Wildlife biologist Erik Lovestrand will take the role of regionalized special agent for the Franklin County extension service on next week.
Lovestrand, well-known to county residents as an environmental specialist at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR), has been a familiar face there since Oct. 1991 and has helped with numerous community outreach projects including the annual Estuaries Day celebration.
His new title is regional specialized extension agent and county extension director, replacing Bill Mahan. Under his new job description, Lovestrand will work, beginning May 23, with a regional team of agents to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive SeaGrant extension program.
In a telephone interview, Lovestrand said his main focus would be on educating the seafood industry in the areas of food safety, marketing, processing, and related areas.
As the local SeaGrant agent he will provide leadership for other areas of SeaGrant and marine education, including programs that assist seafood workers and provide information about sustaining commercial fisheries; sea turtle education; sea level rise; climate variability; enhancing and conserving natural resources and environmental quality.
Lovestrand said now that he has been briefed about his main duties, he is “trying to wind things up at ANERR.”
He said he is excited about the new concept of teams of agents working together within a region.
Lovestrand holds a bachelor’s of science in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida and received a master’s of science in wildlife ecology from Purdue University in 1986.
Prior to working at ANERR, he was a nongame education specialist for the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, from 1986-89. From 1989 to1991, he was the coordinator of that program.
Lovestrand said his new job would mean more travel. Although he will be based in Franklin County, he will also spend time in Gulf and Wakulla Counties.
The University of Florida remains in negotiations with the city of Apalachicola over its possible use of the old ANERR headquarters near Scipio Creek Marina.
At the May 6 city commission meeting, City Administrator Betty Taylor-Webb said UF has approached her with a proposal to take possession of the building and use it to house the extension program, currently operating out of the Fort Coombs Armory.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of deeding the building back to the city, based on the terms of a reverter clause. “This has been a long process since St. Vincent (National Wildlife Refuge) won’t be moving in that building,” she said. “UF wants to know if the city will be amenable to allowing it to revert to UF.”
Taylor-Webb said the roof is beginning to leak in the building, built in 1984. “If they own the building. they have more avenues to have funding,” she said, noting that she has met with UF’s maintenance people to explore the options.
The commissioners voted unanimously to express interest in the transaction, and said they plan to seek a similar reverter clause to kick in if the extension program chooses to relocate out of the building.