2018 Seed Grant Recipients

Student conducting research

The Environmental Center is pleased to announce the 2018 Seed Grant recipients. Seed Grants are available to faculty from any college and encourage interdisciplinary research focused on the three priority areas of the Environmental Center, which are parks and preserves; rivers, coasts and springs; and sustainability. These environmental research grants are funded through the River Branch Foundation.

This year the Environmental Center was able to offer two additional grants focused specifically on issues of water quality in Northeast Florida. The water quality grants were made possible by the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation.

Environmental Research Grants

Bench-Scale Testing of Microbial Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP) Treated Sand Dunes

Raphael Crowley, Ph.D., School of Engineering
Mathew Davies, Department of Chemistry
Terri Ellis, Ph.D., Department of Biology

Sand dunes are often the primary means of protection from hurricane storm surge and associated wave action. However, dunes are highly erodible and do a relatively poor job of protecting the coast when compared with other coastal protection measures such as seawalls, bulkheads, or revetments. It would be beneficial to develop a sustainable rapid-deployment system that could be used to strengthen the dunes just prior to a hurricane. Microbial-induced calcite precipitation (MICP) is one technology that would appear to be suitable for such an application. A study is proposed whereby synthetic bench-scale dunes will be built in UNF’s new wave basin, (basin will be completed by December 2017), treated via MICP, and subjected to wave action. Erosion will be quantified by measuring the dunes’ profiles, and results from treated dunes will be compared with results from untreated dunes to determine erosion improvement.

Living on the leading edge of an expanding range: examining the physiological response of mangrove species to temperature and environmental change

Michael J. Aspinwall, Ph.D., Department of Biology

Climate warming is causing rapid changes in saltmarsh and mangrove plant communities. Freezing temperatures have historically restricted the distribution of mangrove species to parts of south Florida. Yet, warmer temperatures have facilitated the northward expansion of mangroves, resulting in a parallel reduction in saltmarsh habitat. This project aims to examine the physiological mechanisms involved in mangrove species northward expansion. In particular, this project will determine whether mangrove species growing at the leading edge of an expanding range vary in thermal acclimation of key physiological processes (photosynthesis and respiration), and whether salinity and nutrient availability modify mangrove physiological responses to temperature. The project will take place at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM-NERR), and will involve a factorial experiment with three mangrove species, two salinity levels, and two nutrient levels. This project will improve our understanding of mangrove responses to temperature, as well as predictions of mangrove range expansion in response to future climate.

Water Quality Grants

Perception of Drinking Water Quality in the City of Jacksonville, FL: The Influence of Consumer Location within the Distribution System

Chris K. Johnson, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Geography
Chiradip Chatterjee, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Geography
Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D., Department of Accounting and Finance
Russell Triplett, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Geography

We received a UNF Environmental Center Seed Grant in 2016 to conduct a telephone survey designed to assess the willingness-to-pay for improvements in the quality of drinking water among local residents. The findings from that project suggest the need for follow-up research designed to fully explore the role of information, outreach and public awareness in water usage within the community. As part of this proposal and study design we have been collaborating with officials from JEA to widen the reach of a survey that includes more detailed questions regarding usage, information availability, information processing, trust in institutions, health history, demographics and geography. With the cooperation of JEA, we will pair the survey responses with administrative data on water usage. Using regression methods, we will (1) estimate the determinants of perceived quality of tap water, and then, conditional on (1), (2) estimate the determinants of water usage in the home.

Exploring ecological, morphological and molecular aspects of cyanobacterial communities isolated from Ichetucknee Springs, Brandford, FL

Dale Casamatta, Ph.D., Department of Biology
Alyssa Garvey, M.S. Candidate, Department of Biology

Anthropogenic nutrient pollution has led to an increase in harmful algal blooms in recent years, with an increase in both eukaryotic algae and cyanobacteria. Cyanobacterial blooms can be of particular concern due to their ability to produce toxins. Because of the ability for cyanobacterial blooms to occur in both freshwater and marine habitats, characterizing species composition of these communities in areas of high social and economic importance is crucial to limiting potential exposure. This project aims to characterize cyanobacterial communities isolated from Ichetucknee Springs in order to document and inform the public of potential exposure to any toxin-producing species.

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