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Program Related NEWS

Finishing up our preparations for hurricane Dorian, LaBelle, September 2, 2019

The National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmosperic Administration (NHC-NOAA) forecasts that "the hurricane will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late tonight through Wednesday evening", so as of Monday afternoon, we are finishing up our preparations. While Hurricane Dorian will likely miss us in LaBelle, Tampa and Gainesville, nevertheless, tropical storm force winds can still blow unsecured items around, such as fence gates and supplies stored outdoors. Hurricane scares and strikes are an annual ritual to our program. In fact, just few years ago we had hydrological field experiments, where we would be the last people in the field before a storm and the first back out to collect data only hours after a storm's passage. We have a lot of experience with hurricanes, up close and personal. But being sure that everyone is safe has always been our highest priority.

Metting at FGCU about a new project, Fort Myers, February 2, 2019

Newly arrived student Bertrand from Grenoble, France met with FGCU professor Dr. Serge Thomas (also originally from France). Bertrand is beginning his environmental instrumentation project with Dr. Capece to develop a drone monitoring system for turbidity to serve as a continuous online indicator of beach water quality from the tourism perspective.

Attending the Conference of Youth (COY14), Katowice (Poland), November 29 - December 1, 2018

Intelligentsia International Inc. represented by its director Michal Fidler and Campus Climate Corps represented by undergrad student Rock Aboujaoude attended the Conference of Youth (COY14) in Katowice. This student's organized conference precedes the UN's climate change conference COP24. We presented a "virtual poster session", in which US students delivered live, interactive poster presentations to COY14-Katowice attendees, reducing GHG gas emissions by 95% compared to overseas flights for the US poster authors. Given that the closing ceremony was attended by P.Espinosa (Executive Secretary of UNFCCC), M.F.Espinosa (President of the UN General Assembly) and M.Kurtyka (COP24 President), it is obvious that importance of this conference increases every year. So, time to start getting ready for COY15 in Brazil Costa Rica Chile!

Presenting a poster at FGCU, Fort Myers, November 30, 2018

Manuel completed his internship course requirement and in order to wrap the program, he presented a poster at FGCU tonight. Name of the presented poster was "Kissimmee River Basin Waterkeeper Program Design and Planning" and for the geographical planning was mostly used ArcGIS and Google Earth. Manuel did a good job and should be proud of his accomplishments.

Visiting the EPCOT theme park, Orlando, May 5, 2018

After completing her OPT with Intelligentsia last year, Nan Xu moved on to her PhD in Gainesville. Our current program participant Lili Wang is currently stationed in Gainesville as well, so both the Chinese young ladies spend some time together occasionally. This weekend they traveled to Orlando in order to visit EPCOT and they had a very busy day there - they traveled around the world by 'Soarin', under the sea by 'SeaBase' and even into space by 'Mission: Space'. Lili and Nan explored in the theme park innovative scientific aspects and technologies applications. Naturally, they also tested all kind of international food in the various World Showcase pavilions. Simply put, an amazing visit to a must-see place in Florida :)

Joining "March for Our Lives", Naples, March 24, 2018

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the US to call for tighter gun control. A crowd of roughly 3,000 people attended the "March for Our Lives" in Naples, where also several people from our group joined the rally. It seems that similar marches finally have the potential to establish guns as a voting issue for those who place the desire to save innocent lives ahead of preserving unlimited access to weapons.

Service hours tasks, LaBelle, March 21, 2018

Each program participant has the option to help with facilities maintenance or improvement tasks. These "service hours" tasks are optional. This week Lili agreed to help Dr. Capece with maintenance at one of the dorm houses. While Lili mowed the lawn, Dr. Capece cut down a tree and loaded up tree limbs into a trailer. Never having used a chain saw before, Lili wanted to give it a try. After getting safety instructions Lili used the chain saw to help finish the tree removal task and according to the photos, she clearly had a great time :) The tree had to be removed because Hurricane Irma pushed the tree against the house damaging the roof. The storm also broke one of the dorm example of why when hurricanes threaten, the Intelligentsia team relocates to our Gainesville (UF) house.

Educational boat trip on the Caloosahatchee River led by Calusa WaterKeeper, February 3, 2018

The SWFWRC conference on Friday (Feb 2) was followed on Saturday (Feb 3) by an educational and recreational boat trip on the Caloosahatchee River, which was led by Calusa WaterKeeper John Cassani. Also, a new student Lili arrived to Intelligentsia's program just on Fri night and the very first day she spent in the USA was on this boat trip. Seems like a good start to her program in Florida :)

Co-organizing and attending the 27th Annual SWFWRC conference, Fort Myers, February 2, 2018

Like every single year for more than two decades already, Dr. John Capece and Intelligentsia International helped with organizing the annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference in Fort Myers. This year's topic was "The Changing Climate of Regulation and Funding", recognizing the dramatic political transformations that have occurred in recent years at both the state and national level.

Initializing preparations for the Conference of Youth (COY 14), Katowice (Poland), December 8, 2017

The UN's annual 24th climate change (COP 24) will take place in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland. There is a similar gathering, Conference of Youth (COY) which meets in the same city as COP. COY is usually organized by local students and NGOs, but so far a little progress has been achieved in Poland for COY 14 preparations. III's director Michal Fidler therefore traveled to Katowice to meet with University of Silesia representatives to see if the university has enough interested students to start organizing COY 14 and if it could host the event within its campus. Discussions were initiated and further progress is expected. If you are a student in Poland, USA, or any other nation who is ready to help with the COY 14 preparations, please let us know.

Attending the Conference of Youth (COY13), Bonn (Germany), November 2-4, 2017

Two Florida based organizations attended the Conference of Youth (COY13) in Bonn - Intelligentsia International Inc. was represented by its director Michal Fidler, Campus Climate Corps were represented by undergrad students Rock Aboujaoude and Taymour Khan. About 1200 students and young people from all continents attended the 3-days event. The conference was about sharing approaches, exchanging ideas, delivering workshops, etc., all related to tackling climate change issues. We came up with an innovative approach of running a "virtual poster session" in which US students delivered live, interactive poster presentations to COY13-Bonn attendees. The virtual poster session reduced GHG gas emissions by 95% compared to overseas flights for the US poster authors. Next year during COY14 in Poland we will expand this approach even further.

Joining the Day of Action, Naples, November 4, 2017

We joined the first citywide Day of Action in Naples, where groups of activists gathered with signs at street corners across Naples to advocate for issues ranging from clean water and air to Everglades protection to women's rights to health care. 20 demonstrations were part of the event, which involved some 40 grass-roots organizations. After holding signs we joined a rally in Cambier Park.

Attending the 20th Annual Environmental Breakfast hosted by Audubon Society of SW FL, Ft. Myers, October 26, 2017

Linda, Freda, Nargis and John attended the 20th Annual Environmental Breakfast hosted by Audubon Society of Southwest Florida. The event featured presentations about the successful Conservation 20/20 regional land acquisition ballot initiatives as well as recognition and scholarship awards.

Touring the hurricane Irma debris storage area, LaBelle, October 25, 2017

Hurricane Irma blew down trees throughout SW Florida. LaBelle is storing its hurricane debris on lands next to the Port LaBelle Utility System waste water treatment plant. The debris will eventually be chipped and then delivered to Lee County and others for use as mulch, compost and electric power plant fuel. The debris covers 30,000 m2 at an average height of 2.5 m for a total of 75,000 cubic meters or almost 100,000 cubic yards.

Touring the Lee County Waste-to-Energy facility, October 25, 2017

Freda, Linda, and John toured the Lee County Waste-to-Energy facility along with students from Florida Gulf Coast University. The facility recycles metals after burning wastes, powering more than 30,000 homes with electricity. Lee County recycles 70% of its solid wastes.

CSP's Program Coordinator visiting Florida, LaBelle, October 12, 2017

Nargis and John wrapped up post-hurricane clean-up at the Intelligentsia office in LaBelle just in time for a visit by Community Solutions Program's (CSP) coordinator Thomas Laferriere of IREX. Thomas visited the locations of all 10 CSP fellows hosted by non-profit organizations in the state of Florida (Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, LaBelle, and Miami). Thomas met with John, then with Freda and Linda followed by a group discussion of progress. The meeting concluded with IREX supporting Intelligentsia's offer for Linda and Freda to complete their Intelligentsia programs early, allowing them to undertake a professional development train trip across the entire USA, coast to coast. The plan is for the fellows, contingent upon successful completion of trip planning and all program assignments, and accumulation of sufficient vacation time credits, to begin their train journey on Nov 13.

Discovering the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, September 16, 2017

After departing Gainesville, where Freda and Linda took a shelter during the hurricane Irma, on the way to LaBelle, they stopped in the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The Visitor's Center there and all its equipment is a highlight of any visit to Florida. It is an absolute must-see place for any visitor, offering an unique experience.

Category 4 hurricane Irma hitting Florida, September 10, 2017

Florida is located in the occasional path of summer tropical storms and hurricanes. With being in the second half of this year's hurricane season (beginning Jun 1 and ending Nov 30) already and thus more prone to a serious encounter, Florida took a hard hit from hurricane Irma. We were ordered an evacuation from LaBelle and therefore took a shelter in Gainesville. While the hurricane's eye came very close to LaBelle, the damage was fortunately lower than we initially expected. 90% of the County lost electricity, but most importantly - everyone is safe. The after-hurricane clean-up started already.

Attending two work meetings at FGCU, Fort Myers, August 30, 2017

Our current participants Freda and Linda had a busy afternoon. At first they attended the planning committee meeting of Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference (, where some of their future work tasks were defined. While walking across the FGCU campus after the meeting, Dr. Capece encountered his friend, Dr. Peter Ndiang'ui, President of African Network of Southwest Florida. Dr. Ndiang'ui invited Freda and Linda to his African Network meeting on Sep 24 and their Annual Gala on Nov 11 ( Dr. Capece, Freda, and Linda will also deliver a lecture at Dr. Ndianhui's Florida Gulf Coast University environmental colloquium class in the coming months (

Celebrating Freda's birthday, LaBelle, August 17, 2017

Freda celebrated her birthday on August 17. To ease the eventual feeling of being a bit homesick while missing relatives and friends back home in Malawi, Nargis, Barbara and Linda organized a small party for Freda. A birthday cake was of course on the table. Happy birthday from all of us

Submitting a program proposal to COY13-Bonn organizers, August 13, 2017

Campus Climate Corps (CCC) is a joint program of Intelligentsia International, Inc. and Alpha Epsilon Lambda. This weekend CCC submitted an "Exhibit/Workshop & Virtual Poster Session" program proposal to COY13-Bonn organizers. CCC expands on its exhibits and workshops at COY11-Paris and COY12-Marrakesh by adding a "virtual poster session" in which 24 US students deliver live, interactive poster presentations to COY13-Bonn attendees. The virtual poster session, including production of 12 TVs & laptops plus telecommunications, reduces GHG gas emissions by 95% compared to overseas flights for 24 US poster authors. CCC will also expand the US poster gathering into a larger COY13-Florida event.

Welcoming four IREX fellows to Florida, August 11, 2017

This year IREX invited 93 fellows from 53 countries to the USA to participate in their 4-months Community Solutions Program. Intelligentsia hosts 4 of these fellows from 3 countries this summer - Freda and Linda from Malawi, Ghadir from West Bank and Eloy from Costa Rica. After the initial orientation in Washington DC the fellows traveled to Florida. Several exciting projects to pursue and new opportunities to explore are awaiting them, so let's get started. Welcome to Florida!

Handling the Q/A session during FL premiere of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Sequel", Naples, August 4, 2017

The new Al Gore movie "An Inconvenient Sequel" premiered in Florida on Aug 4. Collier Freedom was hosting a special screening at the Silverspot Cinema in Naples, FL. This event, organized by 3rd Generation filmmaker KC Schulberg, included remarks and Q&A session by Dr. Harold Wanless of University of Miami and Dr. John Capece of Intelligentsia International. This document is yet another proof that world climate change is no hoax and that the reality of human-induced climate change and sea level rise is now simply undeniable. The existential question is whether we will continue to drag our feet or whether we are going to fully engage this existential threat with all the power, resources and creativity.

Discovering the Kennedy Space Center and attending a SpaceX rocket launch, Cape Canaveral, June 3, 2017

Another must-see place while in Florida is the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Discovering the Visitor's Center and all its equipment is a little wonder for any guest. Timing of the weekend visit was not random either, it was a well planned trip, since the students wanted to see the SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launch with a Dragon spacecraft for the resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Using their own words - "Seeing the launch was a really really good experience for us."

Delivering a presentation by Intelligentsia's program future participant, Lilongwe, Malawi, May 30, 2017

Intelligentsia has hosted students from 68 nations so far. Nation #69 - Malawi - will be represented by Freda Lumanga, coming to Florida later this summer. Freda is an IREX Community Solutions Program Fellow and while in Intelligentsia, she will study Florida's recycling programs, deal with water/sanitation grant programs of Rotary International and optionally embark on a 20-day transcontinental train trip for her professional development activities. Freda delivered an initial presentation to her local Rotary club of Lilongwe, Malawi in an effort to raise funds for the train trip at the end of her CSP program with Intelligentsia. To keep a track of Freda's progress, follow her blog.

Discovering the Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, Everglades City, May 29, 2017

After spending a weekend in the noisy and hectic Miami, Kevin, Aurelien and Theo took the scenic US41 through the Big Cypress National Preserve for calming down a bit and enjoying its quietness. They stopped in Everglades City at the edge of the Everglades National Park for an airboat ride. Such a ride is not exactly a quiet activity, but the easiest way to discover the national park's marshes and mangroves.

Spending a weekend in Miami, May 27, 2017

A place everyone who comes to Florida wants to visit is Miami. It was the same for our 3 French students Kevin, Aurelien and Theo, since Miami is simply unique. Citing Kevin and his impression: "Our first impression of Miami was Ouuuaaahhh!! The shock between the French and American culture could have not been bigger. On one hand the excess of large buildings, wide road, huge cars with a lot of noise was impressive, on the other hand this approach is so very much different from the Paris climate change conference accords."

Attending Climate Rally and March, Ft. Lauderdale, April 29, 2017

On Saturday, April 29, in Ft Lauderdale, our program participants Aurelien and Theo along with office manager Nargis attended rally and march promoting awareness of climate change and its effects on the environment in South Florida. They set up an exhibit about Campus Climate Corps and talked to people attending the event. Many important topics by the many rally speeches, particularly the local message of how climate change impacts water in all communities. The event was part of a set of national rallies and marches to bring national attention to the climate change crisis and the need for dramatic and immediate action for the sake of future generations. Aurelien and Theo are study renewable energy science & engineering at Ecole Centrale Lyon.

Jiahua Zhou and Nan Xu receiving university acceptance and assistantship offers for their PhD program, April 24, 2017

After spending six months at Intelligentsia International as post-Masters Degree OPT students, both Jiahua Zhou and Nan Xu received university acceptance and assistantship offers for their PhD programs at multiple universities (University of Florida, University of South Florida and University of Maryland). Jiahua and Nan credit their OPT program at Intelligentisia International in LaBelle, Florida as being instrumental in them qualifying for the assistantship offers as well as in allowing them time to pursue the university selection and application process. During their OPT program with Intelligentsia, they produced a range of technical reports and presented a poster at a professional conference. Their newly gained experience and their demonstration of professional fortitude proved to be essential in successfully competing for PhD acceptance and assistantship offers.

Annual Swamp Cabbage Festival and staffing the Calusa Waterkeeper booth, LaBelle, February 25-26, 2017

Our program participant Abder helped with staffing the Calusa Waterkeeper booth during the LaBelle Swamp Cabbage Festival. The annual festival was taking place for the 51st time this year, with all range of events, such as parade, car show, rodeo and fishing tournament. Almost 20,000 people visited LaBelle to enjoy music, food, crafts, and amusement rides along the Caloosahatchee River.

Completing the summarization of biofuels sustainability project, LaBelle, February 17, 2017

Michal Fidler and Nan Xu completed the assembly, summarization, and uploading of all Intelligentsia International and University of Florida product documents related to their Department of Energy / Hendry County grant to investigate biofuels sustainability at the Hendry County Sustainable Biofuels Center. More publications are still in the works, but during her time at Intelligentsia, Nan accomplished (and learned) a lot by gathering and processing the 90+ documents that are posted at

Presentations at Democratic Progressive Caucus of Lee County, Ft. Myers, February 15, 2017

Dr. Capece was the quest speaker at the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Lee County. He presented slides to the audience of 90 people on the Calusa Waterkeeper program and the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida - two organizations focused on critical environmental issues.

Advocacy Fair and Day of Action, Weston, February 4, 2017

Intelligentsia's student Abderrahmane and Dr. John Capece joined Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and representatives from area advocacy organizations for an Advocacy Fair and Day of Action. John set up a table to talk with people on a range of current issues and sign up new members of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. John and Debbie worked together as UF students involved in campus politics in the late 1980's. Together they founded the UF Graduate Student Council; Debbie was the group's first President and John was the first Secretary.

Visiting the UF Everglades Research and Education Center, Belle Glade February 3, 2017

Nan and Jiahua traveled to the UF Everglades Research and Education Center at Belle Glade to meet with faculty and attend a seminar. While there they had their photo taken at the infamous subsidence post that, since 1924, has documented the steady oxidation loss of the region's organic (muck) soil on which its agriculture is based. The ground surface at the top of the post in 1926. Six feet of soil has been lost since then. Additional soil was lost from 1905 to 1924 during the early years of drainage and farming in the region. Soil subsidence was faster at first and gradually declines as the easily oxidized portions of the soil disappear leaving only the more resilient organics and the permanent mineral matter. More than 8 feet of soil has been lost at this location with only a few feet remaining above the limestone bedrock in this area.

Afternoon BBQ and canoeing at Fisheating Creek, January 28, 2017

Our group went to the Fisheating Creek for an afternoon BBQ and canoe. While the water was rather low, canoeing was possible and the number of gators we saw was rather high. Upon return to the camp site delicious BBQ was prepared, wrapping up a relaxing day in wonderful nature.

Attending research poster contest at the 26th Annual SW FL Water Resources Conference, Ft. Myers, January 13, 2017

Jiahua Zhou and Nan Xu participated in the research poster contest at the 26th Annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference held at Florida Gulf Coast University on January 13, 2017 and attended by 150 students and professional. The title of their poster was Water Storage Effects on Soil Subsidence and Crop Yield in Everglades Agricultural Area Sugarcane Farms. Supervising their work on the project were Dr. Kamal Alsharif of University of South Florida and Dr. John Capece of Intelligentsia International. More than 20 posters were exhibited by undergraduate and graduate students.

Attending the FGCU STEM Undergraduate Research and Internship symposium, Ft. Myers, December 2, 2016

On Dec 2, 2016 we attended the STEM Undergraduate Research and Internship Poster Session held on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. More than 50 posters were on display by students presenting their internships as well as seeking internships. Florine presented about her tasks in Intelligentsia International as well as in our partnering organization Caloosahatchee Riverwatch. Nargis helped answer questions from students interested in Riverwatch and Intelligentsia. Florine's poster can be viewed here.

