Howard Rutherford is a key player in the Innovation District of St. Petersburg. Deeply involved in the OCEAN team and Director of Development at the University of South Florida Marine Sciences program, Rutherford is a conservationist, scientist, and thought leader at both the local and national level. Rutherford is committed to helping our city and cities around the globe understand that science is relevant to our every day lives. To promote this understanding, he co-founded the St. Petersburg Science Festival, the largest in the state of Florida.
Years in St. Pete
On and off since 1984
Organizations involved in
Co-founder and Co-chair of St. Petersburg Science Festival, St. Petersburg OCEAN team, St. Petersburg Science Cafe. On a statewide level: Past President of Florida Marine Science Educators Association. National Level: Past President of National Marine Science Educator’s Association. Currently: On the advisory board for the Science Festival Alliance out of MIT Museum in Boston.
What gets you out of bed every day?
Science, what else? Actually the idea that what we do in the Innovation District makes a difference in peoples’ lives and that we can demonstrate that science is relevant in our everyday lives and specifically marine science. You know we are truly an economic driver for our city and beyond. The college itself brings in more than $15 million a year in research dollars and we are looking at ways to save our local waterways as well as the ocean and the world. You can thank the ocean for every third breath that you take.
Why St. Pete?
St. Pete is obviously on the water, we’re on a peninsula, and we have over 900 marine scientists that work here in St. Petersburg. It’s the Woods Hole of the South, as we’ve been referred to. There’s a number of opportunities for us to leverage intellectual capital and monetary capital to build something bigger than we could individually.
What is one habit that you keep?
Never say no.
Who are some people that influence you?
Locally, I have several mentors: USF College of Marine Sciences Founding Dean Dr. Peter Betzer, George Baxter (started the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay)
Nationally, out of Lawrence Hall of Science, Craig Strang, influencer on ocean literacy in our country.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I think we could all become better listeners. I think if we all listen to the influencers we surround ourselves by, we could create a city that’s better than we could individually and leverage our resources to create the best place to live in Florida and in all of the country for our children and grandchildren.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
That there are enough resources to go around in our community. That we can listen to the interests of individuals, foundations, or corporations, and leverage their capacity with partners in the community to build something bigger than we could with just one particular relationship.
We are becoming a world class oceanographic institution. We have a number of likeminded partners that we’ve attracted to this area and we have the opportunity to attract others, which will put us more on the map. From the science festival perspective, we are the largest in the state of Florida, we have mentored three others in the state. We’d like to create a network to create a trail for our partners and interested parties to participate in.