Mote Scientist, Dr. Tracy Fanara, Challenges SMA Prep Cadets to Become Superheros for the Planet!


Mote Marine Scientist, Environmental Engineer, and Science Communicator, Dr. Tracy Fanara, engaged a group of 200 eighth graders as part of SMA Prep’s Project Earth Speaker Series. Dr. Fanara kept her environmental call to action simple: “Learn something every day and teach something every day”.

The scientist shared her journey and emphasized how remaining curious, passionate and dedicated to her interests led to valuable discoveries, meaningful collaborations, and her dream job as Manager of the Environmental Health Research Program at the Mote Marine Laboratory. The program investigates the effects of marine and freshwater chemicals on public health. Beyond producing real-world solutions that improve public health, Fanara admits that being the program lead allows her the freedom to take her research in the direction she chooses.

Dr. Fanara was impressed with how knowledgeable SMA Prep cadets were about environmental issues. From the Lake Okeechobee overflow to the number of cadets maintaining compost bins at home, she acknowledged their forward thinking by stating, “I am impressed with your education,” and gave a shout out to SMA Prep educators saying, “you have amazing teachers”.

SMA-Cadet Kai was invited on stage when he brought up the topic of longline fishing and the damaging effects of this technique that needlessly injure and kill precious bycatch (fish caught while seeking another species) such as dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and even seabirds.

The scientist put the dilemma of becoming an environmental changemaker in terms the cadets could easily relate to by asking, “Have you guys ever tried to change your parent’s mind? It’s hard to do isn’t it?” Her advice was to keep the message simple and start with small, realistic changes that anyone can accomplish: turning out lights, replacing water bottles with a Brita, and replacing plastic bags with reusable bags.


Cadet takeaways reveal the impact of Dr. Fanara’s visit and why caring about the environment is imperative to these middle schoolers. SMA-CADET Gabriel explained by saying, “I took away just how easily water can get contaminated, and how small, everyday things such as using fertilizer can turn into such big issues. One thing I could relate to was that in 1928, due to a category-five hurricane that hit Palm Beach, Lake Okeechobee flooded. As much as that in of itself is awful, after all the litter, pesticides, etc. went into the water, suddenly Lake Okeechobee became so unsafe, that it had to be shut down.”

SMA-Cadet Samantha summed up her thoughts by stating, “I learned that every drop of water that lands in Florida, drains into a natural body of water, most commonly the ocean. To me, this means that we need to be careful of what chemicals we use and how many of them we use (i.e, fertilizers). I took away that if you have a passion for something, even if you think you want to work in that area, that passion might lead you to something broader that is still connected to that passion”.

In her role as Science Communicator with the goal of making the earth a better place through environmental education and influential passion for the environment, Dr. Fanara created The message conveyed on her blog effectively sums up why her visit to SMA Prep was so valuable to the #projectearth and instilling in cadets the idea that they can make a difference.

“Everything is connected, so everyone makes an impact. It’s your choice whether that impact is positive or negative. Be a superhero for the planet!”

About Sarasota Military Academy

Founded in 2002, Sarasota Military Academy is a public charter, middle school, and high school located in Sarasota, FL. As an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School, SMA provides students with a 21st-century learning experience immersed in daily military principles of honor, respect, and leadership. Combining extraordinary academics with the highest military principles of camaraderie, focus, leadership, integrity, compassion, poise, honor, and respect, SMA’s mission is to graduate young men and women who will confidently define their personal and unique goals for success in a multicultural and globalized world. More information is available at

About Project Inspire Guest Speaker Series

Guest speakers changing student lives 30 minutes at a time…  a simple, individual 30-minute video conferencing session by every age, walk of life and occupation that have followed their dreams and succeeded.  The session will take place one at a time at the choosing of the participant’s availability.  The series derives its strength from the people that provide inspiration for the young students to not only believe in themselves but in their dreams. To find out more about the 2017-18 Project Earth series visit

About Project Earth

Project Earth is a student and faculty-driven collaborative effort spearheaded by Agri-Science, the Interact Club, and Project Inspire. Our goal is to become an Eco-School, a new certification backed by the National Wildlife Federation. It is a seven-step process that requires audits in twelve sustainable categories such as water consumption, energy use, and campus biodiversity. The certification would be a year-long effort that would promote environmental awareness of the cadets and a chance to lessen the carbon footprint of our school. To find out more about upcoming speakers go to Project Earth

About Dr. Tracy Fanara

Dr, Tracy (Dr. Tre) Fanara is a civil and environmental engineer and currently Manager of the Environmental Health Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory. Tracy joined the Environmental Health program in March of 2015. Tracy has extensive experience in hydrologic and hydraulic modeling through her doctoral research as well as almost 10 years of engineering consulting experience. She is also well trained in water quality analyses, as she studied the fate of phosphorus in urban environments by “storm chasing” for her Master’s research. Although an engineer, she has research experience in biology including a study of diatoms as quality indicators, seagrass displacement, and eutrophication from nutrient loading. Tracy has also studied the impact of public outreach by social media as well as physical/visual learning, as she mentored and was the design engineer for two integrated, nationally winning EPA Rainworks Challenge teams. ( Visit for more information about Dr. Fanara’s mission.