Rae Ann Wessel grew up “following bugs around the world.” Her father was as entomologist and a plant pathologist. From her birthplace, Nice, France, she and her family traveled the world. From her early years through college she was a competitive swimmer and still enjoys scuba diving and sailing. So it seemed natural that Wessel would find her place in environmental endeavors that combine water and conservation.
For 19 years, Wessel managed her own environmental consultant business, Ecosystem Specialists. Now as the natural resource policy director for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, she has led the charge against harmful and sometimes unlawful holding back of water in the Caloosahatchee River during drought and releases of too much polluted water post tropical storms. She has built partnerships with the SW Florida Watershed Council, City of Sanibel, Ding Darling Refuge, the Visitor and Convention Bureau and individual activist.
As a limnologist and marine scientist, she educates the young and old about the Caloosahatchee River through her boat trips. She has helped organized forums to discuss sustainable solutions to save the waterways and she has authored numerous articles.
“I am most proud,” says Wessel, “that we have been able to educate a broad number of people about the Caloosahatchee River, and that we have overcome some of the legal battles.” She thinks that women bring unique qualities to the environmental cause. “Women bring negotiating skills and an open mind,” she says, adding “women are most sensitive to the lopsided nature of things.”