Each year, one outstanding high school senior is awarded the Skoch Scholarship, a $1,000 award given to a Florida high school student who shows research promise in a coastal-related field.
This year’s winner, Quinn Zacharias, is a senior at Deland High School in Deland.
Zacharias’ award-winning project is an analysis of Rose Bay in Volusia County following a large restoration project. Due to storm water runoff, leakage from septic systems and restricted water flow, the bay has been facing major water quality problems.
Zacharias contacted the Volusia County Environmental Management Department to obtain water quality data from before, during and after the restoration. Using this data, he investigated whether or not the community’s effort to restore the Bay worked.
One part of the restoration involved removing an abandoned road causeway that bisected the bay, restricting natural water flow and circulation. The Florida Department of Transportation constructed a replacement bridge in 2002, restoring the natural water exchange. The St. Johns River Water Management District also removed 1,100 leaking septic systems to prevent discharge into the bay. Zacharias found a dramatic decrease in fecal coliform after these two restoration actions.
“During the same time, nutrients in the bay declined by roughly 50 percent,” Zacharias said. “I was able to prove that the 20-year community effort and $50 million invested into the restoration was successful. I believe that the success observed in Rose Bay will be able to justify public spending on other coastal restoration projects dealing with similar issues around the Southeast United States.”
The report of his project is currently under peer review for publication in the Florida Environmental Health Association’s journal. He plans to use his scholarship to study environmental engineering at Florida State University starting this fall.
He said his interest in environmental engineering stems from growing up around the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, where his father, Zach Zacharias was the senior curator.
“I’m interested in finding a balance between environmental health and human development. I hope to deal with environmental issues and civil structures that can fix them,” Zacharias said. “One of my dreams is to someday work for the State Department or United Nations as a diplomat negotiating and advising on international hot topics such as gas lines, dams, and natural resources.”
But, winning the Skoch Scholarship is just one of Zacharias’ many accomplishments throughout his high school career. He was captain of the tennis team, the president of student government his sophomore year, and a member of the National Honor Society. He also founded his school’s break dance club, received his black belt in martial arts and was cast in the Fossil Hunters reality TV show.
Zacharias said he is thankful for the award and plans to use it as a stepping stone in his career.
“I’m very grateful that I was able to receive the Skoch scholarship. I believe that it will go a long way in helping me afford my undergraduate education,” Zacharias said. “This part of my education is a key step in becoming an environmental engineer.”
The Skoch award is based on a student’s competition in the State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida. Funding for the scholarship is provided by the Charles Skoch family of Boynton Beach.