UCF’s Conservation Efforts Highlighted by SeaWatch

Research conducted by University of Central Florida Department of Biology Pegasus Professor Linda Walters, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow Melinda Donnelly, Ph.D., and Winter Springs High School teacher Paul Sacks, Ph.D., was recognized in the Coastal Conservation Association’s (CCA) spring 2017 publication of SeaWatch.

Walters has been an advocate for marine conservation for many years. She is a part of a ten year, ongoing project that focuses on restoring oyster reefs and stabilizing eroded shorelines. Through Walters and her volunteers, UCF has restored 77 oyster reefs and stabilized nearly two thousand meters of shoreline to date, and the work hasn’t stopped there.

“Our goal as scientists is to work to continuously improve the science of restoration in the presence of natural disasters as well as anthropogenic threats,” Walters said.

Recently, Walters has teamed UCF up with CCA to continue the shoreline stabilization effort by improving water quality and protecting the Mosquito Lagoon. The Oyster Bay Shoreline Stabilization Project is funded by CCA, the National Park Service and the National Science Foundation with in-kind support from New Smyrna Beach Marine Discovery Center and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program.

UCF works closely with Canaveral National Seashore to protect the reefs, shorelines and archaeological resources within park boundaries.

“Over the years, UCF has restored our seventy-seven reefs,” said Kristen Kneifl, the resource management specialist at Canaveral National Seashore. “This accomplishment requires the hard work and dedication of countless volunteers.”

This spring, UCF has had 128 volunteers in field deployments and many more that helped prepare restoration materials ahead of time. According to the SeaWatch article, within a four-hour period volunteers deploy hundreds of oyster shell bags and plant smooth cordgrass and mangroves, which is a proven method of shoreline stabilization by UCF.

The article continues by highlighting one of Walters’ many volunteers who help make the vision a reality. Randy Carroll works with Walters in rebuilding oyster reefs in the Mosquito Lagoon. As a CCA member, Carroll finds joy in conserving the habitat around him. The article mentions how impressed he was with Walters, her husband Paul and their son Josh’s commitment to the restoration effort and felt honored to be a part of their endeavor. It’s been nine years since Carroll started volunteering with them and according to Walters, he’s as dedicated as ever.

Over the years, Walters and her team have started to see their hard work produce great results.

“At Turtle Mound, for example, our stabilization efforts from five years ago have changed sediment erosion into sediment accretion,” Walters explained. “And the planted mangroves are now six feet tall and reproducing each fall.”

With hurricanes, invasive species, boat wakes and more contributing to shoreline erosion, it’s important to have people like Walters and Carroll who fight to reverse the damaging effects.

Click here to read the full SeaWatch article by Frank Gidus, CCA Florida director of habitat and environmental restoration. (Pages 18-21)

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