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Our researchers are working to expand our knowledge of aquatic ecosystems and our ability to assess and protect their health.


  • Analyzing Change of Hydrologic Conditions in the Everglades

    Project Title: Analyzing the Impact of Changing Hydrologic Conditions along the Boundary of Everglades National Park

    This project provides a decade long view of the status of fish and aquatic invertebrates along the eastern boundary of Everglades National Park. Fish, macroinvertebrates, and periphyton are used as indicators of management success in efforts to improve this area of the National Park and provide more water to downstream sites. The data it produces are used in reports evaluating progress from management initiatives associated with environmental management plans implemented to conserve the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow and assure adequate water delivery to sensitive areas like Florida Bay.


  • Coastal Fish Ecology in the Everglades

    Lead: Jennifer Rehage

    Institute scientists are passionate about fish and fisheries and the issues that affect them, particularly water and climate issues and their interacting effects. We focus on understanding how water and water management decisions interact with climate patterns to affect fish and the quality of recreational fisheries. Ongoing research efforts aim to understand how fishes move through their seascapes, what drives these movement, how those movements fit into large-scale ecosystem processes and what are the consequences for socio-economically valuable recreational fisheries. Our research mainly takes places in the Everglades and coastal South Florida, and we focus on key recreational species such as: Tarpon, Snook, Bonefish, Florida Bass, Jack Crevalle, and Redfish.

    Visit the Coastal Fish Ecology and Fisheries Lab to learn more about this research or watch Dr. Rehage explain the importance of the Everglades in this video


  • CREST CAChE Supplements

    Lead: Todd CrowlRita Teutonico

    Mangrove Ecology Supplement: Our CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment is designed to measure the levels of contaminants in the fragile South Florida aquatic system, and develop appropriate remediation strategies for them. Specifically, CAChE will characterize and quantify contaminants and excessive nutrients, measure their transport and transformations, and model their likely impacts on ecosystem services in a gradient of urbanized freshwater ecosystems. In this Partnership Supplement focusing on Mangrove Ecology, we seek to enhance the Center by expanding the expertise on our research team to add an exploration of mangrove ecosystems, which serve as the filter and connection between the freshwater and marine ecosystems.

    Near-Shore Systems Supplement: In this Supplement, we seek to further enhance the University of Puerto Rico-FIU partnership by expanding into the new research area of investigating the role of contaminants and pollutants on estuary and coral reef ecosystems. FIU CREST researchers currently utilize metagenomics methodologies to identify early indicators of ecosystem impacts due to anthropogenic stressors. The UPR CREST program investigates similar phenomena in river, estuarine and coral reef systems but utilizes neurologic indicators to predict stress.

    Urban Supplement: In this Supplement, CREST researchers seek to investigate the role that contaminants and pollutants play in urban waterways. CREST scientists are currently looking at areas such as the Miami River and Biscayne Bay in order to determine their water health and quality.


  • Direct Measurement of Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE)

    Lead: Tiffany Troxler

    Project Title: Direct Measurement of Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE) in Coastal Mangroves of Everglades National Park

    Everglades National Park is currently undergoing restoration efforts that are meant to create a positive ecological response in the area. These efforts aim to improve the current state of the landscape so that Everglades National Park is protected and effectively performing its environmental services. This research is designed to directly measure how the landscape of Everglades National Park is processing carbon in response to hydrologic and/or salinity changes. This project will monitor and ensure the safe and effective operation of two eddy flux towers (one at Shark River Slough and the other at Taylor River).

    Dive deeper into the research by reading this related book


  • Everglades Restoration and Water Flow Management

    Lead: Evelyn Gaiser , John Kominoski

    Project Title: Assessing Near-Field and Landscape Scale Ecological Effects of the Modified Water Deliveries and Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Projects in Northeast Shark River Slough, Everglades National Park

    This project aims to inform the planning and implementation of Modified Water Deliveries (MWD) and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Previous Everglades restoration efforts have resulted in an extensive network of canals, levees and impoundments and enhancements to preexisting canal systems to provide flood control and water supply in Florida. Water Conservation Areas were completed in the 1960s, resulting in impoundment and loss of ecological connectivity throughout the central and southern Everglades. The MWD and CERP plans include hydraulic restoration, via increased water flow through constructed and planned elevated bridges to allow more water to pass into the Northern portions of Everglades National Park, specifically the Northeast Shark River Slough (NESRS). This project will monitor ecological conditions before, during and after these hydraulic modifications to assess their ecological impacts.


