Coastal communities are dynamic and complex places made up of interrelated human and natural systems. Coastal communities rely on their surrounding natural environments for recreation, leisure, economic activities, storm protection and a number of other services. The Indian River Lagoon is no exception. According to the Smithsonian Marine Station, the Indian River Lagoon occupies more than 30% of Florida’s east coast supporting jobs in commercial and recreational industries to produce $250 million in income annually.

While restoration efforts in the Indian River Lagoon, and elsewhere, have traditionally focused on ecological functions of natural systems, social dimensions of environmental issues have received less attention. Yet, the social aspects of restoration are essential to understand since people have the power to impact restoration success while restoration decisions can influence people’s well-being.

The CNH Coastal Connections team is working to better understand people’s connections to the Indian River Lagoon. The motivating research question in this study is: what are the key factors that allow individuals in Central Florida to have an emotional connection or sense of place in coastal restoration efforts in the Indian River Lagoon? This work is part of a larger NSF-funded project, “Restoration and Resilience in Coupled Human-Natural Systems: Reciprocal Dynamics of a Coastal Lagoon.”