAS Master Naturalist programs.

“The greatest opportunities that I see are the potential to increase capacity and reach of our programs at many different levels,” Outerbridge said. “This includes local partnerships and collaboration between programs, local government and agencies.”

He comes to Lee County after working as a soil conservation planner for Manatee County. In that position, Outerbridge worked a great deal with UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County. He also collaborated with the Manatee River and Sarasota soil and water conservation districts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service to help farmers conserve land.

His new position gives Outberbridge a different look at UF/IFAS Extension.

“My past job was very different because I worked within multiple organizations,” he said. “It was a wonderful introduction to the various aspects of government and conservation on multiple levels with the added benefit of UF/IFAS research and educational programs.”

As the UF/IFAS county Extension director, Outerbridge said he’s dealing with a bigger, more complex picture – but one full of promise.

“As an Extension director, I am required to have a vastly greater understanding of all aspects of Extension programs and the relative political and fiscal circumstances that accompany the role,” he said.

Outerbridge harkens back to his upbringing in Bermuda when he thinks about the good that UF/IFAS Extension can do for Lee County and beyond.

“Education was always stressed in my upbringing,” Outerbridge said. “If ever I had an idea, that idea had to be substantiated and supported and could never exist purely as a thought. Extension creates programs based on extensive research and is constantly adapting them based on continued research and feedback. It is a wonderful organization to be a part of and be on the ground where science is being simultaneously taught and created.”

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By: Brad Buck, 813-757-2224, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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