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Dedication and Thanks to Aaron Higer - 2000 Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Science Conference

photo collage of AaronThe 2000 Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Science Conference is dedicated to Aaron Higer, a former member of the Working Group and Science Coordination Team of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. It is fitting that the first GEER conference should be dedicated to Aaron who worked for the benefit of the Everglades ecosystem for over 40 years in capacities ranging from field researcher collecting fish samples for pesticide analysis, to his position as Working Group and Science Coordination Team member, and also serving as the first U.S. Geological Survey South Florida Ecosystem Coordinator.

photo of Aaron Higer airborne
Airborne Aaron, 1961
After graduating from the University of Miami with a Bachelors Degree in Industrial Engineering in 1959, Aaron started working for the USGS in Miami, Florida, on a student appointment while studying Oceanography at the prestigious Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. During the early sixties Aaron worked on a study to determine pesticide residues in fish, animal and plant tissue collected in Everglades National Park. This effort led to his interest in applying aerial photography and remote sensing techniques to hydrobiological research which he, with other researchers, did successfully in Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay, Tampa Bay, Appalachia and the West Indies. Aaron, working with Milt Kolipinski, pioneered the use of multispectral data collection and processing techniques in delineating hydrologic and hydrobiologic features. In the seventies Aaron was a member of NASA’s Working Group on Hydrology at the Goddard Space Flight Center, served as a consultant to the United Nation’s AID Program on remote sensing for Jamaica, was the coordinator for both program development for the Earth Science Office at the Kennedy Space Center and the EROS School on Remote Sensing, and was a representative to the First Symposium on Remote Sensing for the Pan American Nations in Panama City, Panama. He was the Federal representative on the State of Florida Carrying Capacity Committee and a Task Force member on the President’s Committee for Environmental Quality, Cross Florida Barge Canal.

photo of Aaron Higer in the Everglades
Field work in the Everglades, 1967
By the eighties Aaron was a recognized expert on south Florida hydrology, consulting with the National Geographic Society for their Atlas on North America, serving on the U.S. Justice Department’s Remedy Committee for the Everglades, chairing the USGS National Water-Use Committee and serving on the Dade County Technical Committee for the location of new well fields. Aaron was also the Chairman of a workshop on Meteorology, Hydrology and Water Management held as part of a US-India Symposium in Ahmeabad, India and took part in the Symposium on the Ecology and Conservation of the Usumacinta-Grijaula Delta in Tabasco, Mexico.

In 1992 Aaron transferred to West Palm Beach, Florida, to serve as the USGS liaison with the South Florida Water Management District and other agencies co-located in their District Headquarters. This transfer represented a great personal sacrifice for Aaron and his family who were in the process of rebuilding a home devastated by Hurricane Andrew. Four years later, Aaron was tapped to serve as a member of the Working Group of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and as the Coordinator of the USGS South Florida
photo of Aaron Higer at a Miami meeting
Miami Subdistrict Luncheon, 1997
Ecosystem Program. As Co-chair of the Working Group’s Science Sub-Group and as the official spokesman for U.S. Geological Survey programs in south Florida, he significantly contributed to delineating the scientific needs for ecosystem restoration decision-making in south Florida. He then developed the most comprehensive integrated-science program within the U.S. Geological Survey that includes about 70 projects; all major agency scientific disciplines; and hundreds of partners from other agencies, academia, and private companies. Results from this ongoing program provide crucial scientific information on which to base ecosystem restoration decisions in south Florida and in other similar areas of the country and the world. Aaron also recognized that results of science programs of the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies would be of most value to resource managers and others if presented and disseminated in useful formats. To this end, he has personally directed this aspect of the south Florida program to provide easy access to all scientific information through the Internet. Aaron was frequently called upon to brief the Department of Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Science, State and Federal Legislators, and White House representatives.

He also sat on the USGS’s National Ecosystem Council and advised other ecosystem programs on what worked successfully and what had been tried and not worked as well. In recognition of his many outstanding contributions to the programs of the USGS, Aaron was presented with the U.S. Department of Interior’s Meritorious service Award in 1993, and the Distinguished Service Award in 2000.

Aaron and Francine
Aaron and his number one supporter, Francine.
The multi-discipline and multi-agency approach to understanding the functioning of the Everglades ecosystem that has characterized much of the work of the South Florida Ecosystem Interagency Task Force can, in no small measure, be attributed to Aaron’s view of the role of science in the service of public policy. Although his accomplishments are numerous and varied, Aaron may be most appreciated by his associates for his legendary vision and by his friends and coworkers for his selflessness and his willingness to mentor and advise. For these reasons and for his life-long efforts on behalf of the Everglades ecosystem and south Florida, this GEER conference is dedicated to Aaron Higer. All of us involved in greater Everglades restoration extend to Aaron and Francine our best wishes during retirement.

Aaron receiving the SFWMD Award SFWMD Award
Award given to Aaron from the South Florida Water Management District "in appreciation of his 40 year commitment ot State-Federal science partnerships pivotal to Everglades restoration and South Florida sustainability". [larger image]

photo of Aaron taking a photo
Aaron taking photo, Green Swamp, 1975
photo of Aaron in Green Swamp
Aaron at cypress stump, Green Swamp, July 1975.
photo of Aaron in Everglades National Park
Aaron surveying in mangroves, ENP, Nov 1971.
photo of Aaron in salt marsh
Aaron in salt marsh near Crystal River, Fla. Feb 1974.
photo of Aaron near C 111 basin
Aaron holding irrigation hose in citrus ag land, eastern Everglades C-111 basin, near Context road, May 19, 1976.
photo of Aaron in sawgrass marsh
Aaron is sawgrass marsh, C-111 basin, South Dade Co., May 19, 1976.
photo of Aaron near Rogers River headwater
Camp near Rogers River headwater in ENP; One of "many" Aaron helped design, May 1971.
photo of Aaron in Big Cypress Swamp
Aaron in Big Cypress Swamp, December 1969 (?)
photo of Aaron in helicopter
Aaron in helicopter, near Gum Slough, Big Cypress Swamp, July 14, 1975.

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Last updated: 24 October, 2015 @ 03:03 PM (THF)