Our researchers have spent more than three decades guiding management, restoration and protection of water resources in and around the Everglades: one of the largest environmental restoration projects on the planet.

  • 30+

    Years working on research in the Florida Everglades

  • 102

    Faculty, staff and students working on Everglades research with the Institute of Environment

  • 66

    ForEverglades & Cristina Menendez Scholars since 2008

Our Impacts

More than 8 million South Floridians rely on the Florida Everglades for their drinking water, and the ability to have a thriving economy hinges on an abundant supply of freshwater. We must protect the Florida Everglades. For more than 30 years, FIU researchers have collaborated on and led the science behind Everglades restoration — one of the largest environmental projects on the planet. We are one of only three universities selected by the South Florida Water Management District to collaborate on a $4.1 million Everglades restoration project.

You can learn more about our most recent efforts through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program or the NSF CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment.

If you are an undergraduate student interested in participating in Everglades research during summertime, please visit our Coastal Ecosystems Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).

The Future of Everglades Restoration

The Institute awards FIU graduate students working in the Everglades with our annual Cristina Menendez Memorial Fellowship. Find out more about the Cristina Menendez Memorial Fellowship.

Our Institute of Environment and The Everglades Foundation award scholarships each year to student researchers working in the Everglades. Find out more about the FIU ForEverglades Scholarship.

Everglades Scholars and Fellows

The Cristina Menendez Memorial Fellowship was created in memory of former student Cristina Menendez to provide graduate students with support for Everglades-related research projects that will help to protect and restore the unique Florida Everglades ecosystem.

The 2021 recipients are: 

  • Kenneth Anderson – Breakdown and microbial priming of particulate organic matter in coastal wetlands
  • Cody Eggenberger – Southeast United States Cross-Site Comparison of Juvenile Atlantic Tarpon Trophic Dynamics
  • Paige Kleindl – Macrophyte and Microbial Mat Competition for Limiting Nutrients within the Florida Everglades
  • Steven Landeweer – Occurrence, fate and transport of UV filter compounds in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem
  • Xuerong Li – Assessment of the occurrence and distribution of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in surface waters from Everglades
  • Joshua Linenfelser – Monitoring water quality using stable isotope biochemistry in the estuarine zone where Taylor Slough meets with the Florida Bay environment: Algal communities
  • Brian Ng – Non-target Analysis Using High Resolution Mass Spectrometry to Characterize and Remediate Urban Waters: From the Everglades to Biscayne Bay
  • Ikechukwu Onwuka – Minimizing phosphorous loads from increased freshwater deliveries to the Everglades
  • Jonathan Rodemann – Effects of shifting seascapes, salinity gradients, and hypersalinity on the movement and habitat use of Spotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) in Florida Bay
  • Thomas Shannon – Responses of Benthic Diatom Assemblages following Simulated Saltwater and Phosphorus Groundwater Intrusions, in Southeastern FL Everglades
  • Katie Stansbury – Drivers of extracellular polysaccharide production by a mat-forming diatom
  • Kassidy Troxell – Detecting and Identifying Water Contaminants Unique to Specific Sources in the Environment: assessing provenance
  • Rosario Vidales – Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle L.) leaf nitrogen, phosphorus and secondary metabolites in face of nutrient inputs and salinity influence during early stages of Everglades rehydration projects

Meet the 2021 Cristina Menendez Memorial Fellows.

Ongoing Research

  • Phosphorus - Setting the Standard

    It was FIU scientists who advised on limiting phosphorus in the Everglades. 

    Over the last several decades, the Everglades has been threatened by excess nutrients, including phosphorus, that runoff into its waters because of fertilizer use on neighboring lands and other concerns.

    In the 1990s, FIU scientists fought to implement a phosphorus limit for the national park. Excess phosphorus led to the growth of historically absent plants, like cattails, which now crowd out the naturally occurring plant species that are essential to the animals that call the park home. The high levels of nutrients also encouraged greater algal growth and began to pollute the River of Grass' water. By initially limiting the phosphorus levels, our scientists took a huge step in the restoration of the Florida Everglades.

    Today, the levels of phosphorus have been limited even further to 10 parts per billion, and our scientists haven't given up their efforts to continue helping the Everglades in its long journey toward recovery.

