As we honor John’s Cassani’s retirement as Calusa Waterkeeper and his career of service, here are but some highlights of his immense commitment to our environment and community.

John was a founding member of Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA) in 1995. CRCA was rechartered as Calusa Waterkeeper in 2016 to join the Waterkeeper Alliance.

John was chosen and has served as the first and only Calusa Waterkeeper from 2016 through 2022. In this time through his leadership, he and the organization have:


  • Grown from a handful of people to a membership of around 400, built a diverse and experienced board and team of full time and part time staff members and contractors.
  • Grew CWK’s operating budget over a six-year period by over 400%
  • Trained over 100 volunteer Rangers and built this unique program to include secchi disc monitoring, monthly fecal indicator bacteria sampling across Lee County, as well as educational and advocacy projects.
  • Co-Challenged and won litigation in federal court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding Lake Okeechobee operations and Endangered Species Act violations.
  • Provided expert testimony for the plaintiffs in the successful permit challenge of the Chiquita Lock removal.
  • Initiated the drafting of the Safe Waterways Act of 2021 (died in state committee) and will continue to work to re-introduce that legislation.
  • Pioneered the design of ADAM (Aerosol Detector for Algae Monitoring) test units and research program.
  • Produced three independent documentary films on harmful algal blooms and water quality in Southwest Florida.
  • Co-authored a peer-reviewed study of harmful algal blooms impacts in our work area in 2018 (published 2020)
  • Helped to establish Waterkeepers Florida, the network of Waterkeeper Alliance member organizations overseeing the state’s watersheds.
  • Developed and published the 9-County Water Quality Impairment Report to support local restoration efforts.
  • Provided expert scrutiny to countless media interviews, community presentations and water quality seminars.
  • Continuously advocated for better water quality policy at all levels government, and led special project initiatives concerning Lake Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee BMAP, Billy’s Creek, Manuel’s Branch, Cape Coral canal systems, Matlacha Pass, Imperial River, Estero Bay and it’s nine tributaries.
  • Collaborated with hundreds of local environmental leaders, advocates, volunteers and globally recognized researchers.
  • Mentored thousands of Southwest Floridians and advocated for all of their water quality and human health rights.

John’s Additional Career Highlights


  • John Cassani_Estero River_NEWS-PRESS-webEarned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fish and Wildlife from Michigan State University and a Master’s Degree in Biology (Aquatic Ecology) at Central Michigan University
  • Worked managing waterways for Lee County Hyacinth Control from 1978-2014 (36 years). During that time John developed the industry standard for triploid (sterility) induction in grass carp, used as a biological control for aquatic weeds.
  • His research work has been published in over 40 scientific publications and reports, including 6 concerning Harmful Algal Blooms
  • Served on Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) for 17 years, 3 of those years as Chair, helping to oversee the Lee County Conservation 20/20 program.
  • Appointed to the Lee County Local Planning Agency, advisory to Board of Commissioners on the Lee Comprehensive Plan
  • Founded the Lee County Pond Watch Program, Southwest Florida Watershed Council, Southwest Florida Amphibian Monitoring Network (Frog Watch), Estero Bay Nutrient Management Partnership and the Southwest Florida Aquatic Nuisance Species Surveillance and Education Network.
  • Served as Chairman and board member of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and Audubon Society of Southwest Florida.
  • Member of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed Board of Directors, Responsible Growth Management Coalition, CHNEP Technical Advisory Committee, the FGCU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, the American Fisheries Society, Florida Lake Management Society and a plethora of other committees and study groups.
  • Served as Chairman, board member and Executive Director of the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium.
  • Professional affiliation with American Fisheries Society, and Certified Professional Entomologist by the Entomological Society of America
  • Taught several courses as an Adjunct Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences and helped to develop the first FGCU Biodiversity Conference in 2017.
  • Organized and led educational ecotours for FGCU and Audubon to Peru, Belize and Costa Rica
  • Recognized and awarded for his service by many civic groups including Audubon Society of Southwest Florida, Estero Bay Agency on Bay Management, Lee County Government, the Everglades Coalition, the American Fisheries Society, the Alberta provincial government and Florida Weekly.

Did you know?


  • John was a member of champion cross country running teams throughout his high school and collegiate career.
  • He has completed the Boston Marathon seven times!
  • John’s passion for biology extends to plants and he plans to continue building a growing plant nursery in his retirement.
  • He looks forward to spending more quality time with his family, including grandchildren Max and Emi.