Attending the Conference of Youth (COY12), Marrakesh (Morocco), November 4-6, 2016

Two Florida based organizations attended the Conference of Youth (COY12) in Marrakesh - Intelligentsia International Inc. was represented by its director Michal Fidler, Campus Climate Corps were represented by Rock Aboujaoude. Many students were informed about climate change issues and approaches of American NGO's to tackles them, a technical workshop was delivered, many ideas exchanged. It was an interesting educational event addressing climate change issues. On the other hand, the results of the US presidential election put all these efforts in question. However, we can not and will not give up!

Attending Clinton/Gore political rally, Miami, October 11, 2016

Nargis and Florine attended the Hillary Clinton / Al Gore political rally in Miami. At the time the U.S. has fallen behind on its commitment to cut greenhouse-gas emissions included in the Paris Agreement and the time Florida becomes more vulnerable to sea-level rise, the speeches from both the current presidential candidate and former vice president delved into the climate change science and policy. Just to summarize the points of view - Clinton indicates that solving climate issues is a top national priority, Trump thinks it is "a hoax invented by China". It is not that hard to tell who is right, is it?

Attending Trump political rally, Fort Myers, September 19, 2016

Nargis, Nan, Jiahua, and Yuqi attended the Trump political rally in Ft. Myers. Dr. Capece encouraged the students to attend as part of their American cultural orientation, but recommended that everyone treat the experience like a trip to an amusement park or zoo - looking at the bizarre sights, taking lots of pictures, but not getting too near, since some definitely would bite if provoked. The rally audience was almost exclusively white, so our group of Chinese students surely stood out :)

Conducting flow measurement experiments during a field trip, LaBelle, September 14, 2016

Yohan, Yuqi, and Dr. Capece spent a day doing field work to conduct an experiment using a vibration sensor constructed by a previous student, Youseff. They sought to use the sensor as a flow measurement tool for water passing through an underground valve and pipe system. The purpose was to develop procedured for system leak detection.

Visiting the 9th Annual Southwest Florida Water & Wastewater Exposition, Fort Myers, September 8, 2016

Dr. Capece invited our students to the 9th Annual Southwest Florida Water & Wastewater Exposition in downtown Fort Myers. The exhibition allowed our students to get up-to-date on the newest equipment and technology, which will be helpful on some of the assignments they do in LaBelle (e.g. when detecting leaks in water pipes). They could also network with consultants, manufacturers and other professionals.

CRCA/Riverwatch launching its own boat, Fort Myers, September 7, 2016

Nargis, one of Intelligentsia's directors, appeared on NBC2 during its coverage about CRCA/Riverwatch (a group of volunteer environmentalists) launching its own boat in order to test independently the water quality on the Caloosahatchee River. CRCA/Riverwatch recently joined the Waterkeeper's Alliance, a worldwide leader in clean water advocacy. Our students are often offered volunteering tasks with CRCA/Riverwatch, yet another learning opportunity about Florida's environmental issues.

Technical meeting at the Port LaBelle Utility System office, LaBelle, September 1, 2016

Yohan, Yuqi, and Dr. Capece met with Roger Greer, Director of Port LaBelle Utility System, to review GIS maps created from old utility design drawings. The purpose was to prepare the project bid package so that contractors can estimate the cost of testing to find and repair leaks in the system.

Yards maintenance chores, LaBelle, August 21, 2016

Students help out and get rent credit for helping to maintain the yards at their dorms and office. Dr. John Capece does this task when students are not available or willing. The grass grows fast during the summer and is cut every two weeks. This weekend John cut the grass on 3 yards and Jiahua around 1 of the student's residences. Doing this during the summer can be a sweaty job. John complains he sits behind a desk or in meetings for too many hours each week, so he welcomes a few hours walking the mower in the Florida heat and sun. Students aren't always quite as enthusiastic about this yard maintenance ritual that most American residents perform as a normal aspect of the US suburban lifestyle.

Attending the Big Sugar Summit #2, West Palm Beach, August 20, 2016

On August 20, 2016, a group of Intelligentsia students attended the Big Sugar Summit #2 in West Palm Beach. The day-long meeting explored issues surrounding the full range of obstacles to solutions for Lake Okeechobee nutrient pollution and fresh water release to coastal estuaries. Intelligentsia's students could attend thanks to our ongoing cooperation with the Florida Chapter of Sierra Club.

Touring the NASA facilities, Cape Canaveral, August 13, 2016

Supriya, Nargis, Sanjiv and Yohan spent a full day visiting the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, surely the most interesting learning experience site for Florida visitors. They took a bus tour, where they saw the NASA's actual launch pads. They also walked through the rocket garden, learning about the early space exploration missions and seeing the Atlantis Space Shuttle that traveled more than 30-times between the Earth and the ISS. They saw a 3D movie documenting astronauts life on the ISS and appreciated the realness of the launch simulator as well. At the end of the day, they met with Dr. Capece and Rock, who were attending the Democratic Party training workshop. Over a dinner and some ice-cream they all discussed various challenges of the upcoming presidential elections. A long, but very interesting day.

Mathilde on a train trip around the entire USA, July 16 - August 6, 2016

Mathilde, a 4-th year student from Ecole Universitaire de Management Clermont-Ferrand in France, went on a 3-weeks train trip around the entire USA after completing her 4-months program in Florida. She planned the journey using an AMTRAK travel SOP (plan) developed by Intelligentsia in the process of sending several other students on similar trips over the years. Mathilde planned her stops in advance and made sure that a long list of the country's highlights were included - Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon. As shown below, she now basically has the complete set of US tourism photos :) And after returning safe and sound, she says "it was really AWESOME! I saw and did many things, and I met a lot of people. Everybody was nice with me." The photos clearly show that she has done plenty, so once again (and exactly like during her whole program with us in Florida) - great job :) Mathilde earned an "excellent" evaluation from Intelligentsia after her exceptional accomplishments for the Caloosahatchee Riverwatch web page, Facebook page, newsletters, and other projects.

Welcoming foreign guests/old friends, Miami, August 2-3, 2016

On Aug 2 & 3, 2016, Dr. John Capece and Nargis met with Mohib and Ahmed to discuss their interest in US graduate studies. John had met Mohid in Dec 2015 when he and Dr. Selim Dogan did a presentation for students of Selcuk University in Konya, Turkey. They experienced Florida water from the Everglades to Miami Beach.

Handling office tasks from a public library, Fort Myers, July 11, 2016

On Mondays, our students usually have an opportunity to handle their office tasks from a public library in Fort Myers downtown. On July 11, Mathilde, Hongyu and Nan went to one of the public libraries with their laptops and spent several hours there. After completing their tasks, Mathilde and Hongyu showed the city to the newly arrived student Nan, because it was her first time in town.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Orlando, June 25-26, 2016

Mathilde and Hongyu went to Orlando's Universal Studios on Saturday, June 25 and Universal Islands of Adventure on Sunday, June 26. They rented a car to get there and according to them, "the best area in Universal was Harry Potter". Of course they had a chance to take photos with many different characters, e.g. Dora, Barney or Bumblebee from Transformers. They say that it was a fantastic trip.

Celebrating Mathilde's birthday, LaBelle, June 15, 2016

Our French student, Mathilde, celebrated her birthday on June 15. She turned 22 and although she was thousands of miles from her home, she said that she was very happy to spend this day in USA. In order to have a small celebration, Mathilde, Nargis and Hongyu went to Don's Steak House to have a delicious dinner. Shirley, the restaurant manager, then prepared a chocolate cake for Mathilde. Happy birthday from all of us!

Extended weekend in Miami and Key West, May 26 - May 30, 2016

Mathilde, Youssef and Hongyu had an interesting plan for the extended Memorial Day weekend. On Friday, they wondered around the skyscrapers in the downtown of Miami and relaxed on the famous Miami Beach. On Saturday they visited the Seaquarium, where they saw dolphins, sea lions, penguins and orcas. On Sunday they took a bus to Key West, where they visited the charming lighthouse as well as the house of Ernest Hemingway. Finally, on Monday they took a bit more beach time and then traveled back to LaBelle to absorb all the new experiences.

Dining together in student's house, LaBelle, May 19, 2016

One of the advantages of our students living together in a house includes the opportunity to cook and dine together. And when the students are international, the meal becomes even more interesting affair. Mathilde (from France), Youssef (from Morocco) and Hongyu (from China) cooked together fish, pasta and potatoes, each of them adding a bit of their home nation's flavor, making the dinner a real treat for all of them.

Hongyu visiting an organic vegetable farm, Clewiston, May 18, 2016

Our program participant Hongyu visited together with Dr. Capece a farm in Clewiston, which will be cooperating with our office on implementing a solar system to operate their organic vegetable shadehouse & hydroponics as well as their aquacultural production and processing system.

Youssef spending an extended weekend in NYC, May 13 - May 16, 2016

After collecting a sufficient number of makeup hours, Youssef decided to take 2 days off, so he could enjoy an extended weekend (Fri - Mon) in NYC. He started his adventures by walking through the Central Park, visited the Empire State Building in order to enjoy the panoramic view of Manhattan, wondered around the WTC Memorial, took the Staten Island ferry to see up-close the Statue of Liberty, crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and finished his trip by enjoying the colorful view of the Times Square. We are pretty sure that he was somehow reluctant to return to Florida after just a weekend in NYC, given that the number of attractions is slightly higher there than it is in LaBelle :)

Public forum on the C-43 West Reservoir project, Ft. Myers, May 11, 2016

Our program participants attended a public forum in Ft Myers to discuss the C-43 West Reservoir project - a 15 square mile, $600 million water storage project to help balance estuary salinity of the Caloosahatchee River. The event was hosted by Riverwatch and SW Florida Watershed Council, offering our students an unique opportunity to see closely how political, interpersonal and other dimensions apply to discussions about environmental issues in Florida.

Relaxing on a beach, Ft Myers Beach, May 8, 2016

Who would say "no" to a relaxing Sunday on a beach? The closest beach to LaBelle is Ft. Myers Beach (only 45 minutes drive), so Mathilde with Youssef spent a leisure Sunday there, enjoying the silky beach, seeing friendly dolphins and watching the sunset.

Visiting SeaWorld, Orlando, May 1, 2016

Mathilde and Youssef went to Orlando's famous SeaWorld, a theme park offering roller coasters, rides, shows, tours and attractions for thrill seekers and animal lovers. Since they spent the whole day there, they managed to do some of the attractions twice :) Obviously, they did not miss the famous orca, dolphins and sea lions shows and at the end of the day they bought souvenirs to remember the enjoyable day.

Visiting Busch Gardens, Tampa, April 30, 2016

Mathilde and Youssef spent their Saturday in Busch Gardens in Tampa, where they visited a list of attractions and saw in the park giraffes, elephants and zebras. They took a train to see these animals, and also they saw a show called "Iceploration". A perfect day!

Visting Gatorama, Palmdale, April 17, 2016

Mathilde, Meryem and Youssef went to Gatorama, a famous alligator and crocodile farm located just few miles from LaBelle. They saw big alligators and other wild animals there, mostly different snakes and also the famous Florida panther. They had the time to see an alligator show and were brave to take few alligators in hands.

Earth Day related events, Naples and Port Charlotte, April 16, 2016

Earth Day celebration kept Dr. John Capece, director of Intelligentsia Internatiinal very busy - during the day he acted together with Phil Schwartz as representatives of the Caloosahatchee Riverwatch, which joined Harrison Langley & Jesse Roberts from Collier County Waterkeeper for an exhibit at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples for an Earth Day celebration. In the evening, Charlotte County Democratic Chair, Valerie Guenther welcomed Dr. Capece, this time in the role of the President of the Southwest Chapter of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida, to the Charlotte County Democratic Party Blue Gala fundraiser. Over 120 attendees were introduced to the new caucus that was created to organize volunteers and educate candidates and voters on issues of water, land and wildlife stewardship in Florida. Intelligentsia students help with projects related to seeking a change to Florida law, allowing homeowners to sell their excess solar power to users other than their regional electric utility. Intelligentsia students often support similar environment related projects.

Riverwatch/CRCA Board of Directors meeting, April 6, 2016

Our partner organization Riverwatch/CRCA meets often in very interesting places. This time our student Mathilde attended the Riverwatch/CRCA Board of Directors meeting held on the Amara Zee - a 90 ft sailing ship, where Caravan Stage Company (a non-profit professional theater company) performs original experimental opera/dance theater shows on the docket boat, while the audience watches the show from the shore facing the ship.

Visiting Disney World, Orlando, April 3, 2016

After visiting NASA on Saturday, Meryem, Mathilde and Youssef spent their Sunday in EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom in Orlando. They were brave enough to go to attractions like "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" or "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster". In the evening they saw fireworks, wrapping-up their perfect, action-packed, weekend.

Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island/Cape Canaveral, April 2, 2016

Meryem, Mathilde and Youssef spent a full day visiting the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, probably the most interesting learning experience for Florida visitors. Our students took the standard tour - visiting the actual launch sites of NASA, scaling the fascinating Saturn V rocket, walking through the rocket garden, learning about the early space exploration missions and even touching a piece of the real Moon's rock.

Collecting signatures on the "Floridians for Solar Choice" petition, LaBelle, February 27-28, 2016

During the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival, Meryem and Nargis collected 100+ signatures on the "Floridians for Solar Choice" petition. FSL is committee that is working for good solar policy in Florida, including a constitutional amendment that would give Florida’s families and businesses the right to choose solar power, as well as fighting for fair policy development in the legislature.

"Do it yourself" home maintenance, LaBelle, February 1, 2016

A week after arriving to the USA for the first time, our program participant Meryem had another "first time" unexpected experience - she cut grass around the house where she resides during her stay with us. "Do it yourself" home maintenance is a common American activity, including (among others) cutting the grass. Some students face these maintenance tasks for the first time in their life, so we have SOPs describing how the tasks should be done correctly and safely. In this specific case, Meryem cleaned the air filter, checked the oil level, added gas to the fuel tank, wore boots and eyes protection and was all set to mow. The yard looks great now, well done! Taking care of the yard is part of the weekly dorm inspection and it also counts towards rent waiver credits.

A dinner hosted at Country, Homes and Land (CHL), LaBelle, January 30, 2016

John, Nargis and Meryem had a dinner hosted by Tommy at the home/office of Country, Homes and Land (CHL) in LaBelle on the evening of January 30. Intelligentsia has done a number of technical projects with CHL over the past 10 years.

Presenting at the Bull Market, University of South Florida, Tampa, January 13, 2016

Every Wednesday during the Fall and Spring semesters, vendors and student organizations set up tables and sell items or hand out information to students at the Bull Market within the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa. This Wednesday, our program participant Deborah was among the presenters, recruiting students who might become active with the College Democrats at USF or with Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (DECF), getting signatures for Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC) initiative and talking with USF students about the climate change issues addressed through our volunteering program.

Attending the 9th Biennial Emergy Research Conference, Gainesville, January 7 - 9, 2016

Our program participants Victor and Deborah attended the 9th Biennial Emergy Research Conference held on the campus of the University of Florids in Gainesville. The purpose of this 3-days conference is to provide a forum for meaningful discussion expressly dedicated to theory, principles, and applications of the Emergy (embodied energy) methodology. UF is the world-leader in this field of science, so attending this conference is really a top-nothc opportunity. Victor agrees, writing us after the experience that "it was really rewarding, I really appreciate what I learned there." We cannot agree more, because learning about systems analysis (emergy analysis is just one type) is important in shaping how people look at the world and learn how to measure and interpret its complexity.

Hiking in the Myakka River State Park, December 13, 2015

On Sunday, Dec 13, 2015, Victor, Matthias and Floriane went for a hike in the Myakka River State Park, which is a natural wetlands area and one of the Florida's largest and oldest nature parks. They hiked about 10 miles into the forests, and as they said, "it was a very pleasant day to walk and ideal for a picnic".

Visiting the Florida Gun Show, Fort Myers, December 12, 2015

This past Saturday was quite unique for two of our French participants, Floriane and Matthias. As Floriane said - "our neighbor offered us to go to Florida Gun Show in Fort Myers and then trying to shoot at a target. We had several lively debates with him about firearms carrying, so he wanted us to discover his views. It was a very interesting experience, with much adrenaline. We understood that it was a real leisure for many Americans, but we are not yet convinced that legalization of firearms carrying is a good idea (but it remains our view as French and it will not change despite the attack we had in Paris)."

Meeting former Intelligentsia program participant Volkan, Istanbul, December 11, 2015

On his last day in Turkey, John enjoyed a surprised visit from 2001 Intelligentsia program participant Volkan Demyrtas. Volkan showed John a "real" Istanbul neighborhood where some of Volkan's family live. They shared coffee and conversation in a bakery where Volkan presented John with a gift for his mother Barbara (who Volkan always remembers as the person who taught him to drive so many years ago). For his departure from Turkey, John had traveled from Cappadocia to Konya and Ankara by bus, then by high-speed train from Ankara to Pendik, then by bus and metro across the Bosporus to Istanbul. During his brief visit to Ankara, John had a short time in the train station to meet with friends of Tolga: Murat - a business man doing educational programs in Turkey and development projects in Africa, also Battal and Deniz to discuss their interest in the Intelligentsia program.

Meeting former Intelligentsia program participant Tolga, Istanbul and Cappadocia, December 2015

Tolga Sengul was part of the Intelligentsia program back in 2002 when he was an electrical engineering student. Today Tolga oversees the control systems, electronics and electrical aspects of large construction projects in many nations. When he heard that John would be in Turkey in December 2015, Tolga made arrangements to spend a week with John and Nargis showing them around Istanbul and Cappodocia. It was a wonderful reunion with Tolga after 14 years and an amazing trip across Turkey.

Meeting former Intelligentsia program participant Selim, Konya (Turkey), December 8, 2015

On Dec 8, 2015, Dr. Selim Dogan, Intelligentsia program participant in 2002, hosted Dr. John Capece for a seminar at Selcuk University in Konya, Turkey. More than 100 students and faculty attended the presentation jointly delivered by John and Selim. Dr. Dogan is a professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering of Selcuk University, one of the largest universities in Turkey. Selim invited John to Konya upon learning he would pass through Turkey on his return trip from Paris. John also enjoyed a home visit to meet and share dinner with Selim's wife and three children. Selim gave John a tour of Konya, home to the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi master Rumi.

Guillaume attending COP21, Paris, November 30 - December 11, 2015

After completing his 3.5-months program in Florida, Guillame flew back to France on Nov 24. Between Nov 26-28 he was helping out at the COY11 conference. Between Nov 30 - Dec 11 he also attended the COP21 conference. When at COP21, he also spoke with Segolene Royal (French minister of sustainable development and energy) and as he says: "It was incredible and really impressive." We agree, his last few days were very busy, so well done!