  • Hurricanes Fertilize Mangrove Forests in the Gulf of Mexico

    Lead: Edward Castaneda

    Dr. Edward Castaneda studies the impacts that hurricanes can have on mangrove forests. Despite the destructive effect of hurricanes on mangrove forests in tropical and subtropical latitudes, hurricanes are major drivers controlling soil fertility gradients in the Florida Everglades mangroves, and therefore represent a positive influence in maintaining observed mangrove spatial distribution and productivity patterns.

    Hurricane-induced mineral inputs to near-coast mangroves in the Everglades enhance phosphorus (P) concentrations in soils, increase plant P uptake, promote soil elevation gains relative to sea level, and facilitate rapid forest recovery following disturbance. The response of mangroves to large-scale P fertilization from hurricanes may be an important adaptation of neotropical mangroves in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean region to withstand the impacts of both sea-level rise and P limitation.

    Read about the project in this FIU News article or dive into the study's publication published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Optimizing Fire Regimes in Fire Dependent Ecosystems

    Lead: Sparkle Malone

    The Everglades provides a unique opportunity to develop an extensive monitoring system that is capable of detecting disturbances, measuring disturbance impacts and estimating recovery times. The detailed 66-year fire history (1948-2013) within Everglades National Park (ENP) can be used to understand changes in post-fire recovery rates across subtropical ecosystems. Leveraging NASA data products and geospatial fire history data from the National Park Service (NPS), this project evaluates patterns in post-fire ecosystem recovery to understand how recovery rates vary between and within Everglades fire dependent areas. Specifically, this research will enhance our understanding about how postfire recovery rates are influenced by fire history, hydrology and climate.

    Learn more about the research by reading this related publication


  • Photochemical Reactions in Aquatic Environments

    Lead: Yong Cai

    Project Title: Photochemical Reactions of Particulate Mercury Species at the Water-Particle Interface in Aquatic Environments

    As a long recognized notorious pollutant posing health risk to millions of people worldwide, mercury (Hg) undergoes a complicated biogeochemical cycle through major environmental compartments. Understanding the global budgets of Hg cycling is extremely complicated and made even more so as potential errors arise when studying the air-water Hg exchange. Our project studies the most complex aspect of the air-water HG exchange: the unresolved role of particulate mercury (pHg) species in photochemical transformation of Hg. The potential involvement of pHg(II) and pHg(0) species in Hg photoreactions has been largely overlooked, so our researchers aim to better understand this relationship.


  • Pine Rockland and Hurricane Impacts

    Lead: Danielle Ogurcak , Michael Ross

    Institute researchers Dr. Danielle Ogurcak and Dr. Michael Ross have been monitoring dwindling freshwater under the pine rockland as seas rise. Hurricanes are a frequent disturbance in the western Atlantic impacting coastal forest structure and persistence. This project addressed the hypothesis that periodic hurricane-associated winds and storm surges can interact with sea-level rise to cause the demise of coastal pine forests, based on the response of the Florida Keys' last extensive tract of slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa) following Hurricane Irma (September 2017).

    Learn more about this project from FIU News or WLRN, or read this related publication

  • Saltwater Intrusion and the Everglades

    Leads: Sean Charles, Rene PriceJohn KominoskiTiffany Troxler, Evelyn Gaiser

    Project Title: Experimental Saltwater Intrusion Drives Rapid Soil Elevation and Carbon Loss in Freshwater and Brackish Everglades Marshes

    A team of Institute researchers set out to determine if and how saltwater intrusion can cause coastal wetlands to sink. Their findings demonstrate local actions can play a large role in the resilience of ecosystems to climate change. Through effective ecosystem management, wetlands could play a key role in staving off sea level rise. Read this FIU News article to learn more about this project.

