Keynote Speakers and Panelists
Mark Rains, Ph.D.
Chief Science Officer for the State of Florida
Plenary Talk (Tuesday 6/6)
Mark Rains is an ecohydrologist with a B.A. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, an M.S. in Forestry, and a Ph.D. in Hydrologic Sciences. His research is focused on hydrological connectivity from ridges to reefs, especially between hillslopes, wetlands, and headwater streams; the roles that hydrological processes play in governing ecosystem structure and function; and the roles that science plays in informing water-related law, policy, and decision-making. He has extensive experience in consensus building at the intersection of science and policy in wetland regulatory programs, including past and ongoing work providing the scientific justification underlying the federal definition of “waters of the US” subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. He routinely contributes to this scientific debate in the legal arena, including two cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. He was appointed as the State of Florida's Chief Science Officer in 2021.
Director of Tampa Bay Estuary Program
Plenary Panel (6/7)
Ed Sherwood has served as the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Executive Director since February 2018 after serving as its Senior Scientist for over a decade prior. Ed is responsible for maintaining TBEP’s strong interlocal partnerships and catalyzing the bay’s science-based restoration and recovery strategies. He directs TBEP’s technical and public outreach initiatives and serves as the primary policy liaison between its many public and private partners. Ed holds a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida, and a M.S. degree in Marine Fisheries and Ecology from the University of Florida. In his spare time, he enjoys boating on the bay and travelling with his wife and two kids.
Dave Tomasko, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
Plenary Panel (6/7)
Dr. Dave Tomasko has more than 30 years of experience in water quality assessments and the development of science-based natural resource plans in the Gulf of Mexico and international locations. He holds a Ph.D. in biology from the University of South Florida, a Master of Science in marine biology from the Florida Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor of Science in biology from Old Dominion University. Dr. Tomasko was also the first-ever SBEP Program Scientist.
Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Engineering, University of South Florida
DIEJ Panel (6/8)
Bernard Batson is the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Engineering. In this role, he leads the College’s existing efforts in developing new strategies to strengthen inclusive practices and belonging across departments and research centers. He has over 25 years of experience in higher education on signature DEI initiatives that promote increased STEM diversity and access as core intellectual values. Primarily, these signature efforts have been funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and National Science Foundation. Batson has worked to nurture partnerships with minority-serving institutions and new engineering pathways (e.g.., UVI-USF College of Engineering Articulation Agreement, LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate, NSF S-STEM, and others) for historically underrepresented and financially disadvantaged students. He has served as an external a reviewer for DEI programs and as a panelist at national meetings.
Maya Trotz, Ph.D.
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida
DIEJ Panel (6/8)
Dr. Maya Trotz (she/her/hers) is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida. She is the Principal Investigator of multiple federally funded projects, including STRONG Coasts, a National Research Traineeship program to foster food, energy, and water solutions with coastal communities, Large-scale CoPe: Reducing Climate Risks with Equitable Nature-based Solutions: Engaging Communities on Reef-Lined Coasts, BlueGAP, a Blue Economy Accelerator initiative to improve nutrient management. She has led projects to increase research experiences for undergraduate students and teachers, and currently leads an interdisciplinary team to improve undergraduate STEM education by addressing issues of equity and inclusivity in civil and environmental engineering curriculum. She also works on the knowledge management component of a Green Climate Fund project, “Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability in Barbados.” She is a past President of the Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors and a board member of Fragments of Hope Corp, a non-profit focused on coral restoration in Belize. She holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from MIT, MS and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University and is an Elates at Drexel® Fellow.
Stephen A. Walker
Attorney at Lewis, Longman, & Walker, P.A.
DIEJ Panel (6/8)
Mr. Walker’s practice focuses primarily on water resources, environmental and administrative law and has over 40 years of experience in environmental and water-related issues in Florida. He is the special environmental counsel to the Seminole Tribe of Florida and advises and advocates for the Tribe on Everglades issues, water rights, Clean Water Act issues and various state and federal regulatory matters. He also represents water users in consumptive use and environmental permitting, water use litigation and advocating for proactive water supply development strategies affecting the industry. He received his B.S. from the Pennsylvania State University and his J.D. from the University of Florida.