Research Projects

CEDB Current and Recent Research Projects

Equipment for Sampling
Research cruise

GRI Oil Spill Consortia Research

CEDB is involved in two of the research consortia funded by Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) for post-oil spill research.

Visit the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Page.

Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Plan for Northwest Florida/ Alabama Watersheds

The goal of this project is to produce a draft monitoring and reporting plan that is comprehensive, consistent and integrated across the watersheds from St. Andrews Bay to Perdido systems. A unified plan will aid everyone in getting the attention and funding necessary to maintain and enhance critical water quality trends monitoring. UWF’s role is to facilitate coordination of existing effort and identify gaps and discrepancies. The draft plan developed in the workshop held on August 18, 2011 was compiled and refined post-workshop.

Resources From the August 18, 2011 Workshop (link)

Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Final Report (pdf)

Seagrass Status 2004 (pdf)

Seagrass Status 2011 (pdf)

Coast Watch: Remote Sensing and Verification Sampling of Oil Spill Impact on Florida Coast

Supported by the Florida Institute of Oceanography

PI: Richard A. Snyder

As oil continues to make landfall along the NE Gulf of Mexico coast, there is an immediate and ongoing need for accurate assessment of landfall and landfall prediction. This project is proposed as a collaboration between FSU and UWF, but intends to coordinate closely with coastal sampling operations on the Gulf coast. Where oil reaches the coast, first order measurements and sampling is required to document scale and intensity of impact. The group will coordinate three basic deliverables. 1) Conduct sea-level sampling and analysis of the oil and water column to provide regular ground truth for the remote sensing and NRDA level demonstration of oil properties, distribution, and impact. 2) Compile continuing remote sensing detection of probably hydrocarbon signals in satellite images, with a focus on the Florida coastline using Texture Classifying Neural Network Algorithms and related image processing methods. 3) Coordinate basic sea-level observation by research vessels and responder vessels operating in the offshore spill area. Results of the ground-truthed remote sensing assessment will be shared with modeling efforts being conducted by relevant institutions (e.g. COAPS, Univ. S. Florida). Coastal hydrocarbon surveys will be conducted from three locations along the coast. The sampling results will document impact levels for future damage and impact assessment.

Assessing the Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Coastal Waters of the Florida Panhandle Water Sediments and Fish

A project supported by the Florida Institute of Oceanography
PI: Richard A. Snyder

The northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico is currently being inundated by oil from the Deepwater Horizon well, with total releases now in the 40-60,000 tonne range. Oil has already impacted the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts, has begun to appear on beaches and barrier islands in northwest Florida and threatens the entire coast of the Florida panhandle, including Apalachicola area and its fisheries.

We propose to measure and document concentrations of hydrocarbons in sediments and water over a one-year period at eight sites along the coast from Grand Bay MS to Apalachicola FL, including two National Estuarine Research Reserves. We will measure key biogeochemical parameters associated with primary productivity and nutrient dynamics in coastal waters, to test if these parameters are affected by the presence and concentration of petroleum hydrocarbons. We will also determine whether resident fishes in these areas are expressing biomarkers of exposure to oil or oil components, specifically induction of enzyme systems associated with detoxification of petroleum hydrocarbons. With this data, we will test hypotheses related to spatial and temporal patterns and relationships among these measures of oil distribution, exposure, accumulation and effect. We seek to provide important early data about key parameters likely to be affected by the oil spill, and to lay the groundwork for future research programs, mitigation efforts, and damage assessments. We also seek to expand student training opportunities related to the impacts of the oil spill, and to interface with existing efforts and to address future needs of state and federal agencies, including NOAA.

Uncoupling of Autotrophy and Heterotrophy: Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Microbial Food Webs

Funded by the Florida Institute of Oceanography

PI: Wade H. Jeffrey

Oil and its constituents are primarily degraded by native microorganisms with abiotic processes being less important. Oil provides a high amount of organic material available to support bacterioplankton growth, the specific source of carbon, however may select for specific groups of bacterioplankton – shifting the microbial community structure which may alter other biogeochemical cycles as well. The project addresses Category 2 – conduct baseline studies and impact assessments to provide the basis for long term monitoring. Specifically, this study will provide baseline studies on microbiological and geochemical processes governing the degradation of oil and affected by oil and its constituents in pristine and oil-contaminated Gulf of Mexico near shore environments. Phytoplankton and bacterioplankton are the base of marine food webs; phytoplankton fix inorganic carbon to organic carbon and bacterioplankton are responsible for cycling significant (often 50% or more) of the organic carbon through the microbial loop. Changes in this dynamic have the potential to disrupt microbial biogeochemical cycles and significantly alter microbial food webs with potential cascading effects through higher trophic levels. Common bioremediation strategies often include the addition of inorganic nitrogen and phosphate.

How do increases in carbon (oil) and N & P (from bioremediation nutrient additions) change trophic interactions and dynamics? Is the growth of the organisms responding to oil controlled by bottom up (nutrients) or top down (grazing & viruses) forces? Elevated concentrations of oil in the Gulf of Mexico system presents a huge reservoir of nutrients that will likely have ancillary effects on the entire microbial cycling in affected systems.

