Climate Considered

These Folks Are Turning the Tide on How Climate Change Impacts Our Area

The Climate Adaptation Center will present its inaugural Climate Champions awards on April 18.

By Staff March 20, 2023

Flooding from Hurricane Ian in Venice last fall.

The Climate Adaptation Center (CAC), which recently hosted its annual climate conference, will celebrate its inaugural Climate Champions awards on April 18 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at Michael’s on East. 

The awards will honor environmental stewards in our community who are leading the way in adapting to and mitigating the major risks from warming temperatures, stronger storms, rising sea levels, storm surge, inland flooding and extreme biodiversity losses.

The event's MCs are an exuberant and inspiring pair: CAC CEO Bob Bunting and CAC founding director and philanthropist Elizabeth Moore. Bunting urges us all to shift from a deer-in-headlights focus on threats to the multiple opportunities ahead of us—from reaction to prevention.

"The CAC wants to change the climate conversation to one that is solutions-oriented,” he says. In other words, stop being bummed out and take hold of your agency, whether you're an individual, politician, business leader, scientist, minister, educator or philanthropist.

“These awards have been designed to showcase and celebrate the people who are leading the way to make a difference and inspiring others to follow suit," says Bunting. "We can all make a difference if we choose to—and that is what we must do.”

Meet This Year's Climate Champions

Ed Chiles, All Clams on Deck

Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor are increasingly at risk of impaired water quality and declining seagrass coverage. Chiles—the owner of Chiles Hospitality Group, whose portfolio includes the Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista restaurants, among other—decided to help tackle the problem by launching All Clams on Deck, an organization aimed at restoring clams and seagrass to our waterways, which in turn helps to restore water quality and grow the coastal economy. All Clams on Deck is an initiative of the Gulf Shellfish Institute, a leader in research for sustainable aquaculture and healthy ecosystems. 

Charles Reith, Surf Micro Forests

Microforests are powerful agents that improve the quality of our coastal waters and combat climate change. They intercept enormous quantities of stormwater that could otherwise carry unwanted nutrients to the bay, potentially fueling harmful algae blooms. Thanks to Reith and Suncoast Urban Reforesters (SURF), many high-performance microforests have been planted on small parcels of land not earmarked for development—and more are planned along the Suncoast. Here's a video of one such project, recently completed at the Colony Cove Microfest and Volunteer Day in Ellenton.

Jon Thaxton, Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Thaxton is the senior vice-president for community leadership at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and a fifth-generation Floridian who believes our quality of life depends upon conserving and protecting Florida’s natural spaces, wildlife habitats and waterways. Over the years he has participated in numerous important panel discussions on environmental and climate change issues, becoming a prominent voice on resilience strategies to protect our way of life. He was recognized by the Historical Society of Sarasota as a "hero of history" for his conservation activism and community leadership in protecting, preserving and acquiring natural spaces and places.

Drs. Jennifer and David Shafer, Science and Environment Council

For more than 15 years, the Shafers have dedicated themselves to education and leadership in science-based strategic planning, facilitation and communication of climate change challenges and solutions for nonprofits, public agencies, advisory groups and task forces in Southwest Florida. As co-executive directors of the Science and Environment Council, the Shafers lead the Climate Council of Sarasota-Manatee, a network of experts and practitioners working on climate change issues in the region.  

Roy Wynewski, Author and Climate Activist

Since 1999, Wynewski has been an amateur meteorologist, monitoring the local weather and writing about weather and climate, while serving as a certified Skywarn Spotter for the Tampa Region of the National Weather Service. His passion and concern for the climate crisis have led him to author several books about weather and the changing climate. His latest ebook, A Lesson in Climate Change, was written specifically to help anyone—particularly young people—create a real-time visual assessment of climate change, no matter where they live.

Bill Waddill, Bay Park Conservancy

With more than 36 years of experience as a certified planner and landscape architect, Waddill has made a huge impact in caring for our environment and helping shape our future landscape here on the Suncoast. Currently, he serves as COO of the Bay Park Conservancy. Over the years, he has managed the design, public engagement and implementation process for both public and private projects including the Bradenton Riverwalk, Siesta Beach Park, Perry Harvey Park in Tampa, Babcock Ranch Town Center in Ft. Myers and Baker Park in Naples.

For more information about the Climate Champions Award Ceremony and tickets visit

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