Christmas parade, LaBelle, December 5, 2015

Deborah and Matthias went to the Christmas Parade in LaBelle, which took place on Fri, Dec 5. The parade went through the whole town, ending up in the Baron Park. Deborah said that "it was a great time and nice to see it, because we do not have any parade like that for Christmas in France" :)

Hiking in the Shark Valley, Everglades NP, November 29, 2015

Our students spent this Saturday in the Everglades, where they were hiking (almost 15 miles) in the Shark Valley. They saw gators, birds and spiders. They came back tanned quite a lot - well, they were absolutely red rather than tanned :) But as the students said, "it has been a great "meeting" with the Florida's nature, wildlife and landscapes."

Attending the Conference of Youth (COY11), Paris, November 26-28, 2015

Five Florida based organizations attended the Conference of Youth (COY11) in Paris - Intelligentsia International Inc., Campus Climate Corps, Alpha Epsilon Lambda, Floridians for Solar Choice and Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. Many French and foreign students were informed about climate change issues and approaches of American NGO's to tackles them, a technical workshop was delivered, many interesting ideas exchanged. As a bonus, several of the former students of III (back to 2010) visited and helped with staffing our booth. It was a great event addressing climate change issues and a nice reunion of several of our former students.

Meeting former Intelligentsia program participant Margherita, Paris, Nov 26-Nov 28, 2015

Former Intelligentsia program participant from 2010, Margherita Fanchiotti, helped talk to students at the Campus Climate Corps exhibit and served as a workshop presenter during the UN Conference of Youth 11. Afterwards, Margherita hosted III staff John Capece, Nargis Abduvohidova, and Michal Fidler for lunch and a tour at the UNESCO headquarters where she works (the view of the Eiffel Tower was spectacular). Margherita is Italian, was a US program participant, is now working on her doctoral degree from University of Southampton in England with support from UNESCO in Paris on a project in South Asia. Margherita is about as "international" as one can be.

Thanksgiving dinner with Conner family, Palmdale, November 26, 2015

For the Thanksgiving dinner, all our students were invited by the Conner family to Placid Lake, where they shared this holidays with their family and friends. Everyone ate the mandatory turkey and our foreign students discovered sweet potato pie and other southern food. During Thanksgiving people are supposed to be together and it worked out for our students this year just great.

Experiencing the Gatorama farm, Palmdale, November 15, 2015

Less than 20 miles from LaBelle is located Palmdale, a small village with its famous alligator and crocodile farm called Gatorama. This Florida's original farm with daily shows makes for an interesting adventure. Its motto is "Fast Hands or No Hands", but it is obviously a safe attraction. Even for those, who are brave enough to hold a alligator in hands - of course the alligators that are allowed to be held by the visitors are only baby-gators :)

The Vue development project rally, Fort Myers, October 30, 2015

Development of high-rise condominium complex (called The Vue) is one of the issues CRCA/Riverwatch has been involved at. Developers of The Vue plan to build in the lot adjacent to Fort Myers's Centennial Park, environmental groups argue that it's too tall and too close to the Park and the Caloosahatchee River. Intelligentsia students were invited by CRCA/Riverwatch to attend one of the rallies (covered by NBC2) that took place prior Fort Myers's Planning Board will be discussing The Vue development project. Such experience offers our students a close look into the "battles" between developers, environmentalists and politicians.

Pre-Halloween's night dinner, LaBelle, October 29, 2015

James Sloan, Hendry County Court Judge, invited our group of students to spend the pre-Halloween evening with his family. Being in the house of the Judge, handling domestic violence cases, on almost the Halloween night was not scary at all :) It was fun to work on pumpkins decorations, prepare pumpkin cakes and then have a barbecue dinner. Thanks for the invitation! The decorated pumpkins are now welcoming visitors in our student's housing.

Environmental Breakfast and Networking, Fort Myers, October 22, 2015

CRCA/Riverwatch directors invited several of our students to attend the Environmental Breakfast and Networking event at Fort Myers on Oct 22. Jason Lauritsen, Director of Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, was the guest speaker and presented about Corkscrew and its conservation programs. It was an interesting business breakfast for our students to attend.

American classic cars show, LaBelle, October 20, 2015

Barron Park in LaBelle hosted an open cruise-in exhibition of American classic cars. Of course that our French students attracted an attention while wondering around the cars, Americans are very friendly. Deborah and Floriane were invited for a dinner and discovered yet another way to merge with the local community in order to learn more about the American way of living.

Visiting friends in Lake Placid, October 18, 2015

Members of the Conner family are our friends from Lake Placid, a small city less than 45 minutes ride from LaBelle. The family invited us to spend this Sunday in their house at the lake - they enjoy the company of us as mostly foreign students, we enjoy their company as very friendly American patriots and we all enjoy barbecue, water skiing and tubing. So a great day that we hope to do soon again!

Visiting ZombiCon, Fort Myers, October 17, 2015

Our neighbor and friend Heather offered to help with putting on make-up before us going to ZombiCon (zombie-themed music and art fest) in Fort Myers. More than 20,000 people attended. We had great fun to dance and scare the others. When the event turned bad, we were on our way back home already. It is so unfortunate when incidents like the one on ZombiCon happen, fortunately everyone from us is safe and well.

Leisure afternoon in Fort Myers Beach, October 3, 2015

After the morning presentations to an FGCU Colloquium class, our students group went to close-by Fort Myers Beach to spend a leisure afternoon there - enjoying the sea, playing beach volleyball, watching a sunset. And of course, time had to be spared for an obligatory shopping :)

Delivering presentations to an FGCU Colloquium class, Fort Myers, October 3, 2015

Today, Deborah, Stanislas, Guillaume and Foucault delivered presentations to an FGCU Colloquium class of Dr. Peter Ndiang'ui. The course is a seminar series providing students with an overview of the local and global environment required for all FGCU student.

Unusual path of hurricane Joaquin, October 1, 2015

Seldom does a hurricane come this near to Florida and not cause us serious concern. Typically we would be preparing for a storm hitting us in a few days, but the track of this week's eastern US and Atlantic air currents appears will force the storm Joaquin north or perhaps even eastward. We stay tuned, we will see.

River & oxbows orientation tour, LaBelle, September 27, 2015

Our friend and CRCA/Riverwatch Director Phil Schwartz gave a river & oxbows orientation tour to IREX Fellow Carilyn Martin as well as few of our other program participants - Deborah and Victor. Carilyn is helping with the CRCA/Riverwatch website, this was her first on-water experience with our river.

Lunch by the Caloosahatche River, September 26, 2015

For lunch, we sometimes sit by the Caloosahatchee River three blocks from the office. On this warm September day a lizard, camouflaged for its environment searched for its lunch while Nargis, John and Carilyn ate their lunch bought at the pizzeria behind the office, one of several fast food places near the office.

Field trip to the orange groves of John Paul, LaBelle, September 22, 2015

Today, Morgane and Victor went on a field trip to the orange groves of John Paul, south of LaBelle. They were measuring the water management structures of different types of groves, those irrigated with subsurface pipes, microjets, and drip tubes. This is a preliminary step in their design of an experiment to evaluate the effects of water management strategies on reducing damage caused to the trees by the citrus greening disease. They also took note of the colorful fauna.

Program completed by Justine, Youssef and Bertrand, September 18, 2015

Justine, Youssef and Bertrand completed their programs with us today and departed back to Europe. Dr. Capece drove them to the airport then shared coffee and conversation with them at the airport before their departure. During the past months in Florida, Justine primarily dealt with Port LaBelle Utility System (PLUS) issues, Youssef did various programming assignments and Bertrand was THE guy dealing with a range of technological issues. We might meet again during the Climate Change Symposium that will take place in Paris in this November, so hopefully we will see each other soon again!

Radio interview about climate changes by Morgane, September 17, 2015

While attending the Sea Level Rise Symposium in West Palm Beach on August 1 (see details here), one of our students - Morgane - was asked for an interview with the New Mercury Media - PNN radio to share her opinion about climate change. Morgane has a double citizenship (French and American), so she was a perfect candidate to share her point of view on the climate change issue from the perspective of an European as well as an American. The radio interview can be accessed here.

Presentation by Dr. John Capece to the Rotary Club of LaBelle, September 8, 2015

The Rotary Club of LaBelle invited Dr. John Capece to deliver a presentation to their club today. John described current Intelligentsia programs, including joint Rotary-Intelligentsia projects in LaBelle Nature Park. IREX Fellow Carilyn Martin also attended the meeting.

Touring the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, September 5, 2015

The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is located less than 1 hour drive from LaBelle. It is an interesting nature site with a boardwalk and observation decks, which few of our participants toured on Sunday. This site offers to observe up-close a vast array of plants and animals that can live in this place, which is sometimes land, sometimes water and sometimes both. The weather was also like that today - sometimes sunny, sometimes stormy. Still (and maybe also because of that) it was a great trip.

LaBelle Nature Park cleanup, September 4, 2015

LaBelle Nature Park clean up was scheduled for Saturday, September 4. Carilyn attended and helped with pulling the invasive weeds at the front of the Park. As a bonus, she also toured the Park with Ms. Marti Daltry, who is documenting the invasive plant species in the Park.

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting, LaBelle, September 2, 2015

Our program participant and IREX Fellow, Carilyn Martin, attended her first CRCA/Riverwatch meeting after having contributed to production of its August monthly newsletter. For the next 3.5 months, Carilyn will manage the CRCA/Riverwatch website & newsletter and will also help with developing new CRCA/Riverwatch project proposals. Intelligentsia participants Floriane and Guillaume also attended the Riverwatch meeting.

Tropical Storm Erika, August 24 - 29, 2015

Florida is located in the occasional path of summer tropical storms and hurricanes. With being right in the middle of this year's hurricane season (beginning Jun 1 and ending Nov 30), for the past few days there was a potential threat to Florida from tropical storm Erika. With 2 newly arriving students (Deborah and Matthias) this past weekend we were somehow worried about their eventual travel delays. Fortunately, The National Hurricane Center declared that Erika dissipated near the north coast of eastern Cuba on Saturday, Aug 29 and Florida was saved from strong winds and potential flooding. Both Deborah and Matthias thus arrived OK and everyone in the office is safe and sound.

Visiting Savannah, Georgia for an extended weekend, August 28-30, 2015

Few our students drove quite a distance to visit Savannah, a beautiful city in Georgia known for its emerald tree canopy, quaint cobblestone streets and majestic architecture. They walked around the center, enjoyed the City Market, listened to music played live every night and experienced the history and other charms of this popular coastal city. Obviously, when driving up to Georgia, there were few must-see stops - for example St. Augustine (one of the oldest US cities) or Daytona Beach (with its famous beaches and International Speedway).

Marion completing her program, LaBelle, August 25, 2015

Marion Gommenne completed her 5-months program and departed on August 25, 2015. She joined in a tradition for departing students in which they add their hand print to the wall of the dormitory houses on Palomar Circle. Since 2000, students have been filling these walls with the personal messages and art. Fortunately not all do, since the house couldn't handle hand prints from all 450+ students from 67 nations who have passed through the program.

Visiting the Waste Water Treatment Plant in Clewiston, August 20, 2015

The Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Clewiston (30 miles east of LaBelle) had some technical issues today, when its pumps were not running correctly. Port LaBelle Utility System (PLUS) Plant Operator Jimmy was called to help with fixing the issue and he took with him our student Justine, to show her functionality of another another WWTP. Jimmy fixed the issue quickly, proving again that PLUS has very qualified staff that can give important practical lessons to our students.

Meeting with Department of Environmental Protection, Fort Myers, August 19, 2015

As part of her project with Port LaBelle Utility System, Justine accompanied Dr. Capece and PLUS Director Roger Greer to a meeting with Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Ft. Myers to discuss modifications to the monitoring program permit for the PLUS Rapid Infiltration Basins. They met with David Rhodes and Barabara Skates, professional geologist and engineer with DEP. Also attending was Danny Nelson of the TetraTech engineering firm.

Extended weekend in New York City, August 13-17, 2015

Our students Florian and Youssef spent an extended weekend in New York City. It was their first time there, so a bit of a cultural shock comparing to the calm life in LaBelle. First-time visitors to NYC usually start in south Manhattan (Financial District, Wall Street, 9/11 Memorial), walk the Brooklyn Bridge to get its great Downtown view, wonder around the Times Square and calm down in the Central Park. Our 2 students basically followed this itinerary, say that NYC is impressive and they will be back :)

Exploring the less visited places around Tampa, August 15-16, 2015

A group of our students spent this weekend out of town, exploring the less traveled places that Florida has to offer. First, they went to Mount Dora, where a Seafood festival took place and with full stomachs they tried not too physically challenging lawn bowling. Their next stop was Tarpon Springs (home of the historic Sponge Docks), where a Hippie festival took place. The evening was reserved for historic Ybor City and its Cuban food. Sunday was mostly a beach day in Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands, with earlier in the day visit to Tampa downtown and the University of South Florida.

Citrus horticultural systems field trip, LaBelle, August 13, 2015

As a part of her program with Intelligentsia, Morgane is comparing citrus horticultural systems for Greening resiliency (a disease of citrus caused by a bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter spp.), production yield, irrigation systems and environmental impacts. Today Morgane went to the field with Dr. Capece to get acquainted with the currently used irrigation system in the researched field.

Partners for Colloquium Conversation, FGCU, Fort Myers, August 12, 2015

Dr. John Capece and Intelligentsia's student Justine represented III and CRCA-Riverwatch during the "Partners for Colloquium Conversation" in the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Fort Myers. FGCU students need to do a 80-hour service-learning to graduate, thus FGCU seeks qualified NGO partners. Both Intelligentsia and CRCA-Riverwatch have a range of qualifying projects and host form time to time service-learning projects seeking students.

Playing a host to a visiting student, Gainesville, August 9-11, 2015

Intelligentsia students in Gainesville played host to a 3-day visit by a LaBelle high school student touring UF to plan his university studies. Rock Abujaoude Jr. was the lucky fellow to be shown around campus and town by Marion, Manon and Jocelina.

Visiting amusement parks in Orlando, August 8-10, 2015

Orlando, known as the playground of Florida is a home to a bunch of amusement parks. A couple of our students visited several of the parks this past weekend, another group plans to go there the next weekend. Last visit agenda included Magic Kingdom, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal's Islands of Adventure. Yes, Orlando can get impressive, so our students like to go there from time to time (as they say) "to get sparkles in our eyes and experience the magnificent shows".

Waste Water Treatment Plant Visit, Port LaBelle, August 3, 2015

Several of our students are involved in the Utility project, so as a part of their assignment, they tour from time to time the Port LaBelle water treatment plant (WTP), waste water treatment plant (WWTP), and field/pipelines facilities. With Dr. Capece serving as an adviser to Port Labelle Utilities System (PLUS), our participants get insight into the waste water utility operations.

Spending time in Miami, August 1-2, 2015

After the Sea Level Rise Conference in West Palm Beach, some students extended their weekend on the Atlantic coast and went to visit Miami. They enjoyed the night life in Miami Beach, walked the famous Ocean Drive, explored the Art Deco district and sunbathed on Key Biscayne beaches before returning to LaBelle.

Sea Level Rise Symposium, West Palm Beach, August 1, 2015

The Intelligentsia International group attended the third Sea Level Rise Symposium at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. The event, sponsored by the John Marshall Foundation, pointed out various issues caused by the sea level rise and possible solutions were discussed.

Nader and Theo completed their programs, LaBelle, July 31, 2015

Engineering student Nader and Political Sciences student Theo completed their programs with us today and departed back home to France. During the past months in Florida, Nader was primarily assigned to designing a solar shed and researching solar energy efficiency issues, while Theo researched relations between global security and climate change as part of our preparations for the Climate Change Symposium (that will take place in Paris later this year). Thank you both for all your help, have a safe trip home and stay in touch!

Fossils-hunting on the Caloosahatchee River banks, July 26, 2015

The Caloosahatchee River bottom, which was once a repository for the remains of all the animals that lived along its banks, has been relocated during the re-engineering of the River in the 20th century. Some of that bottom was dug up and dumped along the banks. Our good friend, captain and fossil hunter Scott Perry knows, where to look for this material, which still contains the fossilized life forms from several million years past. Scott says that "turtle, alligator, dugong, mammoth, paleollama and giant armadillo were found at my Fossil Camp 2015". Our students, who were invited to take a boat and a kayak ride on the River to the Camp did not find all these (just some), but the fossils-hunting made for a great afternoon anyway :)

Visiting the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, July 26, 2015

No real visit to Florida is complete without spending some time in the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Since few of our students are a bit crazy about space (no, they are not potential astronauts, but they are seriously into robotics and science), they spent this Sunday in the NASA center. Meeting a real astronaut there will probably not change their career path, but in their own words, "we were mesmerized by all these cool machines and our day was wonderful!"

Chilling on the Atlantic Coast, July 25, 2015

A group of curious students went out of town for the weekend and enjoyed their time on the Florida's East coast. They visited Fort Lauderdale (known for its beaches and miles of boating canals), enjoyed a meal in West Palm Beach (known for its beaches and miles of palm-dotted streets) and had fun discovering smaller cities such as Boca Raton, Stuart and Port Saint Lucie.

Exploring the Everglades, July 20, 2015

A ride to Florida Keys goes along the Everglades, so doing this trip would not be complete without stopping for exploring this specific ecosystem. With having sufficient "makeup hours" in their account, the students could take their Monday off and have fun in the Everglades. This usually equals to taking an air-boat ride to see manatees and alligators in the wilderness. To add a commercial flavor, they also visited an alligator show and bought some souvenirs. Finally they completed the exploration trip in an animal sanctuary, where the brave ones had an opportunity to hug a baby gator :)

Visting the Florida Keys, July 18-19, 2015

Our housing in LaBelle was completely deserted this weekend, because all our students went to explore the famous Florida Keys. They enjoyed the silky beaches and some of them tried also snorkeling, during which they saw friendly dolphins, harmless sharks and many colorful fishes. To add a romantic feel, they opted for a dinner during a sunset. What a great weekend in the unique Florida Keys!

Port LaBelle Utility System Advisory Board meeting, LaBelle, July 17, 2015

Intelligentsia student participants David, Justine, Anne-Laure, and Pauline attended the Citizens Advisory Board meeting of Port LaBelle Utility System (PLUS). The discussion focused on PLUS' budget and related financial issues, technical plans for digging a new monitoring well, trihalomethanes (THM) criteria for drinking water PLUS produces as well Consumptive Water Use Permit (CUP) submission to SFWMD. It was a challenging but enriching meeting for the students to attend.

Justine turning 21 in the USA, July 16, 2015

21 is an important milestone and one of our French students, Justine, turned this special age today. Other students invited her for a dinner and had a nice evening talking about their weekend plans (the group will be heading to Florida Keys this weekend), dancing and doing a karaoke together. Although thousands of miles from her home, the group arranged a great evening for the birthday girl. Happy birthday from all of us!

