Name: Rick O’Connor
Position: Escambia County Sea Grant Agent
Hometown: Pensacola, FL
Years with UF/IFAS: 10
Describe your role at UF/IFAS:
As the county Sea Grant Agent, I work with my advisory committee, and local stakeholders, to provide science-based education on marine-related topics they have an interest in or are concerned with.
Tell us about your experience with the Florida Master Naturalist Program:
This is one of my favorite projects. As a member of the instructor team, I teach sections on ecology, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. I do this both in the classroom and on our field trips. Through this program, I have met many fascinating people in our community, and many have served as volunteers in my citizen science program.
Why are programs like FMNP important to Florida?
Many residents of Florida are not originally from the state, and many have not been here very long. This is an amazing state in terms of natural habitats and unique biota that many residents know very little about and may not fully understand how they are impacting this system. The FMNP helps educate these folks and not only makes them better stewards of these resources but there are also portions of the class that help them become better teachers to others. This can particularly benefit those in the nature tourism industry who may not be that familiar with our ecosystems and creatures that call them home.
Tell us a neat fact you learned through the FMNP.
Before becoming an instructor – I did not know what the state butterfly was, or even that we had one.
What’s your favorite FMNP course? Why?
Coastal… because that is where I grew up and I have a degree in marine science. I really love estuaries.