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

Through our institute's research, we’ve identified some of the factors leading to the degradation of Biscayne Bay water quality. In collaboration with our partners, we are implementing solutions to improve the resilience and sustainability of our beautiful bay.

2020: Responding to Crisis in the Bay

Over the past few decades, pollution, rising temperatures and seagrass die-offs have all contributed to the declining health of Biscayne Bay. In mid-August 2020, the bay experienced unprecedented levels of low oxygen, resulting in massive fish kills along the coast. Reports of gray-green algae in the water followed the fish kills.

Our researchers mobilized quickly, setting out on the water to collect water quality data that could give us a hint into what may be causing this devastating phenomenon. Our institute partnered with more than a dozen organizations, including Frost Science, Miami Waterkeeper and SeaKeepers, to respond to the emergency.

Together, we began aerating the water, a temporary measure to help oxygen levels to increase across the bay. Our algae experts identified the reported algae as nontoxic, but still advise against bathing in the water. Weeks after the first reports of thousands of dying fish, the bay appears to be catching a break. Water is clearing up and the oxygen levels are improving.

The fight for Biscayne Bay's health is far from over.

Our scientists will continue to respond and monitor the waterway's condition, striving for long-term solutions that will bring the bay back to the healthy, thriving place it once was.

Stay up-to-date with our findings by following our real-time buoy data. (View the buoys' location)

WPLG Local 10 hosted a prime-time special on the crisis in Biscayne Bay, followed by a town hall with our researchers and WPLG's Louis Aguirre.

We held an expert panel on Aug. 22 to update the public on the response to the Biscayne Bay fish kills.

Easy Ways to Help Save Biscayne Bay

Eliminate or Reduce Fertilizer Use: Fertilizers run off into our waterways, contaminating Biscayne Bay with excess phosphorous and nitrogen. Try not to use fertilizer, or choose fertilizers with slow-release nitrogen and little to no phosphorus.

Plant Native: Plants that are naturally adapted to South Florida require little maintenance and less fertilizer, and they filter water as it goes into the ground. They help support native insects and animals that help with pest control. Try landscaping with plants like Bougainvillea or Rain Lily.

Pick Up Waste and Inspect Septic Tanks: Things like pet waste, yard clippings and single-use plastics are extremely hurtful to the health of the bay and the ocean. Pick up your pet’s waste and try composting your landscaping debris. Have your septic tanks inspected – the waste from these tanks pollutes the bay.

Read Product Labels: Choose detergents and household cleaners that are low in phosphates and nitrogen.

Capture Motor Oil: Dispose of motor oil and engine coolant properly by taking it to an appropriate disposal site. Don’t let oil run off onto your driveway or yard. Never dispose of oil in storm drains or in your sink.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Cut back on plastic consumption and reuse items when possible. Plastics and other nonrecyclable products often end up in our waterways, threatening marine life and our precious water resources.

Ongoing Research

  • Water Quality Monitoring

    Historically, Dr. Henry Briceno has concentrated on water quality across south Florida including the Everglades, Biscayne Bay, Tampa Bay and the Florida Keys. He is working to understand what our water quality will look like in the future if we continue on the current path of climate change. Over the last 15 years, he has classified the Florida coastal waters into 42 groups of water quality types.

    He uses this information to work with policy makers and alert members of the community to current and future water supply threats. He is collaborating to help implement research based policies.

  • Research Buoys

    Our Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment (CAChE) uses cutting-edge technology through research buoys – 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 for analysis.

    In response to the ongoing red tide outbreak, our team has deployed three buoys across south Florida which monitor water quality through regular measurements. At the same time, the buoys record directional flow rates to get a sense of where potential outbreaks may be coming from and where they may be headed as frequently as every five minutes. All data collected is updated online every hour and is available for public viewing. 

  • Seagrass Health

    Led by international Blue Carbon expert, Dr. James Fourqurean, our FIU Seagrass Ecosystems Research Lab works with the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve (BBAP) on their seagrass monitoring program for portions of Biscayne Bay. The monitoring program was developed to understand the current status and condition of seagrass and macroalgae communities within the bay, which has recently experienced die-offs.

    Dr. Bryan Dewsbury, who earned his PhD working in the FIU Seagrass Ecosystems Research Lab, completed portions of his dissertation research in Biscayne Bay. His research focused on the development of a predictive model to explain the effect of changing water quality (nutrients and salinity) on seagrass and macroalgae communities within the bay.

    Future work with BBAP include to experimentally test causes of seagrass die-off, which will help to better inform management and restoration efforts in the Bay.

  • Coastal Wetland Ecosystem

    Dr. Tiffany Troxler has focused her research on coastal wetland ecosystem dynamics and global environmental change. She has monitored the water quality of waterways with mixed urban and natural influences to understand the role of the land based sources of nutrients to the overall health of Biscayne Bay. She uses her findings to work with stakeholders to develop solutions that aid in solving current-day flooding issues.

    Troxler sits on the Miami-Dade County’s Biscayne Bay Task Force where she works with the County to implement policies to address environmental issues in the bay.

  • Bottlenose Dolphins

    Dr. Jeremy Kiszka and other scientists are examining the lives of Biscayne Bay’s resident dolphins. Little is known about how local bottlenose dolphins are affected by development, dredging, storm pump rerouting, seagrass die-offs and extreme climatic events. Researchers have partnered with NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center to investigate how dolphins respond to disturbances and environmental changes.

    By assessing where dolphins and their prey are found in the bay and how they behave relative to environmental factors, we’re working to improve our understanding of these dolphins’ resilience in the face of habitat degradation.

  • Biscayne Bay Marine Health Summit

    Our vision of the future includes new research-inspired tools for assessing pollution while also improving how we evaluate the toxic effects on plants, animals and people. We have reignited our partnership with the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Summit Coalition in an effort  to implement a “Post Summit Plan of Action” focused on advocacy, communication and education. This partnership will advance Biscayne Bay restoration and preservation initiatives, bolstering stakeholder and community efforts to protect the landmark waterway to address threats.

    Representatives from governments, businesses, NGOs and academia met on FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus in September 2019 for an Action Summit to initiate a plan to restore and maintain the health of the bay and Miami-Dade County's canals and rivers.

Support the Project

By supporting Biscayne Bay Health, you will join hands with the community in responding to the challenges these waters are facing. The project supports an annual summit to share valuable information on the impact of Biscayne Bay's overall health on the local ecosystem — the people, wildlife and waters around us.

Funds will directly support the protection and amelioration of Biscayne Bay through collaborative efforts. Questions? Please contact the Advancement team.