Science and Policy Committee

Blanca Bernal
Blanca Bernal
Blanca is an international expert in carbon and greenhouse gas accounting and ecosystem services, experienced in building capacity and providing technical support to countries across the world on climate change mitigation plans. She currently works at GreenCollar, where she assesses ecosystem services with a particular focus on carbon sequestration, blue carbon, nutrient cycling, and ecosystem response to environmental change. Blanca is passionate about developing science-based approaches oriented to creating resilient and sustainable communities, and facilitating decision making by developing tools for stakeholders to better understand the benefits of land use and emissions reduction strategies.
Jason Evans
Jason Evans
Jason Evans is the Executive Director of Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. Trained as a landscape ecologist, Jason is one of the nation’s leading researchers, practitioners, and teachers in the fields of coastal resilience and climate adaptation planning. He regularly conducts climate vulnerability assessments in collaboration with local, state, and federal authorities and specializes in identifying opportunities for integrating restoration of natural ecosystems in support of flood risk mitigation and water quality improvement. Over recent years Jason has worked extensively on climate resilience issues along the Atlantic coast of Florida and Georgia, including multiple projects implemented in the Florida Keys and the greater Indian River Lagoon watershed. Jason also serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Environmental Management, a top-ranked international publication within the fields of environmental science, engineering, planning, and governance.
Alan Farago
Alan Farago
Alan has been an activist, writer, and observer of Florida environmental, Everglades, and political issues for about 30 years. His editorials have appeared in Florida newspapers, online publications such as Huffington Post, and his blog, Eye On Miami. He first engaged in these issues through his love of the Florida Keys and flats fishing. His work has been recognized by the Everglades Coalition and conservation groups.
Royal Gardner
Royal Gardner
Roy Gardner is a professor of law and director of Stetson University’s Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy. Roy is an internationally recognized expert in wetland law and policy. He served earlier in his career in the Army General Counsel’s office as the Army’s principal wetland attorney, advising the assistant secretary of the Army on legal and policy issues related to the Corps of Engineers’ administration of the Clean Water Act section 404 program.
Casey Darling Kniffin
Casey Darling Kniffin
Casey is the Conservation Policy Director at the Florida Wildlife Federation and previously served as the Advocacy Coordinator for Florida Oceanographic Society. Casey also volunteers as the co-lead of the River Kidz, a youth advocacy group focused on clean water in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon, and is a Young Friends of the Everglades committee member. She earned a B.S. degree in Biology from Florida State University and a M.S. degree in Marine Biology at the College of Charleston. She brings her expertise in environmental policy, advocacy, and science to the committee along with her commitment to protecting Florida’s diverse ecosystems. She enjoys snorkeling, paddling, and hiking with her family in Hobe Sound.
Philip Kushlan
Philip Kushlan
Philip Kushlan is a Coconut Grove resident and a passionate advocate for the
conservation of South Florida’s unique ecosystems. He is an avid boater, diver and
underwater photographer and graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and a Master of Science in Biology. He also serves on the boards of VoteWater, the Zoo Miami Foundation, and Miami Waterkeeper.
Robert Lord
Robert Lord
Rob Lord previously served as the President of Cleveland Clinic Martin Health. Prior to joining the Martin Health System, he was a partner in the law firm of Crary, Buchanan, Bovie, Lord & Roby, Chartered, in Stuart, Florida (1986-1998). Mr. Lord is a member of The Florida Bar and is board certified by The Florida Bar in health law. He is also a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE), board certified as a healthcare executive. Mr. Lord received his Juris Doctorate degree from Stetson University College of Law in 1983.
William Mitsch
William Mitsch
Dr. Mitsch is currently Professor Emeritus in The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University and Professor Emeritus in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University.

Dr. Mitsch’s research and teaching have focused on wetland and river ecology and
biogeochemistry, wetlands and climate change, wetland creation and restoration, ecological engineering and ecosystem restoration, solving harmful algal blooms with nature-based solutions, and ecosystem modeling. Dr. Mitsch has authored or co-authored more than 800 research papers, abstracts, and other publications including 25 books. This includes the popular textbook Wetlands that is now in its 6 th edition and was recently translated to Chinese. He also has just now completed his “Memoirs of an Environmental Science Professor” (CRC Press, 2024) that describes in 9 chapters what he fought for in his career that was meaningful for environmental education and ecosystem protection. He founded and was editor-in-chief for 25 years of the international journal Ecological Engineering.

