Indian River Lagoon in Peril: Understanding Biodiversity, Water Movement, and Restoration

January 28, 2017
1:00pm - 2:30pm

The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) has one of the greatest diversities of animals and plants in the nation. The estuary system includes Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River Lagoon, and the Indian River Lagoon. The balance of this delicate ecosystem has been disturbed as development has led to harmful impacts. The goal of the panel presentation will be first to introduce you to some of the amazing diversity that can be found in the IRL - shoreline wading birds, fishes, oysters, and mangroves. Once introduced, the panel will discuss some of the natural and human influenced factors that are potentially and negatively impacting these diverse species, followed by conversation on how restoration can promote an improved IRL.

Dr. Linda Walters is a Pegasus Professor of Biology at the University of Central Florida. For the past 20 years, her research has focused on the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). In particular, she has helped us understand the ecology of oyster reefs as well as the importance of their restoration for ecosystem functioning. Over two acres of oyster reef restoration has now been undertaken by Walters, colleagues and partners, in collaboration with over 48,000 volunteers. Additionally, her laboratory group has stabilized over 1000 meters of estuarine shorelines, seaward of numerous historic buildings and shell middens along the IRL.

Dr. Geoffrey Cook is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at UCF. He uses quantitative methods to understand biotic and abiotic interactions in complex coastal ecosystems. His recent research has focused on quantifying population connectivity patterns, assessing the demographic consequences of dispersal in marine metapopulations, and conducting ecosystem service risk assessments in coupled natural-human systems. His role in this project will be to conduct fish community sampling in different habitat types, quantify age and growth of sportfish using otolith-based analyses, assess ecosystem services associated with recreational fishing, and mentor graduate and undergraduate students working on related components of this project.

Dr. Kelly Kibler is an Assistant Professor in Water Resources Engineering at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Kibler investigates ecohydraulics of river and estuarine systems, targeting studies at the intersection of engineering and ecology. She studies both natural hydrologic phenomena, as well as waterways that are modified for human benefit, for instance by dams, dredging, levies and hardened structures. Her research seeks water development pathways that minimize ecosystem damages and promote preservation or restoration of aquatic ecosystem services.

Dr. Melinda Donnelly is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Instructor at the University of Central Florida. Her research focuses on mangroves and "living shoreline" stabilization along Florida's east coast. She has led successful community-based projects at Turtle Mound, Seminole Rest, Eldora House, and Field Manor (all within the Indian River Lagoon) as well as long-term monitoring at these locations.

Dr. Fernando I. Rivera is an Associate Professor of Sociology at UCF. His research interests and activities fall under staple areas of sociology, primarily the sociology of health/medical sociology, disasters, and race and ethnicity. He is interested in investigating the resilience of communities to different mass emergencies, crises, and disasters. Particularly how different social and economic factors influence the urgency, decision making, preparedness, and recovery from natural and human made events. His work aims to identify and lessen vulnerabilities by promoting the collaboration of different sectors in society, both public and private, in order to have resilience communities.

Dr. Lisa Chambers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Central Florida. Her research investigates biogeochemical processes occurring at the soil-water interface in wetlands, lakes, and coastal ecosystem. Of particular interest is the microbially-mediated cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in aquatic systems, including how these fundamental ecosystem services are altered by changes in the physical environment (e.g., climate change, sea level rise, restoration activities, and eutrophication).

Dr. Timothy L. Hawthorne is an Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the Department of Sociology at the University of Central Florida. He is a broadly trained human geographer with deep interests in community geography, citizen science, qualitative GIS, and critical GIS.
His published work focuses on:

  • 1) accessibility to healthcare, social services, urban greenspaces, and higher education;
  • 2) critical GIS and qualitative GIS including new methodologies such as "satisfaction-adjusted distance measures" to healthcare providers and "critical reflection mapping methodologies" for examining the socio-spatial perceptions of research sites; and
  • 3) geographic education, service learning, and international education.

Life & Times of Indian River Dolphins

January 28, 2017
2:45pm - 3:45pm
Megan Stolen (Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute)

The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) is home to a resident population of bottlenose dolphins which are born, grow up and eventually die without leaving the lagoon. They have been studied since the late 70's but much about their lives remains a puzzle. Learn some of the myths about dolphins and some of the mysteries surrounding unusual die-offs. You'll get a glimpse into the research underway in laboratories and in the field and see how a CSI approach to stranded animals may hold the key to solving some burning questions that are waiting to be answered. Megan will talk about the current threats to (IRL) dolphins and what you can do to help them. Come into our lab, aboard our boat and into a super cold freezer and get to know YOUR local dolphins. Megan Stolen is a research scientist at HSWRI. Her research focuses on stranded whales and dolphins, particularly dolphins of the IRL.

Paddling the Entire Indian River Lagoon

January 28, 2017
4:00pm - 5:00pm
Mike Conneen (Executive Director, Anglers for Conservation)

Take a journey with one of the core members of the IRL Paddle Adventure Team as he describes what it was like to paddle 170 miles over 19 days -- the entire length of the Indian River Lagoon. Living on the IRL for almost 20 days comes with a lot of stories, both humorous and educational. It has only been 3 years since the trip was originally conquered but in that little bit of time, the environment has shifted. Hear the stories of the birds that were observed, the fish that were caught and the ever so changing sunrises and sunsets. It is OUR environment and WE must protect it for future generations to enjoy it as much as we have.

Sponsored in part by the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners through the Brevard Cultural Alliance and the Space Coast Office of Tourism.

Visit Space Coast
Brevard County
Brevard Cultural Alliance
Visit Florida
Dixie Crossroads
Brevard Nature Alliance