The Riverwoods Field Laboratory (RFL) is located on a historic section of the Kissimmee River and is managed by the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES) in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). Established in 1995, Riverwoods' main objective is to support research and educational activities related to the restoration of the Kissimmee River and greater Everglades ecosystem. CES hosts research scientists, students, and technicians from state, national and international organizations including universities, water management districts and environmental agencies that are interested in learning about or conducting research on the Kissimmee River Restoration Project. CES, in collaboration with SFWMD, has developed a comprehensive Education and Research Program at Riverwoods targeting secondary and post-secondary students, educators, university faculty, scientists, and environmental professionals. The program highlights environmental education using the Kissimmee River as a living lab and model of the world's largest river restoration. The program highlights the importance of the Kissimmee River restoration to the success of the greater Everglades ecosystem restoration that is outlined in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
For more information about the SFWMD’s Kissimmee River Restoration check online:
The South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) scientists are responsible for the biological monitoring and research conducted as part of the Kissimmee River Restoration Project. An integral component to the restoration is the scientific evaluation of restoration success. The SFWMD’s Kissimmee scientists have established the Kissimmee River Restoration Evaluation Program that outlines 25 performance measures that are used to quantify the success of the project. Four of the restoration expectations are based on the recovery of macroinvertebrate communities in the restored Kissimmee River and floodplain
Joseph Koebel is a Senior Environmental Scientist that has been working at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) for over 25 years. Joe has been part of the Kissimmee River Restoration research team since the beginning, and leads the macroinvertebrate studies. During this time, he has seen the river transform from the sterile C-38 canal back to a more natural free-flowing river with abundant fish and wildlife. River runs that were choked with vegetation are now clear. Large deposits of organic matter on the riverbed have been replaced by a natural shifting sand substrate. Dissolved oxygen levels within the river have increased from critically low levels (often near 1.0 mg/L) to levels typically found in natural black water rivers of the southeast (generally in the 3-6 mg/L range). All of these factors have played a role in the response and restoration of the aquatic invertebrate community.
As a teenager, Joe was an avid fisherman and became interested in aquatic insects as they related to fish/invertebrate predator-prey interactions. Following his interests, Joe pursued and received a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Science from North Carolina State University and immediately continued his education at The University of Alabama where he received a M.S. in Biology. Joe began his career at the SFWMD in 1991 as a Senior Scientific Technician. He was soon promoted to Staff Environmental Scientist, Senior Environmental Scientist and Senior Supervising Environmental Scientist. Aside from his work with aquatic insects, Joe assists with the amphibian/reptile research and fisheries studies.
Joe’s favorite study is “Response of Benthic and Snag-dwelling Macroinvertebrates to Restored Flow in the Kissimmee River ”. The response to the restored river by aquatic macroinvertebrates tends to be quite rapid. We are able to tell very quickly whether the river system and aquatic invertebrate communities are responding according to our expectations. It is exciting to see key indicator species returning to the river in large numbers! It is always great to discover an invertebrate that has not been found in the river for nearly 50 years. For example, Cheumatopsyche spp. (Trichoptera: Hydropsychidae), a net-spinning caddisfly that was eliminated from the river following channelization and loss of flow in the 1960s, has returned in large numbers! It now makes up the greatest proportion of macroinvertebrate density and biomass on snags (woody debris) in the river.
When asked his advice to students interested in pursuing a career in environmental science, Joe thinks, “You should use your time in school to explore different aspects and areas of environmental science. Take as many different courses (botany, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, ornithology, soil science, etc.) as you can. If you find something that you love, then you can focus on it in your Junior and Senior years. It is important to have a good general understanding of many different fields of study. If possible, think about pursuing a post-graduate degree. That is where you can really hone your skills. The extra work will benefit you in the long run.”
Learn more about other scientists working on the Kissimmee River: