April 2023

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Director's Note

(Photo credit: Brianne Lehan)

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Spring has sprung here in North Florida, bringing a sense of growth and renewal. Nothing says possibility like the gorgeous red flowers blooming on the Amaryllis in my garden!

Here at the Center for Coastal Solutions, we’re also growing and changing. This month, we’re delighted to introduce our new newsletter, Coastal Edges, in which we’ll be bringing you the latest research findings and news on water quality, climate and coastal resilience, project highlights, team profiles, CCS announcements, and more.

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Mussels Important in Coastal Defense, Study Shows

(Photo credit: Sinéad M. Crotty)

A study examining the effects of mussels on salt marshes showed that animals may have a much greater role than previously expected in helping these vital ecosystems adapt to change.

"As sea levels rise, some marsh habitats are at risk of drowning. Our goal was to understand how the ecological community living within the marsh can help these valuable ecosystems persist,” said lead author Sinéad M. Crotty, associate director of science of the Carbon Containment Lab at Yale University, who led the research project while completing her doctoral studies in Environmental Engineering Sciences at UF.

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More research news

Science in Action

Green Solution Project to Help Safeguard Marsh from Sea Level Rise

(Photo credit: Christine Angelini) 

Stakeholders committed to saltmarsh restoration kicked off a thin layer placement project at a planning workshop in St. Augustine last month, part of an Engineering with Nature Project led by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the area. Thin layer placement is a green solution that involves the addition of several centimeters of sediment to the surface of a marsh to compensate for elevation losses as a result of stressors like sea level rise. Using a mix of experimental and modeling approaches, the project team will quantify the effectiveness of these types of thin layer placement projects in sustaining wetlands in the region.

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Reducing Harmful Algal Blooms Fueled by Lake Okeechobee Discharges

(Photo credit: Paloma Carton de Grammont)

In February, researchers from four institutions across Florida began work on a multidisciplinary project to better predict and manage harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River estuaries. The goal of the $2.5 million project, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), is to develop an advanced operational tool that supports the USACE in timing Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and south to the Everglades in order to reduce the impacts of HABs.   

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In the Field

Amanda Chappel Studies Long-term Impacts of Piney Point Discharges

(Photo credit: Amanda Chappel)

Amanda Chappel, a Ph.D. student in environmental engineering sciences at the University of Florida, was part of a rapid response team mobilized in April 2021 to address the accidental discharge of approximately 215 million gallons of untreated, high-nutrient wastewater from a former phosphate mining facility into the Tampa Bay estuary. Researchers like Chappel are working to understand the long-term implications of industrial discharges like this on coastal systems, specifically, the impact of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer, which becomes a stressor on the environment during spills and releases.

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Tech Dive

AI Making Waves in Forecasting Water Quality

(L to R): UF Assistant Professor Zhe Jiang, Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Senior Advisor Barb Kirkpatrick, CCS Research Scientist Ron Fick and NOAA Research Scientist Guangming Zheng

CCS Associate Research Scientist Ron Fick, Ph.D., is harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to forecast the presence and severity of red tide blooms and chlorophyll-a concentration, the amount of algae present, in the Peace River Basin. To achieve this, Fick partners with CCS affiliates Zhe Jiang, Ph.D., and Guangming Zheng, Ph.D., a research associate at NOAA, to analyze satellite and ground data with machine learning methods, to create predictive maps of red tide blooms and chlorophyll-a concentrations. 

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Sea Squad

Donovan Mitchell: Creating Solutions for the Future

(Photo credit: Donovan Mitchell)

Undergraduate student Donovan Mitchell can trace the genesis of his goal to earn a doctorate degree in marine sciences to his visits as a child to the Georgia Aquarium.

“I saw what the ocean was really about, and their message about education, and I always admired that.”

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Shannon Myers: Answering the Call of the Ocean

(Photo credit: Shannon Myers)

Shannon Myers was first drawn to the ocean as a child, a fascination that has continued throughout his formal education and immersion in marine ecology work. 

“I feel called to explore and deepen our understanding of the ocean, especially the dynamics and drivers of global environmental change, toward a more sustainable future,” said Myers.  

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Students Showcase Their Science at Marine Science Symposium

(Photo credit: Christine Angelini)

More than 100 students and researchers working in marine science across North Florida gathered for a rich learning, networking and professional development experience at the 10th annual North Florida Marine Science Symposium, held at the UF Whitney Marine Lab in St. Augustine from March 2 to 3.   

“This is a great opportunity for students to share their research, often for the first time, and to network and explore career options in the field,” said UF Assistant Professor Andrew Altieri, Ph.D., who co-organized the event. “It’s also an important venue for folks around UF and some of our external collaborators to share the research that they’re doing, and it gives people a chance to meet each other."   

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Video: What attendees had to say

Gator Nation Gets Sneak Peak of AI-Powered Red Tide Detection System

(Photo credit: Nick Cole)

The Gator Nation Club in Sarasota got a sneak peek in March at a new AI-powered red tide detection system that uses UF’s supercomputing power to fuse satellite remote sensing and field data. The model is part of a drive by the University of Florida’s Center for Coastal Solutions (CCS) to develop high resolution, AI-powered tools that give decision-makers the best available information to analyze risks and take rapid action for improving water quality along Florida’s coasts.

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Scientists Build Global Knowledge Base of Deoxygenation in the Tropics

(Photo credit: Sara Swaminathan)

UF Ph.D. student Sara Swaminathan and ecologist Andrew Altieri joined a global consortium of experts in deoxygenation, which is the decline in oxygen levels in oceanic and coastal waters, at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia to collaborate on two synthesis papers that will harness global perspectives to advance knowledge on this phenomena. 

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Policy for Coastal Health

State Policy Updates

(Photo credit: Christopher Boswell)

Several water and coastal bills are being passed and supported, including a seagrass restoration technology development initiative and land acquisition trust fund.

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Florida Sea Grant Creates Innovative Policies Adopted by East-Central Florida Local Governments

(Photo credit: Florida Sea Grant)

Florida’s coastal communities face unprecedented challenges with sea-level rise (SLR) as it permanently inundates areas and exacerbates typical coastal hazards. SLR creates legal and financial challenges as it impacts infrastructure for which local governments have legal and financial responsibilities. These challenges call for equally novel planning and policy development.

Florida Sea Grant is leading the way in developing holistic legal and planning examples for small- to medium-sized local governments attempting to balance local government fiscal constraints and the realities of sea-level rise through adaptations grounded in long-term visions informing short-, medium-, and long-term actions designed to maximize the quality of life, economic outlook, and safety of coastal governments on our changing coastline. Local governments are responding by adopting FSG-drafted/inspired language into their comprehensive planning for resilience and into ordinances.

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(Photo credit: Katherine Anarde)

4/5 W3 Seminar: Cascading Feedbacks Arising from Coastal Management

(Photo credit: Philipp Berezhnoy)

4/25 UF/ IFAS Extension Hernando County Well and Septic System Workshop