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Roy R. "Robin" Lewis III, environmentalist with close ties to Tampa Bay, dead at 74

Roy R. "Robin" Lewis III, a certified environmental professional and senior ecologist whose work was well known internationally, died Sept. 24 at his home in Marion County's Salt Springs. He was 74.

Mr. Lewis was a member of the National Association of Environmental Professionals, Society of Wetland Scientists and Ecological Society of America, and president of Lewis Environmental Services, Inc. Coastal Resources Group, Inc., among many other affiliations.

According to his sister, Lynda Lewis, he was born May 19, 1944, in Daytona Beach. He spent his early life in Jacksonville. He earned a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Florida in 1966, master's degree from the University of South Florida in 1968 and pursued postgraduate work there at the Marine Science Institute until 1973. He was a professor of biology at Hillsborough Community College and chairman of the department from 1974 to 1977.

"His work has touched many special places in Florida and around the world, improved the quality of life for millions of people who've probably never heard of him, as well as helped save thousands of fresh and salt-water species," Lynda Lewis wrote in an email message.

According to Lynda Lewis, even while running several corporations her brother taught wetland restoration courses for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin and Louisiana State University. He taught an annual course in mangrove forest ecology, management and restoration. He was instrumental in creating the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

She said his work included the ecology, management, restoration and creation of fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove forests, forested freshwater forests and sea grass meadows. He studied the effects of oil spills on coastal ecosystems, plant and animal colonization of dredged material islands, marine and estuarine fish use of restored tidal wetlands, and experimental re-vegetation of wetlands using both marine and freshwater species.

He worked in Florida, California, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Nigeria, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong, Cuba and Jamaica, and more recently, in Barbados and on other Caribbean projects.

"Many of his restoration projects received awards, including several national awards from the Audubon Society, the Ecological Society of America and the State of California Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award. He recently received the 2018 National Wetlands Award given by the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.," Lynda Lewis wrote.

She said he worked with St. Johns Riverkeepers, Putnam County Environmental Council, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Friends of Rookery Bay Reserve, Society of Wetland Scientists, Association of State and Wetland Managers, 1000 Friends of Florida, Mount Dora Friends of the Environment, Inc., and with educational organizations including the Mockernut Hill Botanical Gardens in Shiloh in northwest Marion County.

John R. Thomas, a public interest environmental lawyer based in St. Petersburg, was a friend and colleague of Mr. Lewis.

"Robin was the most effective environmental advocate I have ever known, always prepared to take on the hard work of environmental protection and restoration," Thomas wrote.

Lynda Lewis said during a telephone conversation that someone had referred to her brother as a "real hero" for the environment.

"That's him. That's the way people thought of him," she said.