    Additionally, our experts have also found that the Everglades is seeing increased threats from sea level rise, like peat collapse. Our researchers are investigating how to address this challenges in an effort to protect the Everglades and, thus, incorporate wetlands in addressing the effects brought on due to climate change.  

    Read this AP News article to see how we are protecting our River of Grass against climate change or read the related publication in Estuaries and Coasts

  • Vegetation Response to Changes in Hydrological Parameters

    Lead: Jay Sah

    Project Title: Evaluation of Vegetation Response to Changes in Hydrologic Parameters within Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow Habitat, Everglades National Park, Florida

    This research focuses on understanding whether the water management activities aimed at mitigating damage to Everglades ecosystems caused by past management would affect the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (CSSS) habitat. Our project also studies how the impact on vegetation structure and composition will vary geographically and over time in relation to the preferred CSSS habitat conditions. This study will include vegetation re-sampling at the subset of existing network of vegetation monitoring sites as well as some new sites to be established in the potential CSSS habitat likely to be impacted by future managements. The periodic monitoring of these sites is helpful in determining the impact of ongoing as well as future restoration activities.

    Find out more about this project and research in this related publication


Water Quality

  • Biscayne Bay

    Project Title: Biscayne Bay Marine Health

    The Biscayne Bay Health project — a collaboration of Institute of Environment faculty and local governments and organizations — promotes research, educational outreach, and community programming to promote the protection and preservation of our beloved bay and the local economy it bolsters.

    You can read more about this initiative in FIU News or learn about the latest Summit in the Miami Herald. You can also learn about the Institute's latest partnership with the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Summit Coalition.

  • CREST CAChE Research Buoys

    In our mission to address the complex issues of environmental contamination in South Florida, the NSF CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment at Florida International University features cutting-edge technology in contaminant detection, monitoring, and analysis. Central to this are our three CREST Research Buoys, which were specially designed to be deployed in both shallow freshwater ecosystems and near-shore marine environments. Each buoy features an array of high-tech sensors used to collect data on general water quality and can be set to take measurements as frequently as every five minutes.

    Visit the CREST CAChE Research Buoys page to learn more or read about the research in FIU News.

  • Multi-University Effort to Investigate Everglades Water Quality

    A number of scientists at the institute are conducting research to gain a better understanding of how the greater Everglades ecosystem reacts to management practices and restoration activities. State water managers have set aside $4.1 million for FIU, University of Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University to study water issues in the Everglades and greater South Florida. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Board approved the funding as part of a cooperative agreement over the course of five years.

    Learn more in FIU News

  • Poly- and Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS)

    Lead: Natalia Soares Quinete

    There is a growing public concern on Poly- and PerfluorinatedAlkyl Substances (PFAS) worldwide due to their ubiquitous presence in the environment (e.ggroundwater, drinking water, soil, biota, food, etc.) and their associated toxicity and endocrine disruptor properties. In Miami, a recent study conducted by EWG has brought to media attention the presence of these contaminants in drinking water in some locations at levels considered relatively high. In Florida, especially South Florida, insufficient information is available on the occurrence, sources, fate, distribution and transport of PFAS, their precursors and transformation products in the environment. This means that the implications of their presence for potential human exposure is largely unknown. To address this issue, we are working on the development of an analytical method able to more reliably detect these toxic contaminants at very low part per trillion levels. In addition, we are developing a non-targeted approach to evaluate potential metabolites and transformation products in the environment. Ultimately, we aim to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the spatial and seasonal trends of multiple PFASs in surface and drinking water from different water bodies in South Florida. These areas will include places where water quality issues have been documented with impact from man-made wastewater intrusion, such as the Miami River and more “pristine” areas like the Everglades and Biscayne National Park. We also investigate potential PFAS sources and the introduction and transport to coastal and preserved areas.

  • S.A.R.A.H. Initiative - Addressing Microplastics with Citizen Science

    Lead: Piero Gardinali

    Project Title: S.A.R.A.H. Initiative

    The S.A.R.A.H. Initiative will unite the academic world and the international yachting community in an effort to conserve our oceans and combat plastic pollution.This unique partnership with the International SeaKeepers Society has the ability to collect invaluable data for scientific research, leading to effective solutions.