Celebrating the Bastille Day, LaBelle, July 14, 2015

Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14 each year, commemorating the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and uniting the French people in 1790. Our office participants are primarily from France this summer, so it was a big day for them. Fortunately there was no storming of our office for being July 14 a regular office day and not an office holiday :) There was just the group uniting during the lunch break and taking photos with the Blue, White and Red T-shirts. Happy Bastille Day!

Weekend on the Atlantic Coast, July 11-12, 2015

While most of the students from our group went for a canoe trip at Fisheating Creek, few others opted for visiting new places (and mostly beaches) on the Florida's east - Atlantic ocean - coast. They visited Port Saint Lucie and went to the Hutchinson Island (unique barrier island parallel to the mainland coast) to lay down on the Jensen Beach. The relaxing weekend ended with a concert next to the St Lucie River in Stuart and a wonderful sunset show.

Final seminar by Marin, LaBelle, July 9, 2015

Looking tan and trim, Marin delivered his final project seminar on July 9, 2015 in person to the group in LaBelle and remotely to his project teammates in Gainesville. It was the largest Intelligentsia group ever - 33 students. Many thanks to Marin for all his technical work and his very gracious logistical (transportation) help using the car his company rented for him the entire duration of his program.

July 4 weekend in Miami, July 3-5, 2015

Students were looking for a good spot to spend the 4th of July. Some picked the city rated 8th best for July 4 enjoyment - Miami! They arrived in Miami Friday night. The group stayed in a youth hostel on Miami's world-famous South Beach and experienced a beautiful Miami sunset. They walked through Miami Beach and continued their 4th of July at Ocean Drive, South Pointe Beach, and the Art Deco District. After all the activity, the opportunity to simply lay on the beach and watch Miami Beach fireworks made for a perfect evening. On Sunday they visited downtown Miami, Little Havana and Midtown famous for its numerous wall paintings. They stopped by Sunny Isles to have a look at the area and came back to LaBelle with a wealth of wonderful memories.

Ryan's birthday, LaBelle, July 1, 2015

Ryan is a local kid who comes to our office and helps with various tasks and learns new things. This past weekend he turned 14, so he really cannot be called a kid anymore, since he is now a young man. We are sure that celebrating his birthday at a surprise office party in the company of our many female French program participants made an enjoyable day for him :) Happy birthday from all of us!

Exploring Tampa and around, June 27-28, 2015

Eighteen students from the Intelligentsia group came from LaBelle, Tampa and Gainesville to meet in Tampa for a colorful weekend. On Saturday they visited Saint Petersburg and the Tampa Aquarium - the greatest in Florida. That night they participated to the Blacklight Run in Tampa with more than 15,000 other young people. The night was capped with a Ybor City (bar district) experience. On their way back to LaBelle some students stopped by Sarasota and Venice where they enjoyed a typical 1950's American meal.

LDRC project - a ribbon cutting ceremony, LaBelle, June 23, 2015

The LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation (LDRC) held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Fort Thompson Avenue Parklet on June 23, 2015. The LDRC has an interest in improving the appearance and economic stability of historic Downtown LaBelle as well as preserve its historic heritage. While LaBelle is not exactly a big town, there are cool things happening here.

Attending the Big Sugar Summit, West Palm Beach, June 20, 2015

On June 20, 2015, a group of 14 Intelligentsia students attended the Big Sugar Summit in West Palm Beach, which presented facts regarding the sugar industry's influence and impact on Florida and its citizens. A wide panel of speakers took part in the educational event - politicians, academicians and scientists. Intelligentsia's students could attend thanks to our ongoing cooperation with the Florida Chapter of Sierra Club.

Exploring close-by beach areas - Sanibel/Captiva, Naples, June 13-14, 2015

In less than an hour drive from LaBelle are located several very nice beach areas. This weekend our students decided to explore two of them - on Sat the famous Sanibel Island and on Sun the city of Naples. The plan was fairly simple - lay down on a beach to get some suntan and have fun. With everyone catching a fair amount of sunburn, it is fair to say that the mission was accomplished :)

Interviewing our participant Nader, June 11, 2015

French newspaper "la Nouvelle Republique" published an article about Nader Ben Maad, one of our current French students. Nader was interviewed about his current tasks at Intelligentsia related to solar energy efficiency research as well as the climate change project, which aims at various issues related to climate change. The full interview (in French) is available here.

Sophie's birthday party, LaBelle, June 6, 2015

Just a few days after arriving to our program in Florida, Sophie turned 23. Other students organized a birthday party for her, not forgetting to bake a typical French cake - a small reminder that our French students are often big enthusiasts for patisserie :) Happy birthday from all of us!

Sea level rise lecture by Dr. Karl Havens, Gainesville, June 4, 2015

On Thursday, June 4, 2015, the Intelligentsia students in Gainesville (Jocelina, Marion, Remo, and Arnaud) attended an informal seminar on Sea Level Rise held in the First Magnitude Brewing Company production floor (craft beer brewery). The hosts were the University of Florida Sea Grant team led by Dr. Karl Havens. Following a presentation by Dr. Havens on what Floridians should expect from Sea Level Rise, the gathering continued for an extended question and discussion session between the experts and audience.

Caloosahatchee shake-down cruise, LaBelle, June 1, 2015

Henry Mox, our office friend and Florida snowbird, weighed anchor and rode the winds of I-75 back to Michigan, but not before Intelligentsia students helped Henry prepare his boat and enjoyed a Caloosahatchee shake-down cruise before his departure.

Extended weekend in New Orleans (Louisiana), May 28 - May 31, 2015

Eight students from our group organized a trip to New Orleans for an extended weekend. With most of them being originally from France, it is no wonder that they stayed mostly around the famous French Quarter, enjoying its food, jazz music and museums. There was also time for walking on shores of the mighty Mississippi River. While New Orleans is not exactly close to Florida, it is still a reasonably timed ride (about 8 hours from Gainesville), so a trip worth an extended weekend exploring.

Exploring Tampa and surrounding areas during a weekend, May 23 - May 24, 2015

During the weekend May 23 - May 24, 2015 several of our students located in LaBelle paid a visit to those of us located in Tampa. With Intelligentsia's having a housing in both these cities, similar visits are quite common. On Saturday the group spent most of the day enjoying the beach in Clearwater. No student's visit to Tampa is complete without spending a bit of a wild night in the busy historic Ybor City. Sunday morning was set for relaxing on the Picnic Island Beach and during the afternoon the students went to see St Petersburg, famous e.g. for the Salvador Dali Museum.

Final seminar by Maxime, LaBelle, May 22, 2015

On Friday, May 23, 2015, French student Maxime delivered his final project seminar. After covering the technical and organizational aspects of his climate change related project, Maxime talked about his time and travels in Florida and the USA. Prior to returning to France, he will spend 2 weeks traveling the USA with his parents and younger brothers.

Relaxing in Gainesville, May 15 - May 17, 2015

During the weekend May 15 - May 17, 2015 a small reunion of the students located in Tampa and Gainesville took place in the city of University of Florida. After checking the student bars in Gainesville downtown on Friday night, during Saturday the group toured the large and lively UF campus and finished the day in a typical Mexican restaurant. On Sunday the students aimed for a relaxed day full of swimming in the beautiful north-central Florida springs.

Attending SFWMD's Governing Board meeting, West Palm Beach, May 14, 2015

On Thursday, May 14, 2015, four Intelligentsia students (Anne-Laure, Marion, Jerome and Clemence) traveled with Sierra Club organizer Cris Costello to West Palm Beach to attend the Governing Board meeting of the South Florida Water Management District. Having joined the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (Riverwatch) as student members, the French group tried to help other environmental advocates convince SFWMD to purchase lands south of Lake Okeechobee needed to protect the Caloosahatchee Estuary, St. Lucie Estuary, and Florida Everglades. Marion expressed her thoughts to the board members during the public comment period and attracted much attention from the Florida residents who were impressed that an international young person would give a tourist’s perspective on the need for Florida environmental protection.

Visit to Telecom-Lille campus, May 12, 2015

As a part of his visit to France, Michal Fidler (director of III) met with Franck Way (internship coordinator at Telecom Lille) as well as several alumni of our Florida program from this campus. Soufiane, Mehdi, Aziz and other students also visited with the elusive Michal during one of his rare personal appearances. Normally Michal works remotely via the Internet from his home in the Czech Republic or from whichever country he is visiting at the time. Michal spends more than half his time traveling the world on assignments, e.g. to France he came directly from Japan. Michal's visit to Lille was a reciprocal visit, since Mr. Way visited III's office in LaBelle earlier this year (see below). Photos from Franck's trip with his students and III's staff to Fisheating Creek (on March 10, 2015) were all over Franck's office desk, so clearly a sign that the trip was unique :)

Visiting Paris and around, early May 2015

Michal Fidler, director of Intelligentsia, spent several weeks during early May 2015 in Paris and surrounding areas. Objective of his visit there was to meet with student organization officers and university administrators to secure space for an III/AEL symposium that would precede the UN climate change summit (COP21) in November-December 2015. Michal also tested various transport options (including the very fast TGV trains), so that getting around Paris will be less challenging for the U.S. students visiting Paris (or even Europe) for the first time.

Afternoon BBQ and canoe trip in Fisheating Creek, May 10, 2015

Within a few hours of deciding to go on an outing, our group went to Fisheating Creek for an afternoon BBQ and canoe trip on Sunday, May 10. Some of the more daring students enjoyed the rope swing next to Memorial Cypress engaging in Circ du Solei acrobatics that surely frightened away all the gators (we saw several in the creek during the excursion). Upon return to the camp site John prepared a fire and some chicken, burgers and dogs while Nargis prepared a garden salad and fruit. The evening wrapped up with a campfire and marshmallow roast before making the 20-minute drive back to LaBelle.

Sea Level Rise Conference, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, May 8, 2015

On May 8, 2015, the entire LaBelle group of Intelligentsia students attended the sea level rise conference at Florida Gulf Coast University. The day-long event included a long list of prominent speakers on the global and local issues of climate change and the shrinking Florida beaches and coastal communities. Intelligentsia students enjoyed a free breakfast and lunch as well at this no-cost conference. Our group assisted with attendee registration, Riverwatch exhibit staffing, and Florida Solar Choice petition signature collection. Our students vastly out-numbed the number of FGCU students in attendance.

Pool & pizza party, LaBelle, April 21, 2015

As six students prepare for their final few days in the program, everyone gathered for a pool & pizza party at the River Run house on April 21, 2015. Soon to depart are Edouard, Salma, Mehdi, Soufiane, Adrien, and Camille.

Attending SFWMD's Governing Board meeting, West Palm Beach, April 9, 2015

Fabien is a journalism student and one of the issues he writes about is the purchase of EAA land needed to protect the Caloosahatchee River and Everglades. After his trip to Tallahassee (on April 6-7), he went with other activists from Sierra Club and Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association to West Palm Beach on Apr 9, where he attended the SFWMD's Governing Board meeting to get another perspective on the investigated issues.

Everglades Action Day & Jimmy Buffett Concert, Tallahassee, April 6-7, 2015

On April 6 & 7, 2015, officer manager Nargiza and CRCA assistant Adrien led the Intelligentsia group on a trip to Tallahassee to participate in the Everglades Action Day at the State Capitol. They visited offices of legislators advocating the purchase of EAA land needed to protect the Caloosahatchee River and Everglades. The free bus trip and hotel rooms were sponsored by the Everglades Coaltion and Everglades Foundation. Thanks to both! As tourists, the students told the politicians that international visitors like them come to Florida to enjoy its clean water and natural beauty. Thus, Florida has a clear economic interest in protecting its environment. A bonus of the trip was a brief concert by famed Florida singer Jimmy Buffett, noted for his support of green issues.

Easter potluck dinner & Drum circle in Centennial Park, Fort Myers, April 5, 2015

After a Easter potluck dinner at the home of friends on Sunday, April 5, 2015, the Intelligentsia group went to Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers. Following a downtown stroll, Soufiane from Morocco joined in a drum circle and entertained the crowd.

Final seminar by Thomas, LaBelle, April 3, 2015

On Friday, April 3, 2015, French student Thomas completed his program and delivered his final seminar, albeit with something of a headache that he blames on his Italian roommates and his going-away party held the night before. The next morning, prior to his departure for a final Miami adventure, Thomas, Nargis, John, and others got together for breakfast at LaBelle's Big-V Restaurant, a place noted for its good food, photo of George Wallace (look him up...ughh!) and painting of John Wayne. It's was a true Southern "cultural" experience. The county sheriff even stopped by the table to chat and wish Thomas good luck.

Gene Gibson - guest speaker to our group, LaBelle, March 31, 2015

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015, Gene Gibson delivered a presentation to the Intelligentsia group about his environmental and development career, which began as an attorney in Sarasota then moved on to legal and advocacy work for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and finally to consulting and a State Department officer in USAID (US Agency for International Development). Gene and his wife Nan are also members of the CRCA-Riverwatch organization that Intelligentsia students help manage.

Hosting a rest stop for a Florida coast-to-coast bike ride, LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Program, March 28, 2015

Intelligentsia students, Medhi, Edouard, Salma and Camille, helped the LaBelle Downtown Revitalization program host a rest stop for a Florida coast-to-coast bike ride event to raise money for food charities. Part of the event was to paint the first of what will hopefully be a series of murals on Bridge Street (near the Caloosahatchee River) in downtown LaBelle.

Another Intelligentsia International housing in LaBelle goes solar, March 22-24, 2015

Another solar system installation at the River Run house, where our program participants sometimes reside, was completed! Intelligentsia International got a special deal in FPL rebates & special hardware discounts to make possible solar energy on another our housing in LaBelle.

BBQ and canoeing at Fisheating Creek, March 10, 2015

On March 10, 2015, after completing office meetings in the morning, the group traveled to Fisheating Creek to show Franck Way of Lille-Telecom the types of recreational activities students enjoy during their program. We had a nice chicken sandwiches BBQ and picnic between canoe excursions on the creek. Plenty of gators showed themselves and posed for photos.

Visitor from Telecom-Lille campus, LaBelle, March 9-11, 2015

On March 9-11, 2015, Mr. Franck Way of the Telecom-Lille campus visited the III offices to check on his group of 5 students completing their program in Florida. Mr. Way observed the student progress report presentations and then provided a lecture on marketing designed for an engineering audience. Afterward he conducted a series of one-on-one meetings with the students and with Dr. Capece to perform a program assessment.

Organizing petitions signing on a Solar Choice constitutional amendment, LaBelle, February 21-22, 2015

On Feb 21-22, 2015, our group (mainly Salma and Soufiane) collected 200 signatures on a petition to get a Solar Choice constitutional amendment on the ballot of the next Florida statewide election in 2016. To get the item on the ballot requires 700,000 signatures from registered Florida voters. We accomplished 0.03% of the goal, but together our group and many others have already assembled more than 100,000 signatures. The petition drive experience gave the students a chance to practice their English and meet many typical Americans as they visited the many exhibits of the Swamp Cabbage Festival in LaBelle.

Rodeo during the Swamp Cabbage Festival, LaBelle, February 20, 2015

After a day at the Swamp Cabbage Festival, John and Nargis took the group to the LaBelle Rodeo where cowboy teams (including cowgirls) competed to see which local ranch could claim the annual bragging rights to having the best wranglers. Even the kids got into the act with the "Calf Stampede" where a crowd of 60 fearless children chased down two calves to capture a ribbon off their tails to win a prize, while trying not to get kicked or trampled by the fleeing calves.

"Rally in Tally", Tallahassee, February 18, 2015

On February 18, 2015, Nargis and Adrien led the group on a bus journey that began at 4:30 am to Florida's capital city, Tallahassee for a rally in support of clean water and Amendment 1 (environmental land purchases). The students observed the U.S. political process and had the opportunity to visit legislators, seeing and hearing how American express their concerns and priorities to their elected representatives. Everyone arrived back in LaBelle at 3am the next day. It was a very long day's adventure.

Canoeing on Orange River, Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers, February 15, 2015

Sunday, Feb 15, 2015 was a wonderful day at Manatee Park. There were hundreds of manatee to be seen up close while paddling in the canoes on the Orange River, a tributary to the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary. The more friendly of the manatee swam around the canoes and poked their heads up to look at the people and hope for a hand-out of fresh lettuce or grass. But the rule is that you are not to touch, pet or feed the manatee (see and It is not illegal to let a curious manatee smell your hand, but understand the manatee is probably looking for food, so it might be a little risky. Absolutely do not feed them...grass or your fingers. Often if you reach out and touch them they get frightened and flip their large tails to swim away. And the tail of such a large animal (the size of a cow) can easily toss a canoe and its people into the air tipping them into the water. The manatee are curious but harmless to people.

Attending AWRA conference and weekend on a beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Beach & Naples, February 6-8, 2015

Thomas Noeuveglise and Adrien Lombard attended the Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference held at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers on Feb 6, 2015. The topic was runoff management, all the water that flows after a storm from our farms, streets and yards into the rivers, lakes and other water bodies carrying with it pollution from human activities. Managing and cleaning this water is a major environmental challenge for Florida and all other parts of the world with sufficient rainfall. Dr. Capece has helped organize this annual conference for the past 19 years. After the conference, the students spent rest of the weekend in Bonita Beach and Naples, enjoying its beautiful beaches.

Final seminar by Leopoldine, LaBelle, January 31, 2015

Leopoldine Matthieu delivered her final project seminar to the Intelligentsia group. Most of the other students in attendance were recruited through the efforts of Leopoldine in organizing our new climate change related project. Leopoldine developed it with Dr. Capece, Nargiza Abduvohidova and Michal Fidler as a follow-up to her work with the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. Before her seminar the group enjoyed a pizza lunch and afterward it was cake and coffee. We will surely miss Leopoldine in LaBelle.

Attending the Citizens Climate Lobby meeting, Coconut Grove, January 10, 2015

On Saturday, January 10, 2015, the Intelligentsia group drove to Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood for a meeting of Citizens Climate Lobby held at the offices of YGrene, a company with a unique business model in which energy improvements to a home are financed through property tax assessment over 15 to 30 years. The meeting included a conference call joined by over 100 chapters of CCL across the USA and Canada. Addressing the group was David Hone, Climate Change Advisor for Shell Oil Company stating his company's preference for "cap & trade" over CCL's advocacy for a carbon tax...if any carbon cost program is adopted by the USA.

Attending a concert by the Naples Philharmonic, January 9, 2015

The group made a one-hour trek to Artis Naples to attend a concert by the Naples Philharmonic. Student tickets were only $15 each for a wonderful performance in a quality-sound venue. The conductor was Andrey Boreyko with guest violinist Gidon Kremer and cellist Giedre Dirvanauskaite. The performance included Rózsa - Theme and Variations for Violin and Cello, Weinberg - Violin Concerto, and Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade.

Holiday Gatherings, November & December 2014

Maxime joined in for a family Christmas dinner and holiday celebration. A month earlier on Nov 26 Leopoldine cooked her first turkey with Nargiza for a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner.