This project represents a collaborative effort between the University of West Florida and Florida A& M University. Research areas include Pensacola Beach, near the University of West Florida and a site already contaminated by oil, as well as Apalachicola (currently uncontaminated) and Grand Bay, MS (contaminated). All three sites have been sampled extensively prior to the spill. Immediate sampling needs to be done in uncontaminated waters in the Gulf of Mexico to establish baseline trophic interactions. These initial assays will be followed by sampling in contaminated waters as well as via experimental manipulation by adding oil and inorganic nutrients to samples to monitor changes in microbial community foodwebs (i.e. phytoplankton and bacterioplankton interactions) and community structure and dynamics in response to oil spill components. Research proposed herein will enhance our ability to better understand the biogeochemical effects and ultimately the ecological response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Studies of Microbial Communities Affected by the Deepwater Horizon Spill

A project supported by Alabama State University

PI: Joe E. Lepo

This collaborative project will perform comparative analyses of the archaeal and bacterial communities in areas impacted by oil or oil dispersants. Samples collected pre- and post-oil impact from locations along the Central Northern Gulf of Mexico will be analyzed for their microbial community using culture dependent and independent techniques. Culture-independent studies will employ denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analyses (ARISA), and qPCR. Community diversity indexes will be calculated and compared between impacted and non-impacted samples. Target groups will be selectively amplified by DGGE and ARISA; the identification of species will be done using PCR amplification, cloning and traditional capillary sequencing. Selected samples (largest diversity of microbial communities) will be subject to high-throughput sequencing of rRNA genes. Sequence results will be compared to NCBI and the Ribosomal Database Project.

Evaluation of the Impacts of Storm Surge Flooding on the Water Quality of the Near-shore Environment and on Coastal Aquifers

A project supported by NOAA

PI: Richard A. Snyder

Development along the US coastline is subject to storm surge flooding, especially along the southeast and gulf coasts where hurricanes and tropical storms are frequent. This investigation would examine the effects of storm surge flooding on the ground and surface water quality near coastal developments serviced by central sewer and by septic tanks. Two adjacent canal communities (Shell Point, FL) are targeted for placement of sampling wells to monitor ground water response and pollution loading before during and after a storm surge event. Additional work will monitor ground water effects in the karst aquifer. Data will be used to build and enhance computer models that may be used for planning and management in coastal areas elsewhere. 

Bioblend Technologies Consultation

A project supported by BioBlend Technologies LLC

PI: Joe E. Lepo

Bio Blend Technologies is requesting the service of UWF faculty and interns to perform various environmental tasks both in the lab and on current remediation sites, overseen by Roger Kubala of Bio Blend Technologies. These tasks will include, but are not limited to groundwater and soil sampling, analyzing groundwater and soil samples for contaminates of concern, including BTEX and organochlorides, laboratory modeling, chemical enhancements to remedial blends, and bio augmentation. 


Atmospheric Deposition of Mercury and Trace Metals to the Pensacola Bay Watershed Phase

Supported by the Electric Power Research Institute

PI: Jane M. Caffrey

This project provides for monitoring of atmospheric deposition of mercury, trace metals and major ions in the Pensacola Bay watershed. Work was initiated with funding by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2004 and completed in December 2007. This project addressed the question, what is the atmospheric deposition of mercury and trace metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium, iron and aluminum and major ions to the lower Pensacola Bay Watershed. Since then sampling has continued with support from the Electric Power Research Institute.

Wet Prairie Habitat Restoration Evaluation and Management Strategies for the Garcon Point Water Management Area FY2011

Supported by the NW Florida Water Management

PI: Richard A. Snyder

This study will continue work to evaluate and measure effects of attempts to restore the wetlands property to its natural state and provide research information that will enhance efforts for wet prairie habitat restoration, enhancement, and maintenance in northwest Florida.

Students working in lab
Students researching in lab.

Metabolism and Oxygen Dynamics in NERR Estuaries

A project supported by the YSI Foundation

PI: Jane M. Caffrey

This project focuses on primary production, particularly phytoplankton production, because it directly supports higher trophic levels and oxygen dynamics because of the negative effects of low DO on many species.

Student sampling water with equipment.

Factors Controlling the Success of Transplanted Seagrass in Pensacola Bay

Funding by NOAA through Florida DEP

PI: Jane M. Caffrey

The Florida Panhandle has suffered significant submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) loss since the 1950’s due to dredging operations (EPA 2007) and industrial wastewater discharges into local estuary systems (EPA 2005). As a result, the productivity and habitat function of local estuaries have been decreased. Within the last decade, environmental regulations have been implemented resulting in water quality improvements allowing for seagrass restoration in some areas within panhandle systems.
This project examines sediment (porewater) biogeochemistry within the Pensacola Bay System to determine the sediment nutrient condition of natural beds of H. wrightii and T. testudinium, sediment nutrient condition of historical coverage areas but presently devoid of SAV, and sediment nutrient composition changes related to R. maritima colonization and its impact on promoting H. wrightii colonization. Data from the first year of sampling and analysis suggests that R. maritima does have an effect on sediment porewater nutrient composition.

