TBEP Welcomes Program Scientist Dr. Marcus Beck

Spotlight: Teaching the Region about Open Science & Living Shorelines

Nurdle Patrol Website Goes Live

Partner Shine: City of Tampa Rolls out new Bead Free Bay Campaign

Marcus begins his position at the TBEP as a Program Scientist, where much of his work will focus on developing data analysis and visualization methods for indicators of Bay health. As a native of Gainesville FL, he received his BS in Zoology from the University of Florida in 2007. He then spent six years completing his Masters and Doctoral degrees in Conservation Biology from the University of Minnesota in 2009 and 2013. 

Marcus has over a decade of experience researching environmental indicators and developing new ways of applying scientific products to environmental decision-making. Critical to this effort has been the application of open science tools to bridge the research-management divide. In doing so, Marcus has become an avid software developer and creator of online dashboards that provide access of scientific products to different audiences. Marcus will continue to develop and build on these tools at TBEP to support a community of practice for open science to improve the quality of Tampa Bay and its watershed.

Outside of work, Marcus enjoys spending time with his wife Susie and their dog (Jones) and cat (Gus). After a recent move from Los Angeles, they are enjoying the relaxed lifestyle of St. Petersburg.


At the foundation of TBEP’s mission you’ll find partnerships. Often times, the growth of these partnerships is facilitated through workshops spotlighting innovative ideas that exist within Tampa Bay’s network of environmental professionals. From invasive species to urban sustainability, TBEP has been a perpetuator of these information exchange sessions since its inception in 1991, both as hosts and partners. Today, as the Program continues to welcome new ideas and collaborations, we’ll spotlight two recent workshops on Open Science and Living Shorelines we’ve been involved in and the impact we hope they will have on our Program in the coming years.

Before diving in, it might help to clearly define these topics:

Open Science is : the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other research processes are freely available, under terms that enable reuse, redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods. 

Living shorelines are : shoreline management practices that provide erosion control benefits; protects, restores, or enhances natural shorelines habitat; and maintain(s) coastal processes through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill, and other structural organic materials (e.g biologs, oyster reefs, etc).”

By making something easily accessible, you increase its capacity for use. Such is the case with public parks, new technology and, say, open-source programming software (e.g., R or Python ) that are downloaded by millions of users each year. This appeal to an “open framework” is becoming more and more common, often promoted by software developers who sing of its many benefits, ultimately allowing them to build great software without the hefty cost of procuring new information/products. Dr. Marcus Beck, newest member of the TBEP team, taught several parts of an Open Science workshop at the SPC STEM Center at Bay Pines in early September that was led by the TBEP and Janicki Environmental. Over forty people attended, including students from SPC and USF, researchers from FWRI, environmental consultants, and municipal and state natural resource managers, all eager to understand Open Science’s place within Tampa Bay’s environmental sphere. 

Historically, TBEP and its partners have been collecting and reporting on data for nearly 5 decades. From water quality to seagrass acreage, evaluation of these data help to drive policy and inform our network. Simultaneously, these data are dense, often difficult to access/share and even harder to explain to various stakeholders. Through the adoption of an Open Science framework and the resulting regional interest, Dr. Beck hopes to bridge the divide between scientific products and the needs of our program’s stakeholders, from management officials to policymakers. 

Looking forward, Dr. Beck intends to foster an automated approach to reporting on the things our program considers to be environmental indicators of our success. Additionally, this visually appealing and easily communicated approach to reporting will be made available through the updated TBEP website. Long-term, TBEP hopes to develop a community of practice to make better science in less time through training workshops and online resources. 

For more information on Open Science and its application in environmental monitoring, email Dr. Marcus Beck at

FWC’s Living Shorelines Training for Marine Contractors Workshop was held in mid-October as part of an effort to provide information about the benefits of living shorelines, as well as relative costs and client concerns regarding different types of shoreline stabilization techniques. Marine contractors were identified as an important audience because of their immediate connectivity with homeowners looking to replace aging seawalls. As past stabilization practices (bulkheads, seawalls) continue to fail (as they age beyond their practical life-spans) and sea level rise increases erosion from wind, storms, king tides, and boat wakes, the need to protect coastal habitats has increased. Serving as an alternative to traditional erosion control practices, living shorelines mimic natural shorelines, providing multiple benefits, from structural and ecological to increased coastal resiliency. 

