9.5 Increase professional capacity by supporting summits, workshops, trainings, tech transfer, and network building

Key Message: Strategic investments in elevating the skills, knowledge and networks of water quality professionals in the Sarasota area will strengthen their capacity to communicate and collaborate to solve the region’s water quality challenges.


Increasing the professional capacity of environmental professionals, managers, and education and outreach specialists will lead to improved water quality protection and restoration in the Sarasota area. Strengthening the skills, knowledge, resources, and networks of area water professionals will elevate their efficacy and catalyze synergies within and among organizations. Informational and collaborative networks must be strengthened and supported to build the problem-solving infrastructure necessary to address contemporary water quality issues (see Chapter 9.6).


The professional capacity of water quality professionals in the Sarasota area can be improved by making strategic investments in supporting summits, workshops and trainings, and network building.

Summits, conferences, and symposia are important events for convening and facilitating the professional community to share new ideas, technologies, and discoveries and to spark collaborations and cooperation. For example, the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership (CHNEP) hosts a watershed summit every three years that features the research of scientists, educators, and resource managers working in its watersheds, including Sarasota County. The Science and Environment Council hosted the 2018 Environmental Summit, which convened area scientists, educators, resource managers, non-profit leaders, business professionals, and community members. The Summit focused on water quality issues, including plenary sessions on water challenges faced by the state’s four National Estuary Programs, clean water, urban ecology, climate change, and public education and outreach. In 2019, Sarasota County hosted its first Water Summit to discuss the County’s progress on improving water quality. The popularity of these events reveals the need for more frequent community-wide discussions about water quality. 

State, national, and international conferences provide opportunities for local water quality professionals to learn from colleagues working in other areas. Conferences are regularly hosted by Restore America’s Estuaries, Florida Stormwater Association, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, and many others. Larger organizations typically have funding to send personnel to conferences. Assistance is needed for professionals who work for organizations without dedicated funding to attend. Similarly, an untapped opportunity exists for a regular forum series where people returning from conferences can share ideas and contacts with other local professionals. Groups of local professionals could also gather in-person or virtually to watch and discuss meeting webcasts or recordings. 

Workshops and trainings are important tools to increase skills. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office for Coastal Management offers a variety of water-related trainings in multiple formats, including instructor-led classroom and online workshops, self-guided trainings, case studies, quick references, videos, webinars, and publications. The Tampa Bay Estuary Program hosted a groundbreaking workshop in 2019 on the collaborative benefits, efficiencies and techniques of open science that was well attended by water quality professionals from Sarasota County.

The Science and Environment Council (SEC) is the largest network of science-based environmental professionals working in the Sarasota area. SEC is a non-profit network of 40 leading science-based environmental organizations working in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The Council convenes four quarterly meetings per year, typically featuring professional development, information-sharing, or brainstorming on water quality-related issues. Member dues support administration of the SEC. Projects and network building are funded by outside sources, like competitive grants, sponsorships, and community foundations.

2020 Institutional and Affiliate Members of the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, Inc. Source: Science and Environment Council


Create professional development opportunities for environmental water quality professionals, managers, and education and outreach specialists.

  1. Support and host local summits, workshops, and trainings that address water quality issues and solutions.
  2. Support and promote a clearinghouse of educational resources for water quality professionals.
  3. Support and host a regular forum for information-sharing by professionals returning from statewide, national, or international conferences of interest.
  4. Support and host a forum for water quality professionals to watch live or recorded video of statewide, national, or international conferences.
  5. Create a fund to send water quality professionals to statewide, national, or international conferences, focusing on professionals working for organizations lacking dedicated funding for conference attendance and travel.
  6. Support and host regular information-sharing forums to inventory and assess nutrient-reduction education and outreach progress and needs.
  7. Support networks and networking events that strengthen collaboration and communication among area water quality professionals.




Performance Measure

  • Number of local summits, conferences, workshops addressing water quality
  • Number of participants in local conferences addressing water quality
  • Number of water quality professionals attending statewide, national, or international conferences addressing water quality

Experts or Leads

Science and Environment Council, Sarasota County Stormwater Environmental Utility, NOAA, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, SBEP, CHNEP, TBEP

Cost Estimate


Related Activities

Chapter 9.6



Other Coordination and Collaboration Activities

9.3 Inventory, develop, and coordinate grant funding

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