The Howard T. Odum Center for Wetlands at the University of Florida offers a unique focus on the integration of wetland science, engineering, and policy offered no where else. The program is the legacy of H.T. Odum’s quest for a better understanding of the interface of humanity and nature. His belief that self-organization was the driving principle by which the interface could be designed and managed resulted in development of the new fields of ecological engineering and ecological economics, and foreshadowed the emerging field of adaptive management. The center remains at the forefront of these fields through continued promotion of interdisciplinary science, policy development and management articulation for wetlands and related resources.

For more details on recent publications, funding, activities, students supported, and strategic goals, please see the Center for Wetlands Five-Year Evaluation Report for Fall 2011 through Fall 2016:


The Center for Wetlands, founded in 1973 by H.T. Odum as a Type II Center based in Phelps Lab, was begun with a multi-year project to assess the use of wetlands for the recycle of wastewater funded jointly by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation under the Research Applied to National Needs program. A companion grant was awarded to Robert Kadlec of the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan. Over the next thirty years, Florida and Michigan become recognized as both the pioneers and leaders in the field of wetland creation and management for engineering purposes.

While the Michigan program remained focused on chemical processes of constructed and natural treatment wetlands, the University of Florida program expanded quickly in the late 1970’s into wetland ecology, management, restoration, conservation and policy. The strength of the UF wetland program is due in large part to H.T. Odum’s vision of the CFW as a campus-wide focal point for both basic ecological research on wetlands and their sustainable use in meeting environmental management needs of society. The CFW has been the forum for interfacing traditional engineers with ecologists especially regarding the use of natural and constructed wetlands for waste water treatment. Not only was the first research on the use of natural systems for waste treatment conducted at the Center, but the pioneering research to integrate humanity and environment at many scales was largely responsible for the development of the entire field of “ecological engineering”.

Due largely to the pioneering studies of wastewater recycle and reuse through wetlands conducted at the Center, the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) instituted a set of permit regulations that encouraged full-scale wastewater recycling tests in wetlands under conditions that could be monitored to develop more information on the low-energy approach to waste treatment. Then in 1987 the FDEP initiated new rules for wastewater recycle through wetlands. No longer an experimental exemption, within certain regulatory provisions, wastewater recycling through wetlands has been fully accepted as a low-energy alternative to waste treatment; based in significant part on the research conducted by Center for Wetlands faculty, staff, and graduate students.

Since its inception the CFW has been a focal point for graduate student research on wetlands related topics. Over 300 graduate and undergraduate students have participated in research at the Center, over 150 of these students have received their graduate degrees through research they conducted as part of Center sponsored research projects.

Significance of CFW to UF

UF Wetlands Certificate. The Center was instrumental in the development of an interdisciplinary graduate program in wetlands at UF in 1988. Over 45 graduate students at UF were awarded the “wetlands certificate” by taking a prescribed list of courses and participating in a wetland research project. Many state agencies and private consultants through out the State recognized this certificate and the training it implied. In 2004 a group of faculty with interests in wetland sciences formed the Wetland Academic Cluster and developed the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Wetlands Sciences (ICWS). The concentration requires 15 credit hours of wetlands related courses and a wetlands research project. Completion of the ICWS is included on student’s transcripts.

Student Internships. The CFW has worked with St. Johns River Water Management District and the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department to provide UF students with internships on a semester basis and with the USEPA Wetlands Division in the past to provide Washington D.C. based summer internships.

Wetland Seminar Series. The CFW has coordinated for over 30 years, a weekly wetlands seminar during the academic year drawing speakers from UF, state agencies and the private sector to speak on a variety of wetland topics of current and projected interest. Over 400 speakers have participated in this program since its beginning in 1973.

Strengthening of UF Academic Wetland Programs. The CFW has played a role in recognizing course work voids in the UF curriculum. The need was recognized for developing linkages between hydrologists (engineers) and scientists (ecologists). The Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences was contacted to develop a graduate-level course in Wetlands Hydrology. Not only has this course been very popular, but the linkage between these scientists and engineers has launched a new funded research direction for UF.

Visiting Scientists and Engineers. The CFW has at least one visiting scientist or engineer in residence each semester. Visiting faculty have come from Brazil, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, Botswana, and Uganda. These faculty give guest lectures in classes and the CFW seminar series and work actively with our graduate students.

Significance of CFW to the State of Florida

Training For Secondary School Teachers. The CFW has been an active participant in the Teacher Research Update Experience (TRUE) program for several years through the UF Center for Precollegiate Education and Training. A number of Center graduate students are teaching in UF’s SPICE Program in local middle school science programs.

Mined-Land Reclamation. The CFW has been the principal UF focal point for research needs of the Florida Institute for Phosphate Research related to the creation and management of aquatic and wetland ecosystems on phosphate-mined lands of central Florida.

Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment. The CFW was the pioneer in this area of research and has worked from its inception with the private and public sectors on the design and management of treatment wetlands for wastewater and stormwater.

CFW Library and Publications. The CFW maintains a library of student theses, dissertations, and “gray” literature including project reports from university, state and private sector research on wetlands. The library also includes the reprint collections currently of three UF faculty and USEPA researchers for student use. A complete list of all publications developed through CFW are listed on the Center website, and copies are made available to the public at cost.

UMAM Training Courses for Professionals. The CFW has instituted Unified Mitigation Assessment Methodology (UMAM) training courses for environmental scientists and government agency personnel. CFW developed a training manual and conducts annual short courses that are used by both the consulting industry and government agencies (FDEP and WMD’s) for training new hires in the methodology now employed by the State of Florida for all mitigation assessment requirements.

Significance of CFW Internationally

CFW has taken the lead role in developing programs associated with several international wetland centers. Most recently CFW took the lead role in organizing the Global Wetlands Consortium (GWC) [ ] of which the membership now stands at 9 international wetlands research centers. The GWC fosters international comparative research, scholarly exchange of researchers and students, and international workshops and symposia.

In addition to the GWC, the CFW has had active linkages with several international centers/programs as follows:
Wilma H. Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, Ohio State University, USA []
World Agroforestry Center, Nairobi, Kenya []
Parthenope University of Naples: Naples, Italy []