Dave Preston
Dave Preston
An avid fly fisherman and outdoorsman, Dave was born and raised in Miami and grew up in the 80s and 90s exploring the waters of Florida Bay, the Everglades, Biscayne Bay, and the Keys. He is a University of Florida alumni, and has worked across the state as a commercial real estate broker since graduating in 2003. He currently resides in Jupiter, but you can usually find him anywhere there are tarpon swimming in the spring and summer months.
Jennifer Rehage
Jennifer Rehage
Dr. Jennifer Rehage is a coastal and fish ecologist and associate professor at the Institute of Environment and the Earth & Environment department. Studies in her research group focus on understanding how natural and human disturbances affect multiple aspects of the life of fish focusing on individuals, their behavior, populations, ecosystem role, and interactions with anglers.
Todd Thurlow
Todd Thurlow
Todd Thurlow, a Stuart native and 7th generation Floridian, is a third-generation Stuart attorney, practicing in the areas of estates and trusts and estate and gift taxation.
He’s been fascinated with changes to our local waterways since childhood, when he explored the shorelines and sandbars of the Indian River Lagoon in his 8-foot boat.

His obsession with historical maps, plats and aerials was fostered by his law firm’s historical archives and by his mother, Sandra Thurlow, author of four books on local history. Todd assisted her with her creation of a private digital collection of thousands of historical photographs.
He collaborates on the “Indian River Lagoon” blog with his sister, Jaqui Thurlow-Lippisch, who previously served on the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District Board. Todd provides Google Earth overlays of historical maps, aerials and satellite imagery; the videos are also posted to a YouTube playlist.In addition, he hosts the “Eye on Lake O” website, which automates the collection of satellite imagery and online government data to track local algae blooms and the discharges into the St. Lucie River.

Peter Upton
Peter Upton
Born in Michigan, Peter received his undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill followed by a law degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, before moving to Miami in the early 1980s. He worked as staff attorney at American Friends Service Committee, representing imprisoned undocumented people at Krome Detention Center and undocumented farmworkers in rural areas throughout South Florida. In 1988, Peter moved to New York City then to Mozambique to work for Save the Children, where he assisted with war-traumatized children. From New York, he came to Indiantown to open a private immigration law practice. He eventually settled with his family in Stuart and became a member of several boards including Americans for Immigrant Justice in Miami and the Elliott Museum.
Thomas Van Lent
Thomas Van Lent
Dr. Thomas Van Lent is one of the leading experts on water management in the Everglades, with more than 40 years of experience in Everglades restoration. He has worked for the state of Florida, the Department of the Interior, in academics, and for the Everglades Foundation. He holds a doctorate in engineering from Stanford University.
Carol Waxler
Carol Waxler
Carol was born and raised in Stuart, Florida. Perhaps motivated by her maternal grandfather, Francis Keith, and his membership in the River’s Coalition, Carol spent much of her childhood with friends on the waters of the Treasure Coast enjoying the flora and fauna.

Following graduation from Martin County High School, she spent three years shared between Stetson University and Florida State University earning an undergraduate degree in criminology, leading to her employment as a Probation and Parole officer in Florida’s 19th Judicial Circuit.

Carol left the 19th District to pursue her law degree at Florida State. With a Juris Doctor and her admission into the Florida Bar in hand, she set out as an Assistant State Attorney, followed later by time in private practice. While in private practice Carol served on the Board of Trustees of the Martin County Historical Society serving as President in 1997. During her term as President the Second Edition of The History of Martin County was published.

Always having been drawn to the water she then accepted the invitation from Allied Marine to become their In-House Council. While there, Carol served on the Stuart City Commission from 2011-2014 with another year added for a term as Mayor of Stuart. At the end of her Commission term Carol was honored with recognition as “Concensus Maker,” an attribute which has served her throughout her life. Carol is currently retired from Alley-Maas…Maritime Division but not before being selected to serve on the Florida Yacht Brokers Arbitration Board.