Matthew F Smith

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.

Originally from Delaware, he moved to Alaska in 2010 for his first job in radio. He spent five years working as a radio and television reporter, as well as a radio producer, talk show host, and news director at stations across Alaska, where his reporting received awards from the Alaska Press Club and the Alaska Broadcasters Association. Relocating to southwest Florida, he spent several months producing television news before joining WGCU as the Gulf Coast Live producer in August 2016.

Matthew studied English and journalism at Villanova University in Villanova, PA, where he wrote for the school newspaper and other school publications. He taught English as a Second Language for several years before pursuing a career in journalism.

New estimates through mid-2016 show Florida's surge in syphilis cases continued last year, with cases of infectious syphilis jumping statewide by 36 percent by the middle the middle of year.

Syphilis in Florida grew by a shocking 72.8 percent from 2010 through 2014, and continued to grow by nearly 20 percent the following year. In some parts of South Florida, the rate of infection per 100,000 people is greater than in major cities like Los Angeles. Southwest Florida counties like Lee and Sarasota saw small numbers of the disease triple or quadruple during that six-month period.

Clean, renewable energy has been the goal for environmentally-minded energy users, aspiring engineers, and businesses and utilities alike. In Florida, solar power is often touted as the solution to the Sunshine State's energy needs, but a group of researchers and engineers in South Florida think "blue energy" derived from ocean currents like the Gulf Stream has just as big a part to play in renewably powering Florida's future. 

South Florida is home to some of the grayest counties in the country, and as more seniors face critical decisions about where and how they live, questions about what programs seniors can take advantage and the kind of care available in Southwest Florida are common.

New information on drug overdose deaths from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows staggering increases in deaths linked to opioid abuse in Florida.

In an annual report released late last year, FDLE found deaths from drugs like heroin claimed 779 lives in Florida in 2015; an increase in more than 75 percent from the prior year.

More powerful opioids like fentanyl saw similar increases: over 900 deaths were linked to the super-potent painkiller, an increase of nearly 70 percent.

South Florida is a hotspot for invasive species, and the exotic plants, reptiles, amphibians, and fish that take root in the subtropical region of Florida can cause harm to the ecology, economy, and even human health.

From invasive Burmese pythons to Argentine black and white tegus, from Clown Knifefish in the water to the climbing, coiling kudzu plants, Florida’s native plants and animals face displacement by nonnative species.

Women are drinking more heavily, and alcohol is behind a growing number of their deaths, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal health data.

The number of white women dying from alcohol-related problems rose 130 percent nationwide since 1999; for Hispanic women, alcohol-related deaths grew by 30 percent in that same time frame. Federal health data shows the prevalence of binge drinking among women up by more than 40 percent since the late 1990s, leading to more ER visits and a growing number of accidents, injuries, and chronic diseases.

Hundreds of cases of human trafficking are reported in Florida every year, and a new report from 2016 shows the number of human trafficking cases in the state doubled in the last year.

The vast majority of trafficked persons in Florida are young women, and sex trafficking is the most common form of human trafficking in the state, according to a report from Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Children and Families.

The Dutch have famously fought the water for hundreds of years, giving them a reputation for water management. But for all the novel solutions Dutch engineers have produced, lowland areas in The Netherlands face rising sea levels, sinking land through subsidence, high river discharge, and water quality issues linked with agriculture.

For the first time in 30 years, the invasive New World Screwworm has been reported in the Florida Keys. The bug and its flesh-eating larvae have been reported on the mainland.

Since September, 15 cases of the screwworm have been documented in endangered Key Deer, pigs, raccoons, cats, and dogs. In early January, the first case of the fly—and the flesh-eating larvae it produces when its eggs are hatched inside an animal—was reported in Homestead. That brings the screwworm onto the Florida mainland and just miles from Miami.

Seventeen bills filed for the coming March legislative session focus on guns. Some seek to ban the sale of certain guns or firearm components, while others seek to expand where Floridians can carry open or concealed weapons.

Scientists from around the globe agree that the Earth’s climate is changing. The impact of that changing climate, how fast those impacts will be felt, and what residents in a coastal state like Florida can expect are more difficult to describe.

Tucked inside a massive multi-billion federal waterworks bill is funding for a project proponents say is vital to the future of South Florida: the Central Everglades Planning Project.

The $1.9 billion dollars for CEPP, split between the federal and state government, is part of the $10 billion Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. The CEPP plan will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put forward a "a suite of restoration projects in the central Everglades."

Thousands of cancer patients lack a ride to the treatments they need to stay alive. Some lack access to a vehicle, while others are too sick to drive themselves or use public transportation. Cancer patients may also face acute dietary restrictions or nutrition needs during and after their treatment.

That's all on top of the costly and time-consuming efforts of ensuring the battle with cancer is covered by health insurance.

Expanded access to medical cannabis in Florida goes into effect on Tuesday, Jan. 3. The result of voters passing Amendment 2 in November, the new laws will significantly expand what medical conditions qualify for medical marijuana, but the rules to fully implement Amendment 2 are still months away.

When it comes to the welfare of Florida women, the Sunshine State gets a D+.

A new report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research found more women live in poverty and without access to health insurance than elsewhere in the nation. Florida also fell behind other states when it comes to a woman's access to education and economic opportunity.


An international team of researchers headed by a Florida Gulf Coast University professor is trying to understand the most common marine toxin in the world. 

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found Florida's roads are among the deadliest for motorcyclists. Florida Highway Patrol's data also points to 2016 to being a deadlier year on the roads in Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Manatee, and Sarasota counties for all motorists.

New data on HIV/AIDS cases from the Center for Disease Control paint an alarming picture of the disease spreading in South Florida. Cities like Miami report triple the national rate for new HIV infections in 2015, while smaller cities in Southwest Florida continue to show some of the highest number of cases per capita in the nation.


Homelessness is on the decline across the United States. In Florida, the homeless population decreased at a record rate in the last year, with more than 2,300 homeless Floridians moving into shelter in 2016. Invisible among these encouraging numbers, however, are the growing number of homeless teenagers in the state.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is Thursday, Dec 15. To date, 1.6 million Floridians have coverage under marketplace plans, but that doesn't mean Florida's healthcare marketplace is without problems: major health insurance companies have left the state's marketplace, insurance buyers have endured fluctuating premium prices, and the program faces an incoming president who has vowed to "repeal Obamacare." Questions about insurance bought under the ACA abound.

In the next 50 years, climate change researchers say sea levels could rise by five to six inches. Those inches pose a threat not only to homes and buildings, but to the natural barriers that have protected Florida's coasts throughout human history. A combination of a warming planet and rising seas could drive more severe storm surges that wipe out barriers islands and flood coastal areas. 

That's why researchers and planners in the Estero Bay region are taking steps now to build climate change resilience and adaptations into their plans, which are being shared at the Cela Tega conference series on the FGCU campus on Monday, Dec. 12.

It's the most common marine toxin in the world, but many aren't familiar with the all-too-common ciguatoxin. Even less well known are the severe—and often bizarre—neurological symptoms that accompany exposure. 

The Autism Society reports a growing number of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses across the country. That's seen an increase in the need for exceptional student education , or ESE, in Florida and elsewhere. Students with autism and other disabilities require special education plans, trained staff, and sensory rooms to help them calm down and deal with the stress of the classroom.

With just 15 days until Election Day, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump kicked off a three-day tour of Florida cities Sunday with a rally in Naples.