Ecological Research and Natural Areas Management

As a mechanism to further build the Campus Natural Assets Inventory (CNAI), the Ecologist position was created to conduct research in the Sawmill Slough Preserve and assist the Preserve Curator with management activities. Through the efforts of Dr. Radha Pyati, former Environmental Center Director and Associate Professor of Chemistry, and Chuck Hubbuch, Preserve Curator, the Ecologist position was successfully funded by the Cummer Family Foundation and Blaudow Foundation in 2013. From 2013-2015, Justin Lemmons, M.S., filled the Ecologist position for the UNF Environmental Center until funding expired. Justin Lemmons received his B.S. Conservation Biology from the University of New Mexico, and M.S. Biology from the University of North Florida. The Ecologist works closely with the Preserve Curator to learn essential aspects of Preserve management. The Ecologist assists with natural areas management activities, as well as, conducts research and restoration in the Sawmill Slough Preserve. Responsibilities include the ongoing CNAI and building inventories of flora and fauna, pest plant control, prescription burns, habitat restoration, water quality analysis and trail maintenance. The Ecologist augmented the plant and invertebrate inventories and created catalogues of fishes, lichens and fungi for the Preserve, plus contributed 5 new records of plants for Duval, Clay and Nassau County. The Ecologist also promotes the Sawmill Slough Preserve through community outreach and presentations at scientific conferences. Furthermore, student assistants and volunteers work with the Ecologist to gain invaluable field experience necessary for future career paths. The time and efforts devoted by these assistants and volunteers helped to make many projects possible.

Collection management of the Sawmill Slough Preserve Digital Archive, which was completed and launched in March 2015, is led by Justin Lemmons. The Digital Archive was developed by Dr. Stuart Chalk, Associate Professor of Chemistry, in collaboration with Chuck Hubbuch, Preserve Curator, and Justin Lemmons, Ecologist. Many Environmental Center student employees have also helped to build the species inventories and archive. The Digital Archive is a scientific and educational tool for sharing information about the unique diversity and years of research and management efforts on the Preserve. Researchers and interested persons are encouraged to contribute to the inventories and become actively involved in Preserve research.

As a component of the Preserve Digital Archive, the Ecologist installed a wildlife camera to document usage of the wildlife crossings located on UNF campus, and add any inconspicuous fauna to the inventory lists. As a result, footage shows consistent usage of the wildlife crossings by bobcat, white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossums, armadillos, marsh rabbits and squirrels. The bobcat pictures were the first documented evidence of the animal at UNF aside from tracks and scat. Additionally, constant deer, wild turkey and bobcat activity was documented in the upland habitat at the north end of campus, which is subject to development. This documentation of wildlife shows not only the importance of connecting adjacent natural areas, but also, the significance of the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve as conservation land.

Grants Received

Habitat Restoration Focused on Florida Threatened Wildflowers

The purpose of this project, funded by the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, is to restore and expand habitat for populations of threatened plant species in the UNF Sawmill Slough Preserve, and monitor effects of clearing and a prescription burn on plant diversity. The site with the largest population of threatened species is at risk of losing optimal habitat due to a closed canopy and competition with other vegetation. Through restoration efforts the area will be managed for it’s unique habitat and biodiversity, as well as, provide opportunities for future research by students and faculty. Funded by a Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens conservation grant.

Native Plant Initiative

The purpose of this project is to partner with Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS) Ixia Chapter and resident gardeners in an effort to cultivate and establish featured native plants in backyard gardens. The project will focus on unique native plants not found in the nursery trade, as well as threatened and ecologically beneficially species. Cultivated plants will be provided to FNPS members, experienced gardeners, and sold at an annual or bi-annual plant sale open to the public. Establishment and distribution of Duval native plant species among plant-enthusiasts and gardeners will reduce the chance that disturbances will drive these native species to extinction or eliminate declining natural populations. Funded by the Florida Native Plant Society, Ixia Chapter.

Professional Presentations

Sawmill Slough Preserve, University of North Florida (poster)

Authors: Justin Lemmons, Adam Bauernfeind, Chuck Hubbuch

Florida Society of Environmental Analysts (FSEA) Fall Meeting, 2013

Management of the Sawmill Slough Preserve, University of North Florida (poster)

Authors: Justin Lemmons, Chuck Hubbuch, Anthony M. Rossi

Ecological Society of America (ESA) 99th Annual Meeting: From Oceans to Mountains, 2014

Media Presence

Plant Vouchers

Voucher herbarium specimens are significant contributions to botanical research that consist of plant material plus informative label. Vouchers assist researchers with species identifications, distributions and provide historical documentation for future examinations as taxonomy may change. Click on the species below to view the new county record vouchers contributed by Ecologist Justin Lemmons.