Portfolio projects on Science topics

My science background includes real conservation that is science based, the study and on-location reporting on the ocean and environment in Florida and around the world; the rainforest in Brazil; volcanic activity in Italy, Ecuador, and Montserrat; and the Galapagos Islands.  My work has been shown on Discovery Channel and I was the producer on a World Wildlife Fund campaign that received the International Presidents Award from the non-profit. Another example of brand journalism in action!


Connect and Conserve in the Galapagos

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Water Conservation Makes Dollars and Sense

R. Michael Brown

A big part of what makes the Town of Palm Beach what it is; isn’t the mansions, luxury cars, and spectacularly wealthy people; it’s the landscaping.  When you drive through town, it appears that every blade of grass and every leaf are right where they belong.

The complexity and beauty of the landscape layers amazes visitors as they drive at 10 miles an hour under the speed limit and gawk.  Many properties have full-time gardeners with a staff to help.  They do so much work, the town government has a daily pickup for tree and plant trimmings.  All that landscaping creates a problem however.  Property owners use over 2 billion gallons of water per year for irrigation.

Currently, Town of Palm Beach households, with their larger properties,  use a median of 1,343 gallons per day [Range 800 – 2,800] compared to the rest of Palm Beach County where water use averages a mere 515 gallons per day. Town-wide, the 3,300 property owners are using an average of 6 million gallons a day.

There is a solution.  The plants and grass don’t need that much water.  If property owners implement smart irrigation, the Town can lessen the need for a new dedicated desalination water plant, currently estimated to cost $220 million, by conserving over 40% of what is used for irrigation. Smart irrigation, using Smart Controllers, is a major part of the answer.

If a cut of 40% is achieved, town-wide consumption drops to 3.6 million gallons per day. 60% conservation and total consumption drops to 2.4 million gallons a day. That saves over a Billion gallons a year in the Town of Palm Beach.

The Civic Association in the Town of Palm Beach has announced a public awareness and education campaign including Smart Irrigation Workshops, email blasts, direct mail, civic group presentations around town, and a property owner telephone call program to implement smart controllers and irrigation in the Town.

At the workshops, representatives from the Town of Palm Beach Public Works Department and smart controller vendors will present their latest technology to help cut water use significantly town-wide.  The Town will also ask property owners to register for the Smart Irrigation Pilot Study to measure the results of smart controller use.

Water Conservation Update

R. Michael Brown

The Civic Association Water Committee public awareness and education campaign; which has included town-wide direct mail, calls to the biggest water users in Town, 3 workshops, e-blasts, and a new webpage:; resulted in 118 property managers, owners, irrigation contractors, and landscape architects and contractors attending the workshops.

So far 18 Smart Irrigation systems have been installed and 35 additional inquiries/evaluations of properties have taken place.  Over 20 have signed up for the Town Pilot Program to have their property monitored for the before and after water savings analysis.

“We expect a lot of interest by the end of the season,” said Bob Johnson, President of Superior Sprinkler Systems and the former President of the Florida Irrigation Society.  “Most property owners in Palm Beach place their orders just before the end of the season so the work can be done during the off-season when they are at their summer homes.”

“The Smart Irrigation program by the Civic Association is excellent. It’s something we’ve been trying to implement with clients in Town and this program has jump started it.” Mr. Johnson said. “We expect property owners will save between 60-70% on their water usage.”

This is one of the first Smart Irrigation programs in a municipality in the State of Florida which makes the Town of Palm Beach a leader in this initiative.

The Civic Association is continuing with public education and receives 3-5 calls a week about Smart Irrigation.  Recommendations to the Town Water Committee included:

– Evaluate the Smart Irrigation Model Municipal Ordinance from the State of Florida.

– Implement a Town ordinance requiring all new construction to use Smart Irrigation technology and all existing properties install Smart Irrigation within a reasonable time.

– Consider the South Florida Water Management Water Savings Incentive Program (WaterSIP) application to rebate property owners that install Smart Irrigation. The program application process starts in February and approvals happen in the Fall of 2010.

West Palm Water Utilities have provided estimates for various new sources of water for the Town of Palm Beach.  They range from $100 million to over $220 million (seawater treatment plant) in capital expense, not including large operating costs.

This large tax burden has been evaluated by the Town Water Committee to be too expensive so the best alternative is water conservation.

The potential, using Smart Irrigation technology and techniques, is to save over half of the 2 billions of water property owners use in Town each year for irrigation. That savings would eliminate the need for an extra supply or source of water, and therefore the need to raise and spend a large amount of taxes.

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