In March of 1999, Stan Bronson was hired by the University of Florda to develop an outreach program on Everglades Restoration. Working with the Palm Beach County Extension Service in West Palm Beach, a graduate level course called the Florida Earth Project was developed. The first class of ten students was held in the summer of 1999. The initial class was three weeks long, constantly moving from one location to another, beginning at the Kissimmee River and ending up at the Florida Bay. It became evident that this type of program could be useful in both the general public genre and also as a purely academic experience.
After the module format for FEP was developed in January of 2000, the academic function of FEP was moved to UF's Soil and Water Science Department. Bronson partnered with Dr. John White in developing the curriculum, which became a one-week lecture series, followed by a one-week field trip. SOS 6935 grew rapidly until in its last year it had twice as many applicants as student positions. In 2006 it merged with the National Science Foundation's IGERT program at UF and now includes not only the Everglades but the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Pantanal in Brazil, and the Kakatu Swamp in Australia.
As with all University of Florida programs, FEP had an advisory council. In late 2002, the council decided that expansion of the program was desirable. It was determined the road to expansion was by becoming independent of the University so that other academic institution partners could be added. Florida Earth Foundation was chartered to provide flexibility for programs and the FEP Advisory Council become the first Florida Earth Foundation Board of Directors. In February 2004 FEF became independent of UF and took the form it is today, with Bronson becoming Executive Director. As a founding agency, South Florida Water Management District provided office space and administrative support for the Foundation through the leadership of Henry Dean, SFWMD's Executive Director at the time. In April of 2004, Florida Earth hired Lenelle Crowell as Administrative Assistant.
During the same timeframe, Dr. Richard Meganck, Director of UNESCO-IHE and Dr. Garth Redfield, SFWMD Staff were searching for the origanization appropriate to establish a UNESCO-IHE program in Florida. The obvious answer being the Florida Earth Foundation. Since it's inception in 2005, we have been privileged to be associated with over 100 students from 30 countries around the world.