Sampling occurs at four locations:
Bruce’s Beach (R. maritima and H. wrightii), Big Lagoon (T. testudinum and H. wrightii), Escribano Point (R. maritime), Escambia Bay (R. maritime).

A variety of parameters are measured monthly:
1) Water quality parameters: Temperature, salinity, DO, pH
2) Light attenuation in the water column
3) Nutrients: water column (nitrate, ammonium, phosphate) and sediment (ammonium, phosphate)
4) Chlorophyll concentrations: water column and epiphyte
5) Pore water hydrogen sulfide
6) Coverage estimates using Braun-Blanquet

Student sampling seagrass water       Students sampling in water


Selected Projects with Reports

ECUA Water ReportView Details (PDF)

Impact of Fluoridation of the Municipal Drinking Water Supply: Review of the LiteratureView Details (PDF)

Impact of Fluoridation of the Municipal Drinking Water Supply: Results of Field and Laboratory StudyView Details (PDF)

Partnership for Environmental Research and Community Health (PERCH) - Perch Executive Summary
Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control
07/01/02 - 06/30/09
PI: K. Ranga Rao

Survey of Emergent and Submerged Vegetation along the Bagdad, Florida waterfront  
Blackwater River Foundation
August 2007
PI: Richard A. Snyder

Pre-Reefing Environmental Assessment for the ex-ORISKANY
Computer Sciences Corporation
02/01/06 - 03/31/07
PIs: Richard Snyder and William Patterson

Analysis of Fecal Loadings Into Bayous Grande, Chico, and Texar, Pensacola Bay
Florida Department of Health, Escambia County Health Department
PI: Richard A. Snyder

RUI: Effect of Diurnal and Weekly Water Column Hypoxic Events on Nitrification and Nitrogen Transformations in Estuarine Sediments. - View Details
National Science Foundation
03/15/04 - 02/28/07
PI: Jane Caffrey

LEXEN: Hitchhiking, a Mechanism for Bacterial Speciation in an Extremely Cold Environment. - View Details
National Science Foundation
10/01/00 - 09/30/03
PI: Wade H. Jeffrey

Interactive Effects of UV and Vertical Mixing on Phytoplankton and Bacterial Productivity of Ross Sea Phaeocystis Blooms. - View Details
National Science Foundation
09/01/02 - 08/31/05
PI: Wade H. Jeffrey

Interactive Effects of UV Radiation and Temperature on Pelagic Foodwebs. - View Details
National Science Foundation
PI: Wade H. Jeffrey

Early Detection and Diagnosis of Phytopathogens as Bioterrorism Agents. - View Details
U.S. Army, via University of South Florida
10/01/04 - 06/30/06
PI: Joe E. Lepo

Microbial Biofilms as Indicators of Estuarine Ecosystem Condition. - View Details
Environmental Protection Agency
11/01/01 - 10/31/06
PIs: Joe E. Lepo and Richard A. Snyder

Impact of Agricultural Runoff on Total Maximum Daily Loads and Water Quality. - View Details
U.S. Department of Agriculture
09/15/01 - 09/14/05
PIs: Joe E. Lepo and Richard A. Snyder

Characterization and Management of Effluent from Aquaculture Ponds in Florida: A Treatment System Evaluation. - View Details
Florida Three Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council
07/16/01 - 12/30/02
PI: Joe E. Lepo

Environmental Monitoring of Bathing Places. - View Details
Escambia County Health Department
07/01/05 - 06/30/06
PIs: Richard A. Snyder, Joe E. Lepo, and Jan Macauley

Healthy Beaches Sampling for Okaloosa County. - View Details
Okaloosa County Health Department
07/01/05 - 06/30/06
PI: Richard A. Snyder

Tracking Source of Fecal Contamination in Environmental Waters. - View Details
Escambia County Health Department
07/01/05 - 06/30/06
PIs: Joe E. Lepo and Richard A. Snyder

An Assessment of the Source of Sewage Waste Input into Coldwater and Pond Creeks. - View Details
Bay Area Resource Council
02/06/02 - 12/31/02
PI: Richard A. Snyder

Evaluation of Wetland Restoration Management Strategies. - View Details
Northwest Florida Water Management District
04/01/02 - 03/31/03
PI: Richard A. Snyder

Biological Oceanography Sampling Methodologies. - View Details
Florida Institute of Oceanography, shiptime grant
2002 - 2003
PIs: Wade H. Jeffrey and Richard A. Snyder

Healthy Beaches Sampling. - View Details
Okaloosa County Health Department
01/01/03 - 06/30/03
PIs: Joe E. Lepo and Jan Macauley

Biological Survey of FCT Project #96-034-P7A. - View Details
West Florida Regional Planning Council
01/01/03 - 06/30/03
PI: Richard A. Snyder