Amber Graham is the lead Environmental scientist on the River Channel Vegetation Studies that are conducted as part of the Kissimmee River Restoration Project. The SFWMD has set up a series of Performance Expectations that guide the scientists in their research objectives. So far, the Kissimmee River Restoration is meeting the SFWMD’s research expectations which helps justify the investment in the Restoration project. Two of the 25 restoration expectations are based on the recovery of plant communities in the restored Kissimmee River. The Expectations that Amber’s research supports are:
This Expectation predicts that following restored flow, littoral plant community structure will undergo the following changes: (a) combined mean relative cover of emergent species will increase and (b) combined mean relative cover of floating and mat-forming species will decrease.
Amber’s favorite study was the river channel vegetation project and she collected data from 2009 to 2012. She describes the research objectives “The primary goal of this study was to evaluate the effects of re-established flow on plant community structure in the Phase II/III river channel of the Kissimmee River to see if the plant responses met our Expectations.”
She describes her methods used, “data was collected every other month for 16 sample periods. Sampling was conducted at transects distributed in non-flowing (remnant) channels of Pool A (Control area) and Pool D (Trajectory area), and flow restored Pool C (Impact area). There were 45 transects that were designated in each pool and evenly divided into 3 categories by bend type (Inner, Outer, Straight.)”
Amber explains her data results, “This graph illustrates that so far, the littoral plant communities in the restored (Impact) river channel have met Expectation 10 by decreasing their mean widths to < 5 meters on the inner bends and <4 on the straight channel reaches.”
In addition to the River Vegetation Studies, Amber supports these KRRP research projects:
Amber Graham has a unique position working for CES under our Riverwoods contract with the SFWMD. She serves as an Environmental Scientist working in support of the Kissimmee River Restoration Project (KRRP). She has been working with us for 10 years, and is an extremely talented and dedicated scientist.
Amber earned her A.A. at Palm Beach State College in 2005 and received PBSC’s Biology Student of the Year. While she was attending classes at PBSC, she attended a lecture about the Kissimmee River Restoration Project. This peaked her interest. Later she learned about a technician position offered by CES at Riverwoods supporting the KRRP research. She says that “With a little luck, I got the position and began the hard work of climbing up the ranks.”
FAU offers an excellent program for staff called the Employee Educational Scholarship Program. Amber took advantage of free classes and continued her education in the Geosciences Program. She worked full time and attended school part time for 4 years to earn her B.A. in Geography 2013. She is now focused on beginning her Master’s in Geosciences.
Amber’s favorite study is the Kissimmee River Channel Vegetation Study that she leads. She says that “this is my favorite project because this was my first scientific lead on a study to support the KRRP. It was a great opportunity to really get hands on experience as an environmental scientist.” Amber has gained a wide variety of experience in environmental field work by supporting all of the KRRP research studies.
When asked her advice to students interested in pursuing a career in environmental science, Amber replied “Go for it! There are boundless opportunities available in Federal, State or Local Government, and Private Consulting firms. There will be a magical job waiting for you at the end of your degree….if you put in the effort! Think about what is special to you, what are your strengths, then apply them to your education. Ask around to find opportunities to intern and learn different fields. Make sure to take a few GIS classes because all environmental research has a spatial application. Be proud of pursuing a career in Environmental Science, the future of our world will be in your hands. It can be as fun as you make it. I have been in my career for 10 years, and I still get excited to go to work!”