Vacation Travel, December 2014

Leopoldine used her Christmas and New Year's holidays to visit other parts of the USA, including New York City, Washington DC, and New Orleans where she visited friends from France. Together with Maxime as well as Pierre & Nicolas from University of Florida in Gainesville, they rented a car for the road trip to New Orleans.

"Re-thinking Sustainability" visitor to Intelligentsia, December 8-10, 2014

Stephen Szucs, aka Sustainable Joe, spent a couple days with Intelligentsia on the final leg of his 6-month Canada to Key West "Re-thinking Sustainability" trek with his ELF bike/car named "Rita." On Dec 9 we introduced Stephen to Fisheating Creek where we camped the night following his 90-mile Venice to Palmdale transit. On Dec 10 Stephen pedaled & drove Rita to LaBelle where he stayed the night at the student dorm before continuing on to Boyton Beach on Dec 11...that's another 100+ miles in a day. Stephen's web site is

LaBelle Nature Park cleanup, November 15, 2014

On Saturday, November 15, Intelligentsia participant Leopoldine Mathieu, office manager Nargiza Abduvohidova, and supervisor John Capece helped clean up the local LaBelle Nature Park as a Riverwatch community service project. Joining them were students from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Fort Myers. Each FGCU student is required to help on some community projects as part of their degree program.

Showing Florida to a visiting friend, November 8-12, 2014

Gautier was a visiting friend of Leopoldine, a French student in Intelligentsia. Since he was here only a short time, Leopoldine wanted to show him Florida, so we took the group on a whirlwind tour. On Saturday we departed LaBelle at 7am and were in NASA Visitors Center by 11am. After a great time at NASA we departed at 630pm and arrived back in LaBelle at 10pm. Sunday was rainy so we stayed in LaBelle. Monday morning at 7am we departed for the Florida Keys, checked into a wonderful 3-bedroom condo in Lime Tree Bay Resort on Long Key then continued to Key West and were there by 1pm. We walked the streets and took in the sites until 730pm then returned to the condo at 930pm. We had a nice group dinner that evening. The next morning included snorkeling practice in the ocean and swimming pool before breakfast and then hotel check out at 11am. By 1215pm we arrived at John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo for a coral reef snorkeling trip at 120pm to 4pm. After a rush-hour traffic-filled drive to Miami, by 630pm we were on South Beach enjoying the lights of all the art-deco hotels. Walking and dining there in beautiful weather was a nice end to the busy day. By 830pm we were back on the road to LaBelle where we arrived home at 1030pm. Then next day at 11am we drove to Fisheating Creek for a quick canoe trip - one of the best ever at that wild place. We passed very near to at least 25 alligators on the paddling journey and saw many large birds and turtles too. By 2pm we were back in LaBelle where Gautier packed and then departed for the airport. He reached the Ft. Myers airport at 330pm and was on his plane headed back to France at 515pm. It was an action-packed few days.

Hosting our former participant Monyo once again, LaBelle

Monyo, originally from Bulgaria, attended our program back in 2008, when he focused on field equipment maintenance and researching various engineering technologies (e.g. telemetry system improvements). He is now married to another of our former participant, Chloe, and they now live near Gainesville. We stay in touch; Chloe and Monyo are occasional hosts to our current students, when they want to visit the beautiful Northcentral Florida springs. Monyo is currently finishing his IT Master's Degree in Miami. It's a long drive from Gainesville to Miami, thus Monyo stays in our LaBelle housing a couple nights a week, so he can wrap up his degree more quickly. It is good to maintain relationships with our former participants.

Exploring Tampa and Orlando, October 25-26, 2014

This weekend was organized an exploration trip to Tampa, Clearwater Beach and Orlando, which was also a nice little reunion trip - joining were our current program participant Leopoldine, our former program participant Erica (see more here) and 2 Leopoldine's French university fellows (who are currently doing their practical program in Gainesville). For reunions, the he world is a small place :)

Beach Pirate Festival, Fort Myers Beach, October 11, 2014

The 9th Annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival was an event that spiced up the already lively beach town, only 45 minutes from LaBelle. A crowd with costumed pirates stopping here and there for a bit o’ grog, live entertainment and games, Pirate Parade and more made for a fun and relaxing afternoon.

Autodesk CFD model of hurricane wind loads by Ian, October 3, 2014

Ian Chou, a Dartmouth University Aerospace Engineering graduate from Taiwan, completed his Intelligentsia project on October 3. He developed a Autodesk CFD (computational fluid dynamics) model of hurricane wind loads on roof-mounted solar panels. The objective was to determine if the mounting brackets would sustain the forces resulting from different panel orientations relative to the roof crest.

Universal Studios, Orlando, Sep 27-28, 2014

Universal Studios in Orlando is one of the favorite "must-see" places for our program participants. They spent both Saturday and Sunday there this past weekend, enjoying its rides, shows, shops, etc.

Professionals-Student Mixer at Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, September 11, 2014

Dr. Capece and Nargiza Abduvohidova attended a Professionals-Student Mixer at Florida Gulf Coast University to discuss practical experience and service learning opportunities with local water and engineering students. The event was part of the lead-up activities to the annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference that Dr. Capece has helped organized in each of the past 18 year. This year's event will be held in February 2015. Typically Intelligentsia' international students help organize the event. Last year's event is shown at

Signing up DECF members at FGCU tables, Fort Myers, September 9, 2014

This week Intelligentsia participants set up tables and exhibits at the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) campus in Ft. Myers and distributed informative materials to the students there. Intelligentsia participants who sign up for events and campaigns organizing are allowed to focus on issues and organizations of interest to them. Newly arrived French student, Leopoldine, and summer student from Univerisity of California-Berkeley, Erica, selected to work with the Southwest Chapter of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida (DEFC) - an advocacy organization seeking to change attitudes of Democratic candidates to better address environmental issues and seek meaningful progress on global challenges. Putting political party affiliation aside, there is enough space for seeking constructive alternatives, as the environment is a topic where really almost all are on the same page. The DECF table also included a petition for Republican leaning students to encourage their party to also create an environmental caucus.

Trip to Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, August 29, 2014

4 Intelligentsia students (American, Taiwanese, Brazilian, French) went with Dr. Capece to Kennedy Space Center and toured the Visitor Complex, NASA's launch pads, Astronaut Hall of Fame and all the other unique attractions this place offers. No visit to Florida is truly complete without setting your foot on this ground.

Touring the water treatment plants of LaBelle and Port LaBelle, August 19, 2014

Intelligentsia water students (Erica from California, Antoine from France and Eduardo from Brazil) toured the water treatment plants of LaBelle and Port LaBelle, guided by Dr. Capece and Port LaBelle Utility System Director Roger Greer.

Exploring springs in central Florida, August 17, 2014

Intelligentsia students in Gainesville, Thayllan and Gabriel, along with supervisor, Nargis, spent a weekend day at the beautiful springs of central Florida. Their guides were Chloe (French) and Monyo (Bulgarian) both former Intelligentsia students. Now married, they live and work near Gainesville. Chloe received her Master's Degree at USF working with Intelligentsia on Caloosahatchee oxbows research and Monyo completed his B.S. in electrical engineering and is now working on his Master's.

Final seminars by 4 participants, LaBelle, August 15, 2014

On Friday, August 15, 2014, four students delivered project seminars. Amanda from Federal University of Para (Brazil) and University of Montana described her web page content and newsletter creation for Riverwatch. Bianca from University of Pernambuco (Brazil) and State University of NY/Fredonia talked about her repairs to Intelligentsia software systems. Yannick from Grenoble Institute of Technology (France) updated the group on his documentation of the Hall St dorm solar power system design and installation. Natalia from State University of Maringa (Brazil) and State University of NY/Stony Brook presented her results on Life Cycle Assessment.

Community forum hosted by SFWMD, Fort Myers, August 8, 2014

Dr. Capece and four Intelligentsia students (Amanda, Erica, Eduardo and Antoine - those focused on water related projects) participated in a community forum hosted by the South Florida Water Management District. A total of 70 people attended, composed of leaders from government, business, and industry as well as environmental advocacy groups plus a few members of the general public. The purpose of the meeting was to prioritize a list of more than 60 projects, with budgets totaling almost 2 billion dollars, designed to address Caloosahatchee River flow and water quality problems.

Final seminars by 4 participants, LaBelle, August 1, 2014

Four students gave their final project seminars: Benoit from France on his antenna-based WiFi system, Camila from Brazil on energy audits and equipment improvements, Marcio on AC and air flow controllers, and Marcella on sugarcane farming systems. All but Camila were in LaBelle. but those in Tampa and Gainesville participated via Skype. A good job done by all!

Trip to NASA, Cape Canaveral, July 31, 2014

Intelligentsia students (4 Brazilian and 1 French) traveled to Kennedy Space Center on July 31. They toured the Visitor's Complex where they also met the first Brazilian astronaut, Lt. Col. Marcos C. Pontes of the Brazil Air Force and Brazilian Space Agency. He rocketed to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2006 on a Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan. Currently, Pontes works at NASA on the development and fabrication of the Brazilian parts for the ISS. He is on stand-by for training for future Brazilian space flights. While the students hoped to see an Atlas V rocket blast off from Kennedy, the lift off was delayed. But meeting Pontes was a unique experience for the mostly Brazilian group from Intelligentsia.

Pool party, Port LaBelle, July 27, 2014

Dr. Capece and Nargiza hosted the students for an all-day pool party on Sunday (July 27, 2014), at Port LaBelle Marina and River Run Villas. Eduardo, as always, caught a fish dinner in the Caloosahatchee River.

Exploring Fisheating Creek, July 26, 2014

On Saturday (July 26, 2014), Dr. Capece took the students to Fisheating Creek, only 15 miles from LaBelle, but a distant journey back into old Florida, with gators at every turn, cypress swamps to be explored by canoe, and thunderstorm downpours.

Sea Level Rise Symposium - beach break, West Palm Beach, July 25, 2014

The group took a beach break after the Sea Level Rise Symposium. After a driving tour of the mansions on Palm Beach, everyone walked the beach. The French students came prepared with swim trunks, so went for a swim.

Sea Level Rise Symposium, West Palm Beach, July 25, 2014

The Intelligentsia International group attended the Sea Level Rise Symposium at Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach. The event, sponsored by the John Marshall Foundation, focused on how communities of Southeast Florida from Palm Beach to Miami are preparing for sea level rise. No longer are such conference discussing how to prevent climate change. Most now seem to have accepted that coastlines will be lost and communities must adapt and move.

AC control system project by Marcio , LaBelle, July 17, 2014

Marcio from Minnesota State University and Federal University of Bahia in Brazil has developed as his technical project an air conditioner control system using sensors and a microprocessor board. The controller is designed to improve power consumption efficiency and dorm room comfort by closing air conditioning flow to a bedroom when the occupant opens their window. The controller also shuts down the entire AC system when both the room's window and door are open.

Final seminar by Tiago, LaBelle, July 16, 2014

On July 16, 2014, Tiago from University of Kentucky and University of Sao Paulo in Brazil completed his project and delivered his final seminar. Tiago developed software for the web site of Alpha Epsilon Lambda. He restructured one web page for student chapters to order certificates and created a new web page for individual students to order graduation honor society regalia.

Canoes and trailer cleaning, LaBelle, July 12, 2014

Eduardo, Tiago, and Marcio helped Dr. Capece prepare for a student's recreational canoe trip by cleaning the trailer and its canoes as service hours. Every year the canoes need cleaning, every few years the trailer requires repairs and painting.

Utility infrastructure mapping project, LaBelle, July 10, 2014

After weeks of working out the technical methods and procedures for using GPS instrumentation, ArcView to KMZ file Google Earth conversions, Offset methods, and other challenges, on July 10, 2014 Nelma led the student team into their first day of field data collection as part of utility infrastructure mapping project.

Wifi project by Benoit, LaBelle, July 10, 2014

Benoit, programmer from ESIGELEC University in Rouen (France), is setting up an extended WiFi network between Intelligentsia locations. He designed the system, selected the components, purchased the equipment, then installed and configured the devices. He's now testing the properties and performance of the system and working on improvements, including signal boosters for increased upload/download speed. Well done!

June Fest party, LaBelle, June 28, 2014

Our mostly Brazilian students organized a party called "June Fest". It is very traditional in Brazil to celebrate the saint's of June, such as Saint Anthony and Saint John. The students cooked traditional food, danced traditional music, wore traditional costumes & make up and also cheered for the Brazilian soccer team.

Wayne Daltry - guest speaker to our group, LaBelle, June 27, 2014

Wayne Daltry, a former SW Florida Regional Planner and former CRCA-Riverwatch president, was our next guest speaker and he talked to our group about the history of development of SW Florida based on population, industry, transportation & government policy. He went on to discuss the various ways to think about and measures of sustainability and the serious and severe challenges facing the current generation of university students as they move on to their careers and lives. Also attending was Marti Daltry, Wayne's wife and also a former two-term Riverwatch president.

Ron Zimmerly - guest speaker to our group, LaBelle, June 23, 2014

Ron Zimmerly talked today to the group about his more than 10 years of experience in Brazil, it's recent past and future prospects. Ron is Finance Director of the City of LaBelle, a leader of the Hendry County Republican Party, Riverwatch Director, and Port LaBelle Utility Advisory Board Member.

John Cassani - guest speaker to our group, LaBelle, June 20, 2014

Today's speaker to our group was John Cassani, a biologist with Lee County, where he is responsible for various natural resources issues (exotic plant control in waterways, ecological health of lakes and rivers, etc.). John is well known in Florida, since the major newspapers publish his opinions almost every month. He talked to our group about the role of a scientist in a government agency...the skills sets needed and the challenges, limitations & opportunities to be faced.

Port LaBelle Utility System Advisory Board meeting, LaBelle, June 17, 2014

Intelligentsia student participants Bruna, Eduardo, Mateus Nelma, and Carla attended the citizens advisory board meeting of Port LaBelle Utility System (PLUS). The discussion focused on approval of the utility's budget and measures to remedy the utility's severe pipe leakage problems.

Planning the USA Transcontinental AMTRAK Train Vacation, LaBelle, June 16, 2014

During a presentation about Intelligentsia's Rotary Rail & Water Tour program, Dr. Capece described how student participants can also take a recreational AMTRAK train vacation across the entire USA. The travel poster above was created by two former Intelligentsia's students from Germany and describes their 17-day trip. Any of our participants interested in taking such a trip can get our assistance in starting the planning process for a once in a lifetime experience.

Seminar by our program participant Marla, LaBelle, June 13, 2014

Marla, an agronomy student from University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) and Missouri State University (USA), delivered to our group of 18 students a presentation about the topic she investigates while in our program - trade-offs between biofuels energy production, land use and water use in Florida.

Ross Wherry - guests speaker to our group, LaBelle, June 13, 2014

Special guest, Mr. Ross Wherry, spoke to the group on June 13 about his experience as a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. State Department Agency for International Development from 1981 to 2006. Among his postings were Iraq as head of AID programs, Afghanistan as a team officer, and Washington, DC as Deputy Director for South American Affairs. His experiences and advice carried a truly global perspective.

Dorm inspections score: 2-1; Brazil - Croatia score: 3-1; June 12, 2014

Once a week is performed a housing inspection in the dorms, where our program participants live. Today's score was 2 houses pass - 1 not pass. The score our current 18 Brazilian participants were much more interested at was different though - they all took the afternoon off, so they could watch the opening game of the World Cup. Neymar & Co. did somehow better on the score, although the penalty kick was definitely VERY controversial :)

Seminar by our program participant Ricardo, LaBelle, June 9, 2014

Ricardo, a petroleum engineering student from Universidade Federal Fluminense (Brazil) and The University of Montana (USA), delivered to our group of 18 students a presentation about Mendeley - a free referencing management software, capable of finding relevant papers, generating bibliographies automatically and other important functions needed in the academic and professional world.

Ray Judah - guests speaker to our group, LaBelle, June 9, 2014

Ray Judah was the first guest speaker of the 2014 Summer Program. Mr. Judah is a former Lee County Commissioner (1988-2012) and before that an employee of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Mr. Judah talked mostly about two topics - (1) politics, votes and their interaction affects domestic development, governance and the environment & (2) what the future holds for society collectively/globally and what young people need to be doing to shape their careers/lives for meaningful participation, employment, and quality of life.

Outing to Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, June 7, 2014

Those of our program participants located in Gainesville had a rather long list of planned weekend activities, but decided for the Florida Museum of Natural History. Citing one of them - "it was a great time and we could learn more about the natural history, sea species, fossils, butterflies, flowers present in Florida, and pre-historic animals."

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting and presentation, Fort Myers, June 4, 2014

Intelligentsia's participants Amanda, Carla, Nelma and Marcella attended the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (Riverwatch) meeting on June 4 and heard Florida State Representative Matt Caldwell discuss Southwest Florida water issues and what can be done locally to remedy the state and federal inaction.

Extended weekend in Miami, May 30 - June 1, 2014

During the summer months, our program participants are excepted to spend in the office only 35 hours/week, so if they go with the 9AM - 6PM schedule during Mon-Thu, they can leave for a weekend drip on Fri just after the lunch. Exactly this happened this weekend, when the crowd went to Miami on Fri early afternoon in order to celebrate Cedrine's birthday and also drop her off in the airport.

Sailing on the Caloosahatchee River, LaBelle, May 28, 2014

When our good friend Scott "Commodore" Perry stopped by in the office and invited us for an evening sail on the Caloosahatchee River, he was surely not expecting that our current group of mostly Brazilian students will "take charge" of his boat - at first they occupied almost every inch of the deck and then they even dared to put up their national flag :-)

Brazilian pool party, LaBelle, May 26, 2014

A group of our students decided to spend a leisure afternoon during the Memorial Day around the swimming pool adjacent to one of our residences. Most of the summer students come originally from Brazil, spending a year in the USA under the Science Without Borders Program. We are not sure why so many signed up for the summer program with us in Florida, but are guessing that it is probably the result of the severe winter conditions they experienced in Montana, Minnesota and other northern campuses :)

Skydiving in Orlando, May 25, 2014

One of the main US cities for entertainment is Orlando. Our students took the "standard" attractions time in Orlando (with many amusement parks) one step further and went for something new - skydiving. The feedback we hear from them is simple - IT WAS AWESOME!!!

A trip to northern Florida, May 22-25, 2014

Few of our students, who already know well the south and southwest Florida, decided to take an extended weekend and explore the Sunshine State further north. On their itinerary were mostly Orlando, Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Daytona Beach and given the number of pictures they took while on the road, they surely had a great time.

Touring the Water treatment plant and the Waste water treatment plant, LaBelle, May 6-8, 2014

Several of our students are involved in the Utility project, so as a part of their assignment they tour from time to time the Port LaBelle water treatment plant (WTP), waste water treatment plant (WWTP), and field/pipelines facilities. With Dr. Capece serving as an adviser to Port Labelle Utilities System (PLUS), our participants get insight into the water utility operations.

Wildlife survey in SW Florida, May 8, 2014

Biologist David Ceilley allowed our program participants experience some fieldwork, when joining him on his research project - a wildlife survey in SW Florida. We were studying birds and other wildlife on different sites to see if populations changes after controlled forest burning and if it is managed properly.

Earth Week celebration, LaBelle, Apr 28 - May 1, 2014

Almost 1000 Grade 2-4 students from Hendry & Glades Counties participated in the Earth Week celebration this year. The children visited five educational stations around the Captain Hendry House in LaBelle where they learned about environmental topics and enjoyed a walk through the LaBelle Nature Park. Intelligentsia's program participants Paul, Cedrine and Maria delivered 36 separate presentations during the 4-days event. Their topic this year was climate change & solar energy.

Sailing on the Caloosahatchee River, April 28, 2014

After the first day of us volunteering in the Earth Week events (EW), our students were invited on a boat trip from Henry Mox, who has been volunteering during the EW as well. A few days before, Henry pulled up his boat at the LaBelle dock and he needed some little help with his sailboat, while getting it ready for for his sailing to Europe. After some preparations he gave his new "crew" some sailing lessons - our students controlled the sails and steered the boat during the leisure afternoon on the Caloosahatchee River.

Touring the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, April 5, 2014

Only 45 minutes drive from LaBelle is located the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, a very interesting nature site with a 1.2-mile elevated boardwalk, 5 observation decks for wildlife viewing and seating enclaves throughout the trail for quiet reflection. We spent this Saturday in this oasis, where visitors like us can observe up-close a vast array of plants and animals that can live in this place, which is sometimes land, sometimes water and sometimes both.

Presentation on Caloosahatchee's historical paddle-wheel steamboats, LaBelle, April 3, 2014

David Glick, who retired from the Henry Ford Museum at Dearborn, MI, was a guest speaker during the monthly LaBelle Heritage Museum meeting. Glick related his experiences with the restoration and preservation of some of the Caloosahatchee's River famous paddle-wheel steamboats, that plied the river during the early days of the 20th century and were no strangers to LaBelle's waterfront that Henry Ford either had replicated or restored for his Museum. An interesting excursion to some local and Florida's history for our program participants.

Seminars by our program participants, LaBelle, March 31, 2014

Romain from France and Maria from Norway delivered presentations to other team members describing their program activities. It was an informal lunch-hour event with pizza and drinks held outdoors at the Port LaBelle Villas pool & marina. For Romain it was a final seminar on the day of his departure, while for Maria it was a progress seminar. Both presentations focused on their CRCA/Riverwatch volunteer activities.

Canoeing and picnicking at FishEating Creek, March 30, 2014

Fisheating Creek is a perfect place to get up-close to "wild" Florida. Only 20 minutes drive from LaBelle, we like to go there from time to time. While we first planned for an overnight camping, the weather promised a rainy Saturday night, so we spent there only Sunday. But it was a full day stay, so we had plenty of time for kayaking, picnicking and exploring the flora and fauna of the beautiful Creek.

Extended weekend during the Spring Break, Miami Beach, March 21-23, 2014

Every year the best Spring Break destinations are announced and every year Miami Beach figures at one of the very top positions. Our group of students decided to check what is so special about that time of the year there, took an extended weekend and citing one of them after coming back - "we took everything that we could to enjoy Miami, still in moderate ways, and plainly said - experiences were very interesting ^_^" Sounds like Spring Break time was well spent :-)

Touring LaBelle Nature Park with Gene McAvoy, LaBelle, February 24, 2014

Gene McAvoy, Vegetable Extension Agent IV at University of Florida, led a group of representatives from Rotary Club of LaBelle, UF/IFAS Extension office, CRCA-Riverwatch and Intelligentsia International during a 2-hour tour in the LaBelle Nature Park. The purpose of the tour was to identify, mark and take GPS coordinates of native and some invasive plants found in the park in order to facilitate placing new plant ID’s in the future.

Annual Swamp Cabbage Festival and staffing CRCA booth, LaBelle, February 22-23, 2014

The largest fair and festival in Hendry County, the Annual Swamp Cabbage Festival, celebrates Florida's State tree. Almost 20,000 people visited the city of LaBelle this past weekend. Intelligentsia's program participants helped with staffing the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) booth and also found time to enjoy the music, food, crafts, and amusement rides at the Barron Park along the Caloosahatchee River.

Mehdi's birthday, February 21, 2014

Mehdi, who came to our program from French engineering school Telecom Lille, has his birthday today. A cake delivered by the others took him by a surprise and a small party in the house eventually came up. We love his quote "22 years? Man, I'm getting old!" :) Happy birthday from all of us!

"Rally in Tally", Tallahassee, February 18, 2014

People across Florida are demanding lawmakers make a promise to clean up the pollution in Florida's waterways. To make the voice being heard loudly, buses filled with protesters boarded all over the state and took their message to Florida's capital - Tallahassee, during the "Rally in Tally". Carrying signs and calling for solutions were also our students, urging lawmakers to sign the Floridians' Clear Water Declaration and clean up the pollution. After the rally, the group met with congressional hopeful Lizbeth Benacquisto, who already signed the Declaration. Our students appeared few times even on television, so it was a long day, but the cause is definitely worth the effort.

Exploring the Everglades, February 15, 2014

Copying an email, sent by one the current program participants (Maria from Norway), will say it all about this past weekend exploration trip: "We rented a car for the weekend and started our drive to Everglades on Saturday morning. We started the day with an airboat ride at Everglades Safari Park, where we got to see alligators in the wetlands. This was followed by an alligator show and holding a baby alligator by people who were interested. Our next stop was Shark Valley Visitor Center, where we spent a couple of hours walking around in the park and experienced amazing nature and wildlife."

Research results presentation and attending a symposium, Gainesville, February 11 - 12, 2014

Intelligentsia's president, Dr. John Capece, presented results of our research on trade-offs between biofuels energy production, land use & water use in Florida during the 4th UF Water Institute Symposium focused on Complex Challenges and Integrated Solutions for Water Supply Planning in a Non-Stationary World. This symposium brought together individuals from a variety of institutional affiliations, disciplines and perspectives to explore the science, technology, practices and policies needed for a secure water future.

An extended weekend in Miami, February 7 - 9, 2014

Earning sufficient number of "make-up hours" in our program guarantees time off. Our participants took this advantage, had a half-a-day off on Friday, February 7 and headed directly to Miami for an extended weekend. They stayed in a hostel right next to the Ocean Drive, so they could enjoy the Miami nightlife as well as the white sands beaches and warm waters of the Atlantic ocean in Miami South Beach.

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting and presentation, LaBelle, February 5, 2014

Speakers at the regular monthly Riverwatch/CRCA meeting were Dr. Abdul Ahmadi, Water Facilities Administrator, and Jennifer Carpenter, Program Administrator for the South District of Florida Dept of Environmental Protection. Attending the event made for an interesting and educational evening.

A weekend in Bonita Springs, January 31 – February 2, 2014

After attending the 23rd Annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference on Friday (Jan 31) in Fort Myers, a group of Intelligentsia's students stayed at the Vester Marine Field Station in Bonita Beach and spent the weekend in Bonita Springs. Friday night ended with a basketball game at Florida Gulf Coast University, followed on Saturday morning by an organized canoe trip for students attending the Conference. During Sunday there was plenty of opportunities to enjoy some beach time at the beautiful Bonita Beach with warm weather and pleasant water temperature.

23rd Annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference, Fort Myers, January 31, 2014

Intelligentsia International was one of the main organizers of the 2013/14 Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference. Issues related to climate changes and its effects on ecosystem services, infrastructure, food & water production and areas of habitation were discussed. We have a host of new challenges to meet in coming years.

Intelligentsia International student housing in LaBelle goes solar, LaBelle, Jan 27, 2014

The solar system installation at the Hall street house, where several of our program participants reside, was completed! CRCA member & FAFCO Solar Energy owner Dan Morrissey provided a special deal worth over $22,000 in FPL rebates & special hardware discounts to make possible solar energy on the III's student dorm in LaBelle.

Presenting III during service learning project day for FGCU students, Fort Myers, Jan 24, 2014

Florida Gulf Coast university (FGCU) students complete service learning hours as part of their bachelor's degree. Intelligentsia International as well as its partner CRCA/Riverwatch offered these students several opportunities, such as creating a system of LaBelle Nature Park plant ID markers with QR codes, cleaning up Billy’s Creek in Ft. Myers, helping with holding an exhibit during the traditional Swamp Cabbage Festival in LaBelle, etc. During such activities, FGCU and III students engage together in service activities for the local community.

Placing purlins on the south face of Hall street house roof, LaBelle, December 14, 2013

In order to move ahead with the solar system installation at the Hall street house, purlins were placed on the complete south side of the Hall street house roof. As a next step, the solar panels will be installed and actual application of III's B6 practical program will be moved ahead again.

Oxbows exploration, LaBelle, Decemeber 12, 2013

Canoeing through the Caloosahatchee River oxbows was organized as a small outing during an afternoon. We paddled through several oxbows, explored its flora and fauna and as a bonus stopped on small beach, where we were able to find several fossils.

Topographical survey of Intelligentsia's property, LaBelle, October 2013

During October 2013, we prepared various designs for installation of solar units at one of the Intelligentsia's properties. Prior the structure could be installed, we had to conduct the property topographical survey in order to measure elevation difference in the land surface. This will help us to make a decision whether the area will need to be leveled out or whether we will need to account for the differences by adjusting the structure dimensions.

Innovative water technologies seminar, Miami, August 29, 2013

The Consulate General of Israel and the Greenberg Traurig international law firm hosted "A Seminar on Innovative Water Technologies", highlighting Israeli companies marketing products and services in the USA to address a range of water management challenges. The keynote speaker was Florida's Commissioner for Agriculture, Adam Putnam. The venue was the 44th floor meeting room in the Wells Fargo Center of downtown Miami. A great seminar to attend for our program participants.

LaBelle Nature Park information collection, August 2013

Nicolas, an environmental science student from France, spent time in the LaBelle Nature Park in August 2013, collecting information in preparation to create new web pages describing 38 different plants and animals in the park. The Nature Park is a volunteer project of Rotary Club of LaBelle, Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association, Intelligentsia International and LaBelle-Hendry Recreation Board.

A weekend in northern Florida, August 9 - 11, 2013

Our participants, spending a part of their program in the Gainesville location, organized a weekend trip to few major attractions of northern Florida - Kennedy Space Center (NASA) and historical St. Augustine. While on the road, a quick stop in an alligator farm spiced up the outing.

An extended weekend in Tampa, July 19 - 22, 2013

Intelligentsia International owns an apartment in Tampa, where can stay our participants during a weekend trip from time to time. It was the case of the past weekend, where visiting major attractions of Tampa area (such as downtown, Ybor City, Busch Gardens, etc.) was the plan. We even stayed in Tampa during Monday, when we took care of our office tasks not from our regular office in LaBelle, but from the University of South Florida campus.

Velocities measurements in Caloosahatchee River oxbows, August 2013

During August 2013, Alex, a geography student from England (University of Southampton), ventured into the field with Dr. Capece, Nargiza and Zhi to measure water velocities in the old oxbows of the Caloosahatchee River. The work was as a follow-up to a 2005 physical restoration project and hydrodynamics simulations by Dr. Capece.

An extended weekend in Miami, July 4 - 7, 2013

Earning sufficient number of "make-up hours" in our program guarantees a day off. Few of our participants took this advantage and took a day of on Friday, July 5. This arrangement then allowed them for an extended weekend (from Jul 4 to Jul 7) in Miami. In addition to the standard visits to Miami beaches, Ocean Drive and Art Deco District, this time there was also plenty of time to watch the July 4 fireworks in Bayside, visit sea aquarium or science museum.

Ground water levels measurements, LaBelle, July - August 2013

In late July engineering students Li (Michigan State University) and Joseph (Boston University) began measuring ground water levels near the Port LaBelle Utilities rapid infiltration basins. The purpose was to determine the direction of subsurface flow so that a new monitoring program could be developed.

A weekend in amusement parks, Orlando, June 15-16, 2013

Spending a weekend in Orlando's theme parks is a great way to experience American way of having fun. There are so many amusement parks there that one weekend is not enough. We'll have to go back soon again.

A weekend trip to Florida Keys, June 1 - 2, 2013

Snorkeling in Key Largo (in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park) and visiting then the southernmost point of continental USA in Key West are among highlights of any visit to Florida. Our current group organized this trip this past weekend and came back with tons of great experiences!

Presentation to the Rotary Club of LaBelle, May 28

Magdalena, a university student from Poland and Intelligentsia's program participant, spoke to the Rotary Club of LaBelle on the topic of Peace during their May 28 weekly lunch meeting. "Peace through Service" is the 2012-2013 theme for Rotary clubs worldwide. Magdalena is a sociologist specializing in conflict resolution.

Service hours tasks - dormitory house maintenance, Gainesville, May 27

Those participants who took some recreational time in Washington DC during the weekdays made up for the lost office time by performing "service projects" with Dr. Capece. The men repaired a leak in the roof and cleaned up the yard of leaves and branches at the Gainesville dormitory house. "Do it yourself" home maintenance is a common American activity. Six service hours are required of each participant each month. Some do more to accumulate additional vacation time for recreational trips. These activities can include a wide variety of things such as cutting the grass, improving the dorm rooms, office cleaning, helping the local schools, participating in Rotary club service projects, etc.

Sightseeing in Washington DC, May 20-24, 2013

When not attending the Department of Energy conference with Dr. Capece in Alexandria, Intelligentsia participants visited the monuments and museums of Washington DC. The two cities are neighbors and connected by the DC Metro trains. Washington DC is the seat of the federal government (Congress, President and Supreme Court).

Biofuels conference, Alexandria, Virginia, May 20-24, 2013

In the city of Alexandria, Virginia, the Bioenergy Technologies Office (US Department of Energy) held a biennial Peer Review of all its projects. Intelligentsia participants working on related projects were able to attend the conference and hear some of the 250 presentations in various technology areas. Intelligentsia's president Dr. Capece presented about progress on our biofuels sustainability research project.

Long weekend, Miami & Miami Beach, May 10-12, 2013

Miami Beach is a municipality located on a series of natural and man-made barrier islands between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, the latter which separates the Beach from Miami city proper. We visited the famous South Beach, chilled around the Ocean Drive, experienced its nightlife and much, much, much more.

Weekend outing, Sarasota, May 4-5, 2013

Sarasota is a city located south of the Tampa Bay Area and north of Fort Myers. Its limits include Sarasota Bay and several barrier islands between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. A perfect spot to visit during a weekend, not only because of its pristine beaches, but also chic boutiques, fine dining establishments and snack bars.

Gatorama, Palmdale, April 27, 2013

A 5-minutes drive from FishEating Creek is famous Gatorama. This alligator and crocodile farm with daily shows makes for a great adventure. One can get close and personal with many Florida native and exotic animals, or even hold them, if brave enough :)

Canoeing, picnicking and camping at FishEating Creek, April 27-28, 2013

Fisheating Creek is a perfect place to get up-close to "wild" Florida. Only 20 minutes drive from LaBelle, we like to go there from time to time. In addition to kayaking and picnicking, this weekend our participants also stayed overnight in local camp.

Earth Week celebration, LaBelle, Apr 22-25, 2013

Hundreds of children from local schools participated in the Earth Week celebration this year. The kids visited several different educational stations around the Captain Hendry House in LaBelle and learned about various environmental practices. Our participants delivered during 4 days lessons about drinking and waste water management.

Exploration of LaBelle by new participants, April 2013

A newly arrived group of our program participants started to explore LaBelle these days: wondering in local nature park - check, enjoying local swimming pool - check, playing at tennis courts - check.

Six Miles Cypress board walk with a ranger, Fort Myers, March 23, 2013

We joined a ranger led board walk through the Six Mile Cypress and enjoyed such trip. Blooming trees, tons of wildlife and very warm temperatures clearly indicate that spring reached Florida already. Time to start exploring Florida further more.

Saint Patrick's Day in Florida, March 17, 2013

Saint Patrick's Day, while not a legal holiday in the USA, is widely recognized and celebrated throughout the country. It is observed as a celebration of Irish and Irish American culture. Celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, eating, drinking and numerous parades. What a day full of fun!

Retirement party for Professor Hanlon, Fort Myers, March 16, 2013

Professor Ed Hanlon has been the Primary Investigator of our biofuels project. Last week, after almost 30 years with the University of Florida, he retired. A surprise "retirement party" was organized in a Yacht Club for him and we truly enjoyed attending the event, where many of his friends and co-workers met. Professor Hanlon, enjoy your retirement!

Big O' Birding Festival, LaBelle and surrounding areas, Mar 12 - 16, 2013

On the south shores of Lake Okeechobee takes place once a year the so called "Big O' Birding Festival". Organized tours, free presentations about birding, photographers' contest and other activities attract many visitors. No wonder that our program participants like to join some of these events.

Touring 17 local recreational parks, LaBelle, Mar 7, 2013

Hendry County Recreation Department asked Intelligentsia International to help with developing its brochures and other promotional materials. To give us a better idea of what services the Recreation Dept. provides, we toured 17 (!!) recreational parks within LaBelle limits. That's right, there are 17 various recreational parks within walking distance from our office. Activities one can do there include baseball, soccer, football, tennis, racquetball, golf, jogging, boats launching, basketball, volleyball, rodeo, swimming and many others. While LaBelle is a small town, there are certainly many recreational activities options here.

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting and presentation by Joy Hazell, Fort Myers, March 6, 2013

Joy Hazell of Florida Sea Grant presented during regular monthly CRCA/Riverwatch meeting on the health of the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary. The presentation took place at the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium in Ft. Myers and made for a very interesting and educational evening.

Relaxing in Port LaBelle Marina, Feb 28, 2013

The marina in Port LaBelle (just a few minutes bike ride from our housing) is a nice and quiet place to take a rest after a busy day in the office. Catching there a sunset makes one feel very relaxed. Come and see, everyone likes that place :)

Swamp Cabbage Festival, LaBelle, Feb 23-24, 2013

The annual Swamp Cabbage Festival took place in LaBelle this weekend. Intelligentsia International program participants had a chance to experience a typical American festival, started with a parade and followed for the whole weekend by entertaining events related to rodeo, food, arts, crafts, high school bands, Miss Swamp Cabbage content, armadillos racing, etc. Sort of hectic, but very entertaining weekend :)

Cruise trip to Bahamas, February 8-11, 2013

To those of us with a bit of an adventurous soul might Florida seem a bit small after a few months here. So how about a cruise trip to Bahamas? Well, this past weekend few of us undertook a 3-days cruise to Nassau and few islands around. Although Bahamas are almost next door to Florida, getting there is still a world's apart adventure. What a great extended weekend!

Afternoon birdwatching, LaBelle, Feb 3, 2013

There are few enthusiastic amateur photographers in our group, so for them (and not only for them) there is always an opportunity to walk or bike around LaBelle and search for various photo shooting opportunities. This afternoon the focus was on various birding species.

