Mandy Sunshine Baily combines her passions for water resources and community engagement in her new role as Florida Sea Grant’s Living Shoreline Program Assistant and Course Co-Facilator.
Baily, a recent graduate of natural resource conservation at the University of Florida School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatic Sciences, will lend her expertise to the Living Shorelines Training Program for Marine Contractors – an interactive course promoting the installation of living shorelines.
Her role will support the program’s outreach by enrolling interested parties and organizing a network of professionals to assist in specialized course instruction. Baily will also harness her knowledge of natural resources to develop adaptive course material.
“My place in this work is to increase inclusive engagement,” Baily says. “I am excited to gain a greater breadth of understanding from different communities which will enable better communication and encourage nature-based solutions for climate resilience.”
The Living Shorelines Training program is a two-day course that promotes the environmental and cost-effective benefits of living shorelines in Florida. Offered in twelve locations across Florida, the course includes an immersive field experience that trains participants to navigate site assessments, evaluate design plans, register permits, and install and maintain living shorelines. Participants can earn Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) and a certificate of completion of the Living Shorelines Marine Contractor Course.
Funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 2022, the program originated from the necessity to communicate the importance of using natural resources to secure coastal stabilization.
“It may be difficult for people to understand how mangroves are stronger than a concrete wall,” says Armando Ubeda, Sarasota County’s Florida Sea Grant UF/IFAS Extension Agent, and principal investigator of the project. “There is a need to understand and utilize living shorelines and learn how to move forward with putting them in place.”
Initially, the program was piloted as a virtual course for marine contractors and landscape architects. As the program gained greater relevance across Florida, it expanded its geographical and audience range to property owners, community members, businesses, local officials, and anyone interested. A unique part of the program will adapt course material to participants’ interest and the environmental conditions of targeted locations. Baily leverages her knowledge and cultural competency to engage diverse audiences.
“Mandy is instrumental to the program’s development,” says Ubeda. “With her background in natural resources and community work, she can connect with groups of people and offer important material for the course. She not only cares for the environment but wants to make a change in society.”
Baily has always had an inherent value and respect for the natural world, having spent decades surfing, living alongside wetlands in Paraguay, studying environmental anthropology, and serving as a soil conservation extensionist with the U.S. Peace Corp..
“Over the years, a love for those experiences developed my interest in the human dimensions. It became apparent how much of the work was needed in that realm, and it has driven my education,” says Baily.
Dedicated to bridging the gap between scientific data, information, and communication, Baily received her Master’s of Science in Natural Resource Conservation at UF’s School of FFGS with an emphasis on human dimensions that included community engagement, equitable inclusion, and participatory facilitation and earned a certification in wetlands and water resource management.
“I made a promise in my graduate studies to keep the social and environmental aspects together; some jobs make you choose one,” says Baily.“I am stoked to be a part of a team that is appreciative of making the human dimension tangible for coastal resilience.”
To find an upcoming living shorelines course near you, visit the Living Shorelines Training Program for Marine Contractors webpage or contact Mandy Baily at firstname.lastname@example.org.