Local Environmental Hero Honored Nationally

Keep America Beautiful (KAB) presented Ruskin, Fla., resident Jim Igler with its top volunteer accolade when he was presented the Iron Eyes Cody Award during KAB’s 60th anniversary National Conference, which recently took place in Washington, D.C. The Iron Eyes Cody Award was created in honor of KAB’s landmark public awareness campaign of the 1970s, which is credited with awakening the environmental consciousness of an entire generation of Americans. This award is given to a man who is an outstanding leader in promoting Keep America Beautiful’s mission. This year’s recipient was honored for his dedication to Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, among many other nonprofits through years of volunteer service.

“Jim Igler’s passion for the environment shines a bright light on many coastal Florida communities,” said Keep America Beautiful President and CEO Matt McKenna. “In the spirit of Iron Eyes Cody, he’s a remarkable steward of both land and ocean environments.” Igler is a legend in the Tampa Bay environmental community for his tireless contributions and passion for preserving Florida's natural wonders. Igler regularly volunteers five days a week and almost every weekend with over 10 environmental organizations.

Starting in 1993, Igler has volunteered for Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Tampa Bay Watch, Florida Aquarium, Ocean Conservancy, St. Pete Audubon, Egmont Key Alliance, Tampa Bay Estuary Program and others. Beyond his volunteer duties, he serves on the Board of Directors for Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and the Egmont Key Alliance, and serves on the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Citizen Advisory Council. And he’s currently attending classes to become a Master Naturalist. Whether he is spearheading the project or just out to lend a hand, no job is too big or too small. He has led numerous underwater dive cleanups, built thousands of oyster domes, improved hundreds of oyster reefs, transplanted thousands of sea grass, restored hundreds of acres of salt marsh, and taken on more volunteer initiatives than you can imagine. Although not an employee of the Florida Aquarium, Igler was elected Captain of its Green Team tasked with implementing new ways to reduce its carbon footprint. And as a certified diver for more than 30 years, Igler currently leads the Florida Aquarium dive team to help restore local coral reefs, research local shipwrecks and provide daily maintenance of the Aquarium’s shark tanks. Igler’s skills are also utilized by Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Keep Pinellas Beautiful and the Ocean Conservancy to help organize and participate in underwater cleanups of the bay's major fishing piers.

Igler also initiated and inspired Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful to be more involved in assisting local events to become Litter Free. These efforts include reducing the impact of the fourth largest parade in the U.S. -- the Gasparilla Pirate Festival -- which attracts more than 2 million spectators. Increased recycling and cleanup efforts were implemented last year and Jim is on the Committee to oversee more improvements in 2013. A "Site Captain" with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful for more than 20 years, Jim always volunteers for the most challenging areas helping to organize thousands of volunteers over the years to remove litter and tackle illegal dump sites along our right-of-ways, shorelines and waterways.

For all these efforts, Jim Igler has received numerous awards and nominations from all of the organizations he's touched. He is proud that Tampa Bay is one of the only estuaries in the nation to show signs of improved water quality over the last decade and feels great that he has helped make a difference with this positive change. “Jim is a true hero, an inspiration to the Tampa Bay community as well as to all of us,” McKenna added.

Tara LaSalla

Inspiration can sometimes be found in the most unusual ways. For Tara, it came in the form of a movie based on a Peter Benchley novel. Steven Spielberg's version of 'JAWS' became a worldwide phenomenon at the time, but unfortunately it also served to spread a great deal of misinformation about sharks.

Tara was fascinated by these creatures from a young age and throughout her schooling she realized that these fish were vital to the health of the world's oceans. This led her to attend Eckerd College in St Petersburg, FL where she received her degree in marine biology.

Tara currently resides in St. Petersburg, FL. She is the co-owner of Going Green Tampa and is an active community leader in the form of environmental and marine conservation and education. Her work with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Tampa Bay Watch and other local organizations continues to inspire those around her to protect our natural resources. She holds true to one of Mahatma Gandhi's principles: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

 

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