Opening General Session

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Moderator Trisha Moore
8:00 – 8:15 am  Trisha Moore – Conference Welcome
8:15 – 8:45 am  Julie Mayfield – Challenges for a Sustainable Future: Public Engagement is Key
8:45 – 9:15 am  William Mitsch – History and Future of Ecological Engineering
9:15 – 9:45 am  Sepideh Saidi – Be Open.  Be Positive.  Be Courageous.
9:45 – 10:15 am  Rafael Vazquez-Burney – Dreams to Reality: Recent Experiences Implementing Ecological Engineering Projects

Challenges for a Sustainable Future: Public Engagement is Key

Presenter: Julie Mayfield, Asheville City Council Member and Co-Director, MountainTrue

Abstract: Welcome to a very special region in Appalachia that faces growing challenges such as wildfires, flooding, pollution, and landslides.  Sustainable solutions are both human and ecology-based.  My work on Asheville City Council has focused on public transit, affordable housing, managing growth, and making the transition to clean, renewable energy.  Often, the work is more about connecting people and finding common ground.  I’ve worked with local communities to protect our forests and rivers and to make our region healthier and more sustainable, and I advocate for these same issues with our legislators.

Biography: Julie Mayfield was elected to Asheville City Council in November 2015 and is also co-director of MountainTrue, a regional environmental advocacy organization.  Her primary areas of advocacy are transportation, clean energy, affordable housing, and land use.  She received her undergraduate degree from Davidson College and her law degree from Emory University School of Law.

History and Future of Ecological Engineering

Presenter: William Mitsch, Endowed Chair and Director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park, Florida Gulf Coast University

Abstract: Ecological engineers is defined as the design of sustainable ecosystems that integrate human society with its natural environment for the benefit of both. The field was developed in 1970s and 1980s with the first book in 1989. Discussion of a national society (AEES) began at a meeting held at Ohio State University in 1999 with the first conference in 2000 in Athens, Georgia. Ecological engineering goals include the restoration of ecosystems that have been substantially disturbed by human activities such as environmental pollution or land disturbance and the development of new sustainable ecosystems that have both human and ecological value. There has been remarkable progress in the development of ecological engineering principles and practices. There is still little application of self-design and problem solving on mega-scale ecological problems that is needed more than ever. It is still not clear if self-design will ever be accepted in the current engineering paradigm. Ecologists, who have not been particularly active in the development of the field or establishment of its academic programs, need to get involved. I agree with Gosselin (2008) who suggests that ecological engineering and sustainable development will “breathe new life” into the old fields of engineering and ecology if we allow it. AEES is leading the way in the world on ecological engineering progress now but limitations now appear to be related to social and disciplinary regulations and lack of acceptance by tradition-bound disciplines.

Biography: Bill Mitsch has been a university professor specializing in wetland and aquatic biogeochemistry and ecological engineering for 44 years at 4 universities in the USA. He is Past President of the Society of Wetland Scientists and American Ecological Engineering Society, the latter which he founded. He is currently Eminent Scholar and Director, Everglades Wetland Research Park, and Juliet C. Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Naples Florida where he has been since 2012. He received a B.S. in engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and an M.E. in environmental engineering and a Ph.D. in systems ecology under H.T. Odum, both at the University of Florida. Before his current position at FGCU he taught for 26 years as Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and continues as Founding Director of the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at The Ohio State University. He also taught at Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Louisville. He currently holds faculty appointments at University of South Florida, University of Florida, and The Ohio State University.

His over 700 publications include 5 editions of the standard textbook/reference book Wetlands and two books introducing the principles and practice of ecological engineering. He founded in 1992 and served for 25 years as editor-in-chief of the international journal Ecological Engineering.  He has given 400 invited presentations around the world on wetlands, ecological engineering and restoration and related topics. including 22 invited talks around the USA and world in 2018. He has also been awarded four Fulbright scholarships for research and teaching in his career in Denmark, Botswana, Poland, and, in 2019, at Bangor University in Wales (UK).

Be Open. Be Positive. Be Courageous.

Presenter: Sepideh Saidi, Sepi Engineering & Construction


Biography: Sepi Saidi is a visionary leader who founded SEPI Engineering & Construction in 2001 and has led the company to become a premier full service civil, environmental planning, and construction management engineering firm in the Southeast. The firm’s awards include Fast 50 firm by Triangle Business Journal, Zweig White Hot Firm List, Inc. 5000, and being ranked as a Top 500 Design Firm on the Engineering News-Record’s 2017 list. Incorporating the firm’s core values, SEPI is dedicated to providing a unique work space and environment for its employees to plan, design, build, and give back to the communities in which we serve. With a dedicated passion to support organizations that align with the health, safety, and well-being of the families in our communities, Ms. Saidi and the firm are proud to be champions of community service.

A Professional Engineer and alumna of North Carolina State University, with degrees in Civil and Agricultural Engineering, Ms. Saidi has been named by the Triangle Business Journal as the 2018 Businessperson of the Year, was recently selected as a Charlotte Business Journal 2018 Women in Business Achievement Award winner, and has been inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame.

Dreams to Reality: Recent Experiences Implementing Ecological Engineering Projects

Presenter: Rafael Vazquez-Burney, Jacobs Engineering

Abstract: Nature-based solutions are gaining popularity with decision-makers and stakeholders in all sectors. Challenges such as water supply limitations, flooding, water quality deterioration, decline in ecological functions, and human physical and mental health all drive the need for Ecological Engineering approaches to solving our world’s most challenging issues. This presentation will explore recent examples of multi-functional and multi-beneficial Ecological Engineering projects implemented by both the public and private sector with a focus on the diverse teams needed to convert dreams to reality.

Biography: Rafael is a Professional Engineer and Principal Technologist with Jacobs Engineering in Tampa, FL with 13 years of experience specializing in Natural Treatment Systems for wastewater and stormwater. He attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville and North Carolina State University where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Engineering and Masters in Civil Engineering with a focus in wastewater treatment, water resources, and numerical modeling of natural systems. Since joining CH2M (now Jacobs) in 2006, he has led numerous projects related to the study, design, permitting, and construction of treatment wetlands. His primary interest is in research and design to improve wetland performance and maximize the benefits and uses of his projects by incorporating ecological engineering principles.