    This citizen science movement engages the yachting community by providing comprehensive onboard kits to allow yacht crews and owners to conduct plankton survey-style transects to describe and quantify the presence of marine microplastics. S.A.R.A.H. stands for:

    S – Sample: With the kits and instructions provided, conduct as many net tows as possible on voyages; 

    A – Aggregate: After each net tow, rinse contents of the net into sample filters; label and seal the filters; 

    R – Return: After each voyage, the samples are packaged and shipped back to the S.A.R.A.H. Initiative research team at FIU; 

    A – Analyze: Researchers will analyze the density, type and size of plastic particles and archive in database; 

    H – Help: By collecting this data, you will help researchers quantify and map marine plastic debris and help stakeholders end this current epidemic.

    Read about the first expedition to Cuba or join us in our mission to protect our oceans and learn more about how you can support or invest in this program by contacting Gill Rodrigues, Director of Development at .

  • Water Quality Monitoring Network

    Lead: Henry Briceno

    Dr. Henry Briceno leads the institute’s Water Quality Monitoring Network, which addresses regional water quality concerns that exist outside the boundaries of individual political entities. Water quality data is available for several areas in south Florida including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Southwest Florida Shelf, Biscayne Bay, Florida Bay & Whitewater Bay, Ten Thousand Islands, and Marco-Pine Island Sound.

    Visit the SERC Water Quality Monitoring Network to view data.

Water Security

  • Understanding Extreme Weather Events

    Lead: Shimon Wdowinski

    Project Title: Cascading hazards: Understanding triggering relations between wet tropical cyclones, landslides and earthquakes

    Two recent devastating earthquakes and other moderate size earthquakes occurred in tropical mountainous areas shortly after wet tropical cyclones (hurricane or typhoon) hit the same areas. This project is aimed at studying two ideas: 1) massive erosion induced by wet tropical cyclones can trigger earthquakes in seismically active mountainous areas, and 2) pore fluid increase induced by wet cyclones can trigger earthquakes in the same tectonic environment.

    Learn more about this research in FIU News


  • UNESCO Chair on Sustainable Water Security

    Chairholder Dr. Maria Donoso leads efforts to address international water security, equity and access concerns. She works with a team of global and interdisciplinary experts to identify solutions in response to water crises around the world.

    Learn more about the UNESCO Chair or read about the partnership in FIU News


  • Analyzing Aspects of Coastal Vulnerability in Interdependent-Infrastructures Systems

    Lead: Pallab Mozumder

    Project Title: CRISP 2.0 Type 2: Collaborative Research: Organizing Decentralized Resilience in Critical Interdependent-infrastructure Systems and Processes (ORDER-CRISP)

    This project develops a framework that evaluates the coupled nature of vulnerabilities across physical and social systems in Miami and Houston. By focusing on the effects of recent hurricanes on the interdependent-infrastructures in energy, water, transportation and telecommunication, and the human-infrastructures interactions, the project explores options for resilience. The project will also develop a mobile phone app for information sharing with the public. The project aims to engage, mentor, and offer an innovative active learning environment for K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students by giving priority to the disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.

    Find out more about this project in FIU News


  • Coastal Ecosystems Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

    Lead: Rita Teutonico

    The Coastal Ecosystems Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Site program is a 10-week paid research summer fellowship located on the campuses of Florida International University. The research theme of the REU Site is the ecology of coastal ecosystems across gradients of human impact.  Specifically, our research looks at coastal ecosystems ecology, environmental aquatic chemistry, and the connections among the Everglades wetlands, coastal mangrove forests, seagrass beds and shallow water coral reefs.

    Visit the REU site page for more information


  • Cristina Menendez Fellowship

    Lead: Piero Gardinali

    Graduate student research fellowships for up to $7,500/year will be made available under the name of the Cristina Menendez Fellowship, to graduate students working directly under the mentorship of institute faculty conducting Everglades relevant research. The application window is currently closed.

    For more information, contact Piero Gardinali