FishEating Creek outting, January 28, 2013

After a bit stressful push for organizing the AWRA conference, we deserved a relaxing afternoon. In addition, today was the last day in the office for Jean, our engineering intern from France, so we threw a sort of a farewell party for him by grilling some good food and canoeing on the calm waters of FishEating Creek.

Six Mile Cypress Slough wet walk, Fort Myers, January 26, 2013

Bob Repenning, Lee County Biologist, led a wet walk through the north Six Mile Cypress Slough system, discussing the management challenges and restoration efforts underway on some of the recently acquired preserves. We saw newly restored areas as well as disturbed areas soon to be restored. There were no trails on the property yet, so it made for a great trip to wonder around during this field trip.

22nd Annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference, Fort Myers, January 25, 2013

The 2012/13 American Water Resources Association Conference focused on the nexus of water and energy – the water that goes into energy and the energy that goes into water. It was held at the Royal Palm Yacht Club in Ft. Myers. The technical sessions were followed by posters presentations and panel discussion with national level scientist from Congressional Research Service, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Government Accountability Office and various top class US universities. Joining 70 professionals were 80 students including all of those from our office.

West Glades School Science Fair, LaBelle, January 10, 2013

Those of us with completed Masters or Doctoral degree were invited to volunteer as judges during the West Glades School Science Fair. Accepting the invitation was something we absolutely did not regret - spending few hours as judges for high school kids' science projects made for a great and mind-refreshing morning.

PortLaBelle Utility System Advisory Board meeting & public hearing, LaBelle, January 9, 2013

Our group attended a Port LaBelle Utility System (PLUS) Advisory Board meeting at the Hendry County Courthouse in LaBelle. It was very interesting to observe the influence of public speakers during the public hearing on the Board members and theirs decisions relative to the proposed water rates increase. A perfect example of working democracy, where public opinion can and does affect decisions.

Jing's birthday, LaBelle, January 8, 2013

Jing, who came to our program exactly 3 months ago from Dalhousie University in Halifax, has her birthday today. Actually, she started celebrating it yesterday evening already, as at that time was in her home country of China January 8 already, thus it was a birthday time there. What a smart approach to extend the holiday time by several hours :) Happy birthday from all of us!

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting and presentation by Dr. Paul Gray, Fort Myers, January 2, 2013

A regular monthly meeting of the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) took place at Calusa Nature Center in Ft. Myers. Main presenter was Dr. Paul Gray, researcher and advocate for Lake Okeechobee ecological issues. Meeting a scientist with 20+ years of experience on issues closely related to our technical research made for a very interesting evening for all of us.

New Year's Day in Florida, December 31, 2012 - January 1, 2013

There are many options what to do on the last day of a year. While in Florida, a beach is almost a mandatory item to spend the day and refresh the remembrance of the passing year. Celebrating with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts makes a great start - Happy New Year!

Canoeing on Orange River, Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers, December 30, 2012

With occasional strikes of cold fronts to Florida, manatees made their way back into the protection of warm water refuges right next to the Florida Power & Light plant in Fort Myers. This weekend we decided to canoe around there to see manatees up-close. With tens of manatees in such a close proximity to us, it made for a wonderful afternoon.

Christmas in Florida, December 25, 2012

While catching a breeze through swaying palms or watching dolphins over warm sunset may not be everyone's idea of a typical Christmas, there are still some pretty unique ways to celebrate the season in Florida. Few of our program participants celebrated Christmas without theirs families for the first time in theirs lives and going without ice and snow was very new for them as well, but the magic of the season still arrived with friendly invitations from local friends, walking around well decorated houses or even by building a "sandman" instead of a "snowman" :)

"ACES and Ecosystem Markets 2012" conference, Fort Lauderdale, December 10-13, 2012

Everyone from our office attended the "ACES and Ecosystem Markets 2012" conference in Fort Lauderdale. The conference attendees shared experiences, methods, tools and processes for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. With hundreds of available presentations and an opportunity to discuss ecosystem services and related issues with leaders in government, NGOs, academia, tribal organizations and the private sector, this was a very unique experience for all of us - actually, this was probably the most comprehensive event on the ecosystem services - globally!

Recreation activities during the "ACES and Ecosystem Markets 2012" conference, Fort Lauderdale, December 10-13, 2012

While attending the above mentioned conference, of course we had to find some time for recreational activities. Since our hotel was right on the Atlantic coast, it is not too hard to guess where we liked to spend few evening hours the most - on a beach. Fort Lauderdale is also a very popular tourist destination and a major yachting center, so wondering around the expansive and intricate canal system made for a great outing.

Port LaBelle Utility System Advisory Board meeting, LaBelle, December 6, 2012

Our group attended a Port LaBelle Utility System (PLUS) Advisory Board meeting at the Hendry County Courthouse in LaBelle. Various aspects of PLUS budget and finances were presented there. The discussion was certainly very technical, thus an opportunity of professional development interest to many of us.

Christmas in the Park, LaBelle, November 30, 2012

With the Holiday season coming up, LaBelle's Chamber of Commerce organized an event called "Christmas in the Park". Santa Claus arrived and ordered a mountain of snow. The fluffy white stuff was piled high - just right for climbing up and sliding back down. The best part - in Florida's warm weather this can be easily done by wearing only a T-shirt and shorts :)

Thanksgiving Day holiday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. The "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. Many of the old traditions are gone, but one remained till today - serving of a Thanksgiving meal. Roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, fall vegetables and pumpkin pie. Well, some of us (foreigners in our group) enjoyed the meal for the first time, but all of us (regardless of nationality) agreed that it was super-yummy-delicious :)

Canoeing on Orange River, Lee County Manatee Park, Fort Myers, November 17, 2012

Now that the weather has started to get a little cooler (it is around 22 C instead of the summertime 33 C), manatees are making their way back into the protection of warm water refuges right next to the Florida Power & Light plant in Fort Myers. This weekend we decided to canoe around there to see manatees up-close. It is still little early in the season for manatees to be there in large numbers, but we saw 5 or 6 of the mighty "sea-cows". Letting the Orange River move slowly our canoes around mangroves full of birds made for a perfect relaxing afternoon.

Annual River Ride, Alva, November 11, 2012

Riverwatch organized its 16th Annual River Ride, the recreational bike ride around the Caloosahatchee River. Routes for 15, 30, 40, and 62 miles were offered and few of us helped with organizing this relaxed event. The spirit of the "race" could be quoted in Pierre de Coubertin's way - "The most important thing in the race is not winning, but taking part."

Clean Energy and Sustainable Technologies Conference, Fort Myers, November 9, 2012

The University of Florida, IFAS Lee County Extension in partnership with Lee County’s Pollution Prevention Program organized its fourth annual, Clean Energy and Sustainable Technologies Conference. Scientists, entrepreneurs and leaders from academia, industry and government shared research and development information on innovative solutions. Intelligentsia's president, Dr. John Capece delivered a presentation "Energy & Life Cycle Analysis of Farming" and discussed partial findings of our Biofuels projects. Our program participants attended the conference as well and had an opportunity to meet the region's investors, farmers, developers and engineers.

Election Day, LaBelle, November 6, 2012

Election Day was on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Our students were offered an option to waive signs in front of polling stations for theirs favorite political candidates. Of course we gave them the freedom to choose what candidate they wanted to support this way.

Halloween party, LaBelle, October 31, 2012

According to Wikipedia, "typical festive Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, lighting bonfires, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films." Guess what - we did all these activities. Scary fun :)

LaBelle High School homecoming & LaBelle Cowboys football game, LaBelle, October 26, 2012

Homecoming is the tradition of welcoming back alumni of a school, in this case LaBelle High School. For a small town like LaBelle this is an important event. No wonder that almost the whole town attended the parade that the was organized during a half-time break of the Cowboys football game. Too bad that the Cowboys lost against Palmdale Green Dragons 14-16. Still, watching the event was great fun!

President Obama's campaigning speech, Ybor City, October 25, 2012

President Obama visited Ybor City and delivered another of his campaigning speeches. With less than 2 weeks left to the actual presidential election, most of the 8500+ people attending the event already seemed "fired up and ready to go". Few of us from Intelligentsia also visited the event and had the privilege to see the US president from just few feet away.

Southwest Florida Agricultural Water Management Conference, LaBelle, October 23, 2012

Hendry County Extension Office of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) hosted a "Southwest Florida Agricultural Water Management Conference". More than 100 people (farmers, growers, policy makers, scientists, environmental activists, etc.) attended the conference, getting up-to-date presentations about various strategic issues impacting water resources for agricultural users in SW Florida.

Fort Myers Beach relaxation, Oktoberfest in Cape Coral, October 21, 2012

This Sunday we relaxed for few hours on the warm and silky Fort Myers Beach. To cool off afterwards, we went to Cape Coral, where the German American Social Club organized its 27th Oktoberfest. Live bands from Germany, European-style dancing in a giant tent and way too much great food with German beer made for a perfect afternoon.

Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest Awareness Day, October 20, 2012

Florida Forest Service organized Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest Awareness Day. We attended the event, took a tour with qualified guides through the park and learned a lot about the unique natural system just few miles south off LaBelle. The forest is home to several endangered species such as the Florida panther and although we did not see one, it was a very pleasant day.

LaBelle Nature Park guided tour, LaBelle, October 17, 2012

Intelligentsia's director, Dr. John Capece, walked the Hendry-Glades Leadership group through the LaBelle Nature Park. He presented on the Caloosahatchee River, its oxbows values and various management issues of the Park. Those of us who didn't mind the rather early start (7:30 AM) had a great time there.

Kiwanis Kid's Day & Pumpkin Patch, LaBelle, October 13, 2012

Annual Kid's Day sponsored by Kiwanis Club of LaBelle took place this past weekend. While most of the attractions were for kids, it was still fun for us to walk around, sample great food and collect free candy. Also, the "pumpkin season" is on these days, so visiting a Pumpkin Patch organized by one of the local churches reminded us that autumn is coming. In Florida's 80 F (27 C) it feel like a warm autumn though :)

2012 Hendry County Political Forum, LaBelle, October 11, 2012

LaBelle Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs sponsored the 2012 Hendry County Political Forum. More than a dozen of candidates for various local political positions delivered theirs campaigning speeches. And for those of us not interested in listening to the politicians, there was the Swamp Cabbage Festival 2012 Queen to pay an attention to.

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting, presentation by Laurie Macdonald, LaBelle, October 3, 2012

A regular monthly meeting of the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) / Riverwatch took place at the Port LaBelle Inn in LaBelle. Director of Florida Program of "Defenders of Wildlife" Laurie Macdonald presented about Florida panthers and proposed projects for creating new corridors and habitat for these endangered mammal predators around LaBelle.

Vice President Biden's campaigning speech, Lexington Middle School, Fort Myers, September 29, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in Florida last week. Our group received few tickets for an event in Fort Myers, where Biden was delivering his remarks about economy, social security, medicate, veteran's affairs, etc. There was more than 2000 people at the event and we were less than 15 feet from the 47th Vice President of the United States.

Florida Gulf Coast University Service-Learning Fair, Fort Myers, September 20, 2012

Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers organized a Service-Learning Fair on its campus. Few of our program participants attended the event and supported CRCA/Riverwatch in its efforts there. We brought brochures, displayed boards and helped with inviting some of the FGCU students for upcoming environmental events CRCA/Riverwatch will organize and we will also attend. And while there, we also toured the fancy campus :)

Spaghetti dinners with local Rotary Club, LaBelle, September 11 - 17, 2012

Each year members of the Rotary Club of LaBelle serve spaghetti dinners to the students, parents and staff at the open house nights of area elementary schools. All collected donations go back to the schools' education funds. This year few of our program participants decided to join the effort and helped to serve "all you can eat" spaghetti dioshes at 3 different local schools.

Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) tour, led by Leslie Baucum, September 12, 2012

Les Baucum, a regional sugarcane/agronomic agent at the Hendry County Extension office of UF/IFAS in LaBelle, led a tour to the Everglades Agricultural Area. Those of us involved in the Biofuels research project attended the tour and learned a lot about sugarcane farming in south Florida.

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting, presentation and book signing by Amy Bennett Williams, Fort Myers, September 5, 2012

A regular monthly meeting of the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) took place at the Royal Palm Yacht Club in Fort Myers. Presentation and then book "Along the Caloosahatchee River" signing by Amy Bennett Williams attracted more than 60 people, including all of us from Intelligentsia International.

Pioneer Days parade & festival and Gulf of Mexico beaches, Englewood, September 3, 2012

On the Labor Day, Englewood hosted its 56th Pioneer Days parade and festival. We attended the event and had lots of fun (and good food) there. Afterwards we spent the afternoon at the rather perfect beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island/Cape Canaveral, August 31, 2012

The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. With a new group of our students, we toured the The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex that has a variety of exhibits, artifacts, displays and attractions on the history and future of human and robotic spaceflight. What an unique experience!

Tropical storm Isaac, August 26-27, 2012

Almost every summer, Florida experiences tropical cyclones and storms. This past weekend tropical storm Isaac visited south Florida. Luckily, damage caused to Florida has been only minor and the storm's influence in LaBelle was minimal - some stronger winds and several inches of rain. Regardless, we were ready for the storm and are all safe and in good shape.

Trip to Key West, August 25, 2012

Key West is an island and a small city in the Straits of Florida, at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys and the whole USA. The island is only about 90 miles from Cuba, so the closest large city from there is not Miami, but Havana. Few of us organized a trip there this weekend, but the weather was not on our side. Lots of rain made us cut the trip shorter and return back to LaBelle. Never mind, we'll try again in the future, when the sun returns to the "Sunshine" state.

Football game, Miami, August 24, 2012

Miami Dolphins played the Atlanta Falcons at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami. We were there, watching the Falcons' win 23-6. This was just a pre-season game, so we might go back to Miami for another Dolphin's game sometimes in the future, once the NFL season starts.

Final seminars by departing program participants, LaBelle, August 14 and 15, 2012

Two of our summer 2012 participants delivered to our other team members final seminars about the issues they investigated during theirs stay with us. Andrew explained us various details about Google Earth mapping as applied to Port Labelle Utilities System, while Marine reported about her emergy (embodied energy) analysis findings. Both Andrew and Marine depart our program this week, so we wish them good luck with theirs future endeavors!

Software training from Master Meter Systems, Port LaBelle Utility System office, LaBelle, August 8 - 10, 2012

Intelligentsia has been contracted by Hendry County as an adviser for planning Port Labelle Utilities System (PLUS) development. As a part of improving its services, PLUS installed an AMR (Automatic Meter Reading) system that pulls in real-time readings from installed water meters. During the past 3 days, we received a training from Master Meter Systems technician on softwares and tools that will help us monitor the systems efficiency and reliability.

Presentation by Dr. John Capece to the Rotary Club of LaBelle, August 7, 2012

President of Intelligentsia International, Dr. John Capece, delivered to the Rotary Club of LaBelle a presentation about a potential service project in north-east Afghanistan. Existing clinic and school there need help with resolving issues related to drinking water and sanitation. Intelligentsia International, together with several Rotary clubs, might get involved in that project, just as was done few years ago in a similar drinking water projects in Tajikistan.

Graduation ceremony of our program former participant, University of South Florida, Tampa, August 4, 2012

Our former intern Chloe (originally from France), trained in our office on the Caloosahatchee River oxbows restoration project back in 2008. After completing her internship with us, she moved to Tampa, where she spent 3 years as a graduate student at the Univerity of South Florida, working further on the oxbows project. This weekend she invited us to join a ceremony commencing her Master's Degree. On the photo she is with her husband Monyo, who is by the way also our former intern (originally from Bulgaria). Congratulations!

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting and presentation by Dan Delisi, LaBelle, August 1, 2012

A regular monthly meeting of the Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) took place at the Beef O'Brady's restaurant in LaBelle. Main presenter was Dan Delisi, governing member of South Florida Water Management District. Dan introduced a proposal for the Lake Okeechobee back-pumping, a plan that creates a lot of controversy and discussions in SW Florida.

Miami Beach and Sawgrass Recreation Park, July 28, 2012

We spent most of this Saturday wondering around Miami Beach, one of the America's most pre-eminent beach resorts, relaxing on the white sandy beaches and walking around the famous Art-Deco district there. After all the city buzz and rush, on the way back to LaBelle we stopped at Sawgrass Recreation Park to calm down a bit. Taking an airboat tour there was not exactly the quietest activity, but seeing the local nature from an exhilarating perspective was an unforgettable experience.

EPCOT theme park, Orlando, July 22, 2012

EPCOT is a theme park dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely international culture and technological innovation. EPCOT is often referred to as a "permanent World's Fair", as within few hours one can walk through pavilions representing eleven countries (e.g. Norway, China, Germany or Canada just to name few). We had a great, international, time here.

Universal Studios, Orlando, July 21, 2012

Universal Studios in Orlando is a working film and TV production facility. It is often said that this is a theme park that lets visitors "Ride the Movies." The themes are targeted at making guests feel like they are in a movie set, whether it'd be Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And yes, for some of us (who came here for the first time) seeing all of this was almost a "Petrificus Totalus" :)

Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, Felda, July 14, 2012

The Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest (just 11 miles south of LaBelle) provides multiple-use - ecosystem restoration, silvicultural and watershed management, recreation and wildlife management. The forest offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors, many miles of open forest roads available for hiking and bicycling, so we surely will go back again to this wonderful place.

Canoeing and camping at FishEating Creek, July 8-9, 2012

FishEating Creek is a place we visit quite often, as we simply enjoy the calm waters and relaxing atmosphere of this magical place. This time we added to the canoeing element also an overnight camping. What an experience and great time we had here!

LaBelle Nature Park cleanup day, LaBelle, July 7, 2012

Together with CRCA/Riverwatch members, FGCU students, Rotary Club of LaBelle members and others from the local community, we attended the LaBelle Nature Park cleanup. Main part of our work was trail maintenance - removing invasive exotic plants and clearing walking trails. An article about this our effort was also included in the most recent version of the local newspaper - Caloosa Belle. You can read the whole article here.

Baseball game and 4th of July fireworks, St. Petersburg, July 4, 2012

Among the most popular activities during the Independence Day is watching a baseball game. And when it comes to a good baseball game, then Yankees are surely the choice. Our group watched in St. Pete stadium how New York Yankees won against Tampa Bay Rays 4:3. Evening of the the holiday day was then fulfilled by a spectacular fireworks. Happy birthday, America.

Weekend in Miami, June 30 - July 1, 2012

Once in a while, all members of our group want to go to Miami. This past weekend was one of the occasions, we spent there 2 days, visiting Miami downtown, walking around the famous South Beach (and enjoying its night-life), spending some great time on beaches, wondering around Little Havana, etc. There is so much to see and do in Miami that we will surely go back soon again.

Castillo De San Marco, St. Augustine, June 24, 2012

St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers and it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United States. We planned to spend here the whole Sunday, unfortunately the steady rain created by tropical storm Debby made us change our plans and leave earlier. We will be back though!