Attended by a mix of 30 marine contractors, natural resource managers, permitting staff from local and state agencies, and led by six instructors from state agencies and private consulting firms, the workshop began by answering potential client questions like “will it work” or “will we lose our view”, followed by a discussion of feasibility, highlighting the importance of a living shoreline’s unique ability to be designed for their intended location. Field trips provided opportunities to get some ‘on-the-ground’ time with professionals experienced in planning and building living shorelines. With that in mind, attendees discussed how and where to get materials locally and the required equipment. These design considerations often stress the “right plants for the right place” approach. Through the use of species suitable to the client’s specific region, one could increase confidence in a design’s ability to thrive. 

TBEP Ecologist Dr. Gary Raulerson closed the workshop with a discussion on evaluating and maintaining the success of a living shoreline project. Naturally, this approach to shoreline stabilization requires monitoring and maintenance until it begins to thrive. By providing instructions to homeowners for evaluating success, marine contractors can support their client’s investment while fostering opportunities for continued work. 

The FWC hopes to take this workshop on the road throughout Florida, helping marine contractors, waterfront property owners and other stakeholders understand the benefits of living shorelines. Dr. Raulerson was happy to be involved in the creation, planning, and instruction of this workshop, and hopes it will be a springboard for new living shorelines in Tampa Bay and around the state.  

To learn more about living shorelines, email Dr. Gary Raulerson at

“Nurdle Patrol,” the citizen science effort led by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, has a new home at The web portal makes it easier than ever to add your own survey data and view information in real-time.

Nurdles (plastic pellets used as raw materials in the manufacturing of plastic products) have been found washed up on the Gulf of Mexico’s beaches by the millions in recent years. In an effort to find and map the sources, Reserve Director Jace Tunnel began encouraging citizens to conduct 10-minute surveys at their local shorelines. 

Since November 2018, 3,515 surveys have been conducted at more than 1,634 different sites, resulting in the removal of 231,460 nurdles from the environment. Get involved by visiting .

Partner Shine:
Last Thursday, City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor proudly announced the launch of the #BeadFreeBay anti-littering awareness campaign as part of her sustainability and resilience commitment. Joined on stage by representatives from The Florida Aquarium, Ye Mystic Krewe, Keep Tampa Beautiful, and more, the announcement centered around Tampa Bay’s largest annual tradition: Gasparilla. With their sights set on minimizing the environmental impact of our city’s traditions on our waterways and beyond, the campaign’s many collaborators set sail towards another event season.

The issue gained traction when two young environmentalists gathered underwater drone footage of a post-parade bay bottom littered with beads. Well-aware of their non-biodegradable and harmful nature, TB natives Demetri and Ethan formed Green Gasparilla, posing the question: How can we continue celebrating our long-standing traditions without negatively impacting our marine ecosystem? 

This campaign is an excellent vehicle for the movement of that conversation from bay-wide events to general hobbies and interests capable of refinement for the benefit of our environment. For now, the campaign’s intended message is clear: Throwing beads and other litter in the water is prohibited.

For more information, click HERE

TBEP is excited to help promote the campaign in the coming months and beyond. Additionally, boaters participating in the season’s festivities should pay careful attention to manatees by designating a crew member as the look-out.  For tips, click HERE
We stopped by the Florida Birding and Nature Festival in October to talk all things birds.
The entire TBEP staff took a trip to Dewey Beach, Delaware for the 2019 Association of National Estuary Programs Tech Transfer, hosted by the Delaware Center for Inland Bays. When we weren't giving presentations, we were enjoying hands-on field trips like " Education and Citizen Science at the James Farm."
We teamed up with Tampa Bay Watch to get Eckerd College students "Into the Streets"; a freshman service learning initiative designed to introduce new students to local non-profits and youth programs. After learning about TBW's work, students made Vertical Oyster Gardens to hang from the Eckerd docks.
Maya, Gary, Ed, and Marcus traveled to Mobile, Alabama for the 2019 Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation conference. Stationed outside was the University of Mississippi's vessel Point Sur , equipped for dry/wet lab use, scientific diving, trawling, and large-box core sampling.
The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art in Downtown St. Petersburg hosted the " Environmental Impact II " exhibit, showcasing planet earth and its prime influencers: humans.
Bay Mini-Grant recipient Nature's Academy hosted a micro-plastics experiential learning opportunity for students at the Robinson Nature Preserve.
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About the Tampa Bay Estuary Program

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program is an intergovernmental partnership dedicated to restoring and protecting Tampa Bay, Florida's largest open-water estuary. The TBEP is one of 28 "Estuaries of National Significance" designated by Congress.
Our Policy Board is comprised of representatives from Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties; the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater; the Southwest Florida Water Management District; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.   
Filmmaker and Bay Mini-Grant recipient  G. Steve Jordan  spent the past year stitching together a story of Tampa Bay, its watershed and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Produced by Joe Whalen
Communication & Outreach Coordinator
Tampa Bay Estuary Program