University of Florida campus tour, Gainesville, June 23, 2012

The University of Florida campus is located in Gainesville. It is the seventh largest single-campus university in the United States with 49,589 students enrolled for the fall 2011 semester. We had a chance to tour the main campus and without an exception, everyone in our group got amazed by the interior of Ben Hill Griffin Football Stadium, also known as "The Swamp."

Salvador Dali Museum and downtown tour, St. Petersburg, June 22, 2012

Those of us who did not get tickets for the Obama event in Tampa, visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. It is the largest collection outside Europe of the works of the artist Salvador Dali. The museum's collection includes 96 oil paintings, over 100 watercolors and drawings, 1,300 graphics, photographs, sculptures and objets d'art, and an extensive archival library.

President Obama's campaigning speech, Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, June 22, 2012

President Obama visited Hillsborough Community College in Tampa on June 22. Our group received 5 tickets for the event where Obama was delivering his remarks and campaigning. There was 2500 people at the event, we were just 50 feet from the president. Do you see us in the yellow circle? :)

Democratic Party dinner, Clewiston, June 16, 2012

The Democratic Party organized a dinner in Clewiston as a celebration of the partnership of Glades and Hendry County Democrats. Promoting Democratic Party was a keynote speaker Alcee Hastings, Congressman for Miami and parts of Hendry County. Not only we enjoyed his speech, we also enjoyed the great food :)

LaBelle Nature Park cleanup, LaBelle, June 16, 2012

Together with CRCA/Riverwatch members, this Saturday we attended the LaBelle Nature Park cleanup. Main part of our work was trail maintenance - removing invasive exotic plants, clearing walking trails, etc.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park weekend, Key Largo, June 9, 2012

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. These areas were established to protect and preserve the only living coral reef in the continental United States. This weekend, we visited the state park and had very good time here, as the area is extraordinarily beautiful.

BP Biofuels-Highlands tour, Lorida, June 7, 2012

BP Biofuels-Highlands has extended an invitation to tour the Highlands County facility to learn about the company’s biofuels initiative. Some of our team members attended the event, were introduced to technological know-how of the facility and had an opportunity to see how BP pursues its sustainable biofuels production.

CRCA/Riverwatch Board of Directors meeting, LaBelle, June 6, 2012

At the relaxed "Bridge Street Coffee Shop" (that everyone here calls only "the Charlie's place") took place a regular monthly meeting of Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) Board of Directors. Several of our program participants attended and had a chance to learn more about various issues CRCA is after and planned environmental events for the upcoming months.

Andrew's birthday, LaBelle, June 4, 2012

Andrew, who came to our program from California State University in Sacramento, had his birthday today. It took some planning to make a small party for him a complete surprise, but it worked out well. Andrew was so surprised that he even did not mind to wear his pink "birthday-hat" :) Happy birthday from all of us!

Caspersen Beach, Venice, June 3, 2012

Caspersen Beach is about 80 minutes from LaBelle, but definitely worth the drive. The southern two thirds of beachfront has been left in its natural state and the beach is recognized as one of the most enjoyable shelling beaches in SW Florida. It is also an exceptionally good area to find prehistoric sharks’ teeth. Guess what - we found many of them!

Lovers Key State Park, May 28, 2012

Another daily trip of the "LaBelle group" was to Lovers Key State Park. While very close to the famous Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key offers less crowded beaches (actually, some of the beaches here are very remote and solitary), miles of trails for hiking and tons of wildlife.

Gatorama, Palmdale, May 27, 2012

Another daily trip of the "LaBelle group" was to Gatorama. Less than 20 miles from LaBelle, this Florida's original alligator and crocodile farm with daily shows made for a great adventure. Its 1000 foot long boardwalk might seem quite short, but we spent there several hours, being up close and personal with many Florida native and exotic animals. You're not likely to get this close to LARGE alligators and crocodiles anywhere else :)

Tampa, May 26, 2012

During the Memorial Day extended weekend, our program participants divided into 2 groups - one of them going to Miami for 3 full days, the other group staying in LaBelle and doing simple daily trips. The "LaBelle group" visited Tampa (after conducting some technical meetings at University of South Florida there on Friday), having e.g. a chance to wonder about the Tampa's downtown famous RiverWalk.

Miami, May 25 - 28, 2012

During the Memorial Day extended weekend, our program participants divided into 2 groups - one of them going to Miami for 3 full days, the other group staying in LaBelle and doing simple daily trips. The "Miami group" certainly enjoyed itself, visiting e.g. Miami Heat NBA play-off game, Miami Merlins baseball game, checking on some of the fancy Miami downtown malls or enjoying very much the famous Miami South Beach.

Sea World, Orlando, May 20, 2012

Second theme park on our weekend list was Sea World in Orlando. A marine-life based zoological park is devoted to Earth's oceans and the array of life that inhabits them. It is the ninth-most visited amusement park in the United States, so no wonder that we also wanted to see animal exhibits, a number of live shows with trained animals as well as thrilling rides.

Busch Gardens, Tampa, May 19, 2012

This weekend we decided to visit 2 amusement parks. First one on the list was Busch Gardens in Tampa, a park with an African theme. It is one of America's largest zoological institutions, with 335 acres and more than 2,700 animals. Tons of attractions and rides made for a great fun day.

Relaxing afternoon at Warm Mineral Springs resort & presentation by Senator's wife Grace Nelson, May 18, 2012

Our group was invited to a small reception organized for Florida Senator Nelson's wife Grace. After the speech, we also had an opportunity to discuss with Grace Nelson various issues. And since the gathering took place in Warm Mineral Springs resort, we also used the opportunity to swim in a pond which is being considered as the one with the highest healing mineral content in the USA.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Merritt Island, May 12, 2012

Some of our program participants visited the Kennedy Space Center previously and thus while on the Space Coast, they decided for a change to check the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge provides a range of habitats, from saltwater estuaries and freshwater impoundments and marshes, to dunes, hardwood hammocks, and scrub. It is therefore rich in over 1000 species of plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammal. Seeing some of them up-close was just great.

Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island/Cape Canaveral, May 12, 2012

The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. This weekend we toured the The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex that has a variety of exhibits, artifacts, displays and attractions on the history and future of human and robotic spaceflight. What an unique experience!

Tour of Water treatment plant and Waste water treatment plant, LaBelle, May 9, 2012

We had an unique opportunity to tour the Port LaBelle water treatment plant (WTP) and waste water treatment plant (WWTP). With Intelligentsia being contracted by Hendry County as an adviser for planning Port Labelle Utilities System (PLUS) development, we needed to get another insight look into the water plants operations. In the coming months, we will be documenting all the main procedures used in the WTP and WWTP plants.

A participant from nation #62 in Intelligentsia's program, LaBelle, May 8, 2012

With arrival of Beatrice from Sweden (on the picture checking depth of a ditch), the number of nations that participated in our program during the past 10 years went up to 62. See more at the nation's page to see if anyone from your nation has visited our program already.

PLUS antenna installation, LaBelle, May 7, 2012

Intelligentsia has been contracted by Hendry County as an adviser for planning Port Labelle Utilities System (PLUS) development. As a part of improving its services, PLUS is installing an AMR (Automatic Meter Reading) system that uses an antenna and pulls in real-time readings as to how much water is being pumped to the utility system and how much of it is being consumed. We had a chance to visit the antenna installation and in the future will be monitoring the system efficiency and reliability.

Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key State Park, May 6, 2012

It seems that our group has a new tradition - to spend at least 1 weekend day on beach. We went (again) to Fort Myers Beach, but some of us continued late in the afternoon to close-by Lovers Key State Park and it was definitely worth the visit.

Hoover Dike cycling, Clewiston, May 5, 2012

Some members of our group decided to extend theirs day in Clewiston area and biked on the famous Hoover Dike, an artificial construction around the waters of Lake Okeechobee, built back in 1930's to control flooding in SW Florida. We saw many birds, alligators and other wildlife, but always from a safe distance.

Brown Sugar Festival, Clewiston, May 5, 2012

Clewiston (30 miles east of LaBelle) is thanks to all its sugarcane planting called "the sweetest town in America". We visited the 34th Annual Brown Sugar Festival there this weekend. Some members of our group volunteered to help the Hendry County Democrats with registering new Florida voters for the upcoming Presidential elections.

CRCA/Riverwatch meeting & presentation by Dr. Lisa Beever, Fort Myers, May 2, 2012

Our group joined the CRCA/Riverwatch monthly meeting, this time held in the fancy Royal Palm Yacht Club in Fort Myers. Dr. Lisa Beever, Director of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, delivered a presentation about impacts of climate change on the Caloosahatchee River, its estuary and the whole SW Florida.

Weekend on beaches, Sanibel Island & Fort Myers Beach, Apr 28-29, 2012

Who wants to spend a weekend on a beach? We did, so we spent Saturday cycling around the Sanibel Island beaches and Sunday relaxing on the Fort Myers Beach. Simply put - a great weekend.

Planting Trees For Earth Day, LaBelle, Apr 26, 2012

In honor of the Earth Day, our group joined the "Planting Trees For Earth Day" ceremony. LaBelle Mayor Paul Puletti attended the ceremony as well, so all our French team girls wanted to take a photo with him :) After the ceremony, we accepted an invitation to the Earth Week wrap-up party, organized by the Hendry County Recreation Department.

Earth Week celebration, LaBelle, Apr 23-26, 2012

While the Earth Day celebration (Apr 21) had to be called off in LaBelle this year due to potential hazard from local storms, hundreds of children from local schools participated in the Earth Week celebration this year. The kids visited 5 different educational stations around the Captain Hendry House in LaBelle and learned about forest management, decomposition and other environmental practices. Our group delivered (with help of Dr. Cooper) a lesson about biofuels and sustainable approaches in energy management. This has been really a rewarding experience for all of us, since more than 1200 kids (second to fourth graders) visited our stand over the 4 past days.

Weekend outing, Pine Island, Apr 22, 2012

While visiting different close-by places, this time we aimed for Pine Island. Exploring wetlands and marshes was adventurous, catching a breeze on a beach relaxing and watching beautiful Florida sunset enlightening.

"Community Involvement Committee" meeting, LaBelle, Apr 19, 2012

More than 40 scientists, farmers, industry, government agencies and NGO folks attended the Community Involvement Committee (CIC) meeting for the Hendry County Sustainable Biofuels Center. Aim of this CIC's meeting (a very interactive one) was to discuss ways of addressing various aspects of biofuels systems in the Hendry County in terms of economics, farming, environment, education and sustainability.

Seacoast National Bank, presentation by Hank Fishkind, PhD on "Economic Outlook for the U.S., Florida and Hendry & Glades Counties", Clewiston, Apr 17, 2012

Dr. Henry Fishkind was associate professor of economics at the University of Florida, and Director of the University's forecasting program. Today, he is considered as one of Florida's premier economic consultants. Our group got an invitation to his presentation about economic outlook for the USA, Florida and Hendry & Glades Counties.

Universal Studios, Orlando, Apr 14-15, 2012

Universal Studios in Orlando is almost always on the "must-see places" list of our program participants. So we spent both Saturday AND Sunday this past weekend there. Rides, shows, shops, etc. And the wizarding world of Harry Potter :)

Racquetball training and "tournament", LaBelle, Apr 11, 2012

Racquetball is a racquet sport played with a hollow rubber ball in an indoor or outdoor court. There is an outdoor court in LaBelle and our team member Dr. Izursa is enthusiastic racquetball player (with all the needed professional equipment), so no wonder that he is always on the search of new players. Nobody from our group has been able to win a match against him so far, anyone interested to be the first?

A relaxing day with paddling, Fisheating Creek, Apr 1, 2012

Fisheating Creek is a perfect place to get up-close to nature. This Sunday we did some paddling through the cypress swamps and hiking through the hardwood forests. We saw really up-close alligators, turtles, wading birds and many more animals. Picknicking afterwards in a campsite made for a perfect and relaxing day.

Big O' Birding Festival, LaBelle, Mar 27 - 31, 2012

Once in a year takes place in Hendry and Glades counties (on the south shores of Lake Okeechobee) the so called "Big O' Birding Festival". Organized tours as well as free presentations about birding attract many visitors. No wonder that our program participants like to join some of the events.

A beach day, Fort Myers Beach, Mar 25, 2012

Once in a while, everyone likes to go to a beach. The closest beach to LaBelle is Fort Myers Beach and it always makes for a great day to go and relax there.

Riverwatch Annual Meeting and fun day at Franklin Lock, Alva, Mar 24, 2012

CRCA/Riverwatch organized its annual meeting and fun day at Franklin Locks South on the Caloosahatchee River. The official part of the meeting was only short and for the rest of the day we enjoyed the food, the beach and did even some kayaking.

The Lehigh Acres Spring Festival, Lehigh Acres, Mar 23, 2012

On a Friday night, our group visited the Lehigh Acres Spring Festival. Rides, games, shows, dances, idol contest, food and The Nowhere (Beatles tribute band). Lots of fun :)

Edison State College, presentation by Seminole Tribal member Pedro Zepeda on "Indian Removal Act of 1830", LaBelle, Mar 22, 2012

Edison State College hosted an interesting presentation by Pedro Zepeda, Seminole Tribal member and the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Outreach Coordinator. We learned how the Indian Removal Act of 1830 removed thousands of Seminoles and other Southeastern Native Tribes from theirs homelands and how they are still affected today.

Florida Gulf Coast University, Southwest Florida Watershed Council meeting and a class by Professor Ed Hanlon, Fort Myers, Mar 20, 2012

Our group went to the Florida Gulf Coast University, where it attended a meeting of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council and also received a class delivered by Prof. Ed Hanlon, Soil Scientist and Professor at the UF/IFAS. Prof. Hanlon gave a presentation titled “A Partial Solution for Water Storage and Quality Improvement in Southwest Florida.” Since he comes to our office very often (he cooperates with us on our Biofuels project), he surely enjoyed taking photos with our 3 new program participants - Megan, Elodie and Aline from France.

Florida Space Coast, presenations to Rotary clubs by III directors Dr. Capece and Mr. Fidler, Mar 13-15, 2012

Dr. Capece and Mr. Fidler (both are III directors) delivered 7 Rotary clubs presentations during theirs 3-day visit to the Space Coast. Dr. Capece talked about a Rotary Future Vision grant program and how to best structure water projects to maximize their effectiveness, Mr. Fidler talked about his experiences gained during supervising the Rotary water projects in Tajikistan and other developing countries. Such effort keeps Rotarians aware about ongoing water issues in Florida as well as in other parts of the world. Obviously, when on the Florida Atlantic Coast, one has to find at least few hours between working in various public libraries also for exploring the beautiful beaches.

Morning birding, LaBelle, Mar 11, 2012

Since our group has few enthusiastic amateur photographers, for them (and not only for them) there is always an opportunity to just walk or bike around LaBelle and take some great shots. This morning we focused on various birding species.

Fort Myers downtown, Mar 10, 2012

Our group decided to explore Fort Myers downtown. About 40 minutes drive from LaBelle, the Downtown district, also known as the River District, was established in 1984 as a 540-acre area stretching from the Caloosahatchee River to the north. During the exploration walk we visited retail shops and a restaurant, farmers' market, a new Art of the Olympians facility and expanded marina facilities. Great afternoon!

CRCA/Riverwatch dinner and a presentation by Tommy Strowd, Fort Myers, Mar 7, 2012

Our group joined the CRCA/Riverwatch monthly meeting, this time held in the fancy Royal Palm Yacht Club in Fort Myers. After a delicious dinner, Tommy Strowd, Director of Operations in the South Florida Water Management District, delivered a presentation on the Caloosahatchee River history and various evironmental issues that the River and thus the whole SW Florida region face.

Formation of the "Community Involvement Committee", LaBelle, Mar 5, 2012

More than 40 scientists, farmers, industry, government agencies and NGO folks attended the Community Involvement Committee (CIC) formation meeting for the Hendry County Sustainable Biofuels Center. Aim of the CIC is to provide better engagement with stakeholder groups and to serve as a sounding board for community concerns in addressing various aspects of biofuels systems in the Hendry County in terms of economics, farming, environment, education and sustainability.

Manatees observation park, Fort Myers, Mar 4, 2012

Next to a power plant in Fort Myers, there is an area where manatees can be often seen. While we had no luck and did not observe any of these great "sea cows", it was still a nice afternoon with a little picknick in the observation area.

Beach afternoon & "The Nowhere" concert in the evening, Bonita Springs, Mar 3, 2012

Some of our team mebers decided to spend Saturday afternoon on famous Bonita Springs Beach. Great nature, pleasent weather, warm water of the Gulf of Mexico...simply a great afternoon. In addition, while in Bonita Springs, we also visited a concert of a Beatles revival band called "The Nowhere". Live music with lots of costumes, dancing, great food...well, we definitelly enjoyed it and might go back there soon again.

New member of our research team - Dr. Jose-Luis Izursa, Feb 27, 2012

Our team has been joined by Dr. Jose-Luis Izursa. While originally from Bolivia, Jose-Luis ("Pepe") received his PhD degree in environmental science at the University of Maryland, where he also chose to settle down and lived during the past 10 years. However, during the next 12 months, Pepe will help us in southwest Florida to investigate various LCA (life cycle analysis) aspects in our Bioufuels project.

Swamp Cabbage Festival - Armadillo Races, LaBelle, Feb 25-26, 2012

During the Swamp Cabbage Festival took place the famous "Armadillo Races". Members of the Rotary Club of LaBelle organize this fun event every year, when one can bet $2 on an armadillo during a "race" for winning a hat or doubling the money :) Over the weekend the Rotary Club collected over $7500 that will be used for sponsoring various educational, social and other service projects.

Swamp Cabbage Festival, LaBelle, Feb 25-26, 2012

On the weekend Feb 25 - 26, 2012 took place in LaBelle the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival. Intelligentsia International program participants had a chance to experience a typical American festival, started with a parade and followed for the whole weekend by entertaining events related to rodeo, food, arts, crafts, high school bands, Miss Swamp Cabbage content, etc.

"Night On The Town", LaBelle, Feb 21, 2012

On Feb 21, 2012, from 5 pm to 8 pm, the third annual "LaBelle Night On The Town" on Ft. Thompson Avenue took place. Intelligentsia International volunteers helped to set up a stand for Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) and also enjoyed visiting various vendors stands.

Armadillos "hunting", around LaBelle, Feb 20, 2012

Armadillos "hunting" is an annual event, when members of the Rotary Club of LaBelle go together with the Intelligentsia International program participants and other friends to "hunt" armadillos. The caught animals then compete in so called "Armadillo races" as part of the local Swamp Cabbage Festival. Capturing the contestants with nets makes for a fun afternoon. The creatures are returned unharmed to their homes after the races.

Agricultural Expo, Clewiston, Feb 17, 2012

Second Annual South Florida Agricultural Expo, in conjunction with Annual Sugarland Heavy Equipment Auction took place in Clewiston on Feb 17, 2012. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, was among the main speakers, so Intelligentsia International program participants had a chance to listen to his keynote and get better understanding of agriculture related issues in south Florida. Also, visiting some of the equipment auctions was an unique experience.

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