  • Water Quality & Environmental Monitoring

    FIU scientists spearheaded one of the few comprehensive Contaminant Assessment and Risk Evaluation projects within the Everglades. In collaboration with the National Park Service, our researchers helped inform resource managers about specific contaminants that may pose a threat to natural resources, as well as evaluate the scope of ecological risk to at-risk ecosystems like Everglades National Park.

    Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment (LILA)

    Dr. Len Scinto, Dr. Rene Price and Dr. Michael Ross lead the Loxahatchee Impoundment Landscape Assessment (LILA) research for FIU. This project, in collaboration with the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, allows our researchers to use the area as a "living laboratory" in an effort to better understand the restoration potential of possible water management decisions.

    Everglades Water Quality

    Preserving water resources goes beyond managing their quantity. Quality of water is key to a resilient, sustainable waterscape. Our environmental analytical chemists are in constant pursuit of novel methodologies and technologies to understand the fate and transport of legacy and emergent contaminants. Drs. Francisco Fernandez-Lima, Piero Gardinali and Natalia Soares-Quinete use mass spectrometry to characterize environmental samples, identify emerging pollutants (like pharmaceuticals and perfluorinated chemicals) and fingerprint water sources to map their influence on receiving ecosystems.

    To learn more about the identification of contaminants and their influence in south Florida please visit our NSF-funded CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment.

  • Hurricane Impacts on the Everglades

    Our researchers have been comparing how different hurricanes influence the national park for over 30 years. We have been studying the impacts that these storms have on Everglades plants, animals and the general ecosystem.

    Hurricane Irma

    Our scientists, Dr. Hong Liu and Dr. Christopher Baraloto, are examining the effects that Hurricane Irma had on epiphytic communities, including endangered orchids, in the Everglades.

    Dr. Edward Castaneda is also studying how Hurricane Irma has left its mark on the national park. He is studying the impact that the storm has on the area's mangrove forestsRead about the project in this FIU News article.

    Other Extreme Events

    Dr. Shimon Wdowinski has used radar and optical remote sensing observations to study the hydrology and ecology of the Everglades. His studies has focused on monitoring surface water level changes throughout the entire Everglades, detection damage and recovery of mangrove forests by extreme weather events, and monitoring salinity changes in area of peat collapse.

    Our researchers have also found that the Everglades has a memory of the trauma brought on by extreme events, including hurricanes. Dr. John Kominoski studies the chemical signature left behind by hurricanes, fires, cold snaps and droughts. He has found that these signatures can linger in the slow-moving water of the Florida Everglades for up to a decade.

  • Saltwater Intrusion

    Institute Director Dr. Todd Crowl often reminds us that "South Floridians will get thirsty before we get wet." He is alluding to the idea that before floods begin to lap at our front doors, the source of our freshwater will suffer from saltwater intrusion - contaminating the Biscayne Aquifer that provides our local potable water. Without appropriate Everglades management, this threat becomes a reality.

    Water Management Solutions to Saltwater Intrusion

    Scientists at the Institute have been studying saltwater intrusion into the Everglades for a few years. 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. Dr. Rene Price and others in our Florida Coastal Everglades LTER program are identifying what the most effective water management solutions would be to solve this issue.

    Peat Collapse

    Studies in peat soils led by Dr. Tiffany Troxler are looking at the impact saltwater intrusion has on carbon storage and on the very survival of sawgrass plants. Our experts have found that the Everglades is seeing increased threats from sea level rise, like peat collapse. We 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.  

    Dr. Mike Ross is investigating how saltwater intrusion impacts the overall vegetative ecosystem of the Everglades, specifically impacts on mangroves. 

    Read this AP News article to learn how we are protecting our River of Grass against climate change.

  • Protecting Plants and Animals in the Everglades

    Our scientists are dedicated to protecting the Florida Everglades and all of the creatures that live there. We are focused on understanding the ecosystem so as to protect and restore it for every organism that relies on the area for survival.

    Protecting Everglades Species

    The ever-changing environment of the Everglades can have dramatic effects on important fish populations. Dr. Jennifer Rehage studies how hydroclimatic variation affects fish and the recreational fisheries they support in the Everglades and throughout South Florida. See how bonefish may be impacted by Everglades habitat fluctuations.

    Even sharks are impacted by a threatened Everglades environment. Bull sharks use the Shark River estuary in the Florida Everglades as a nursery for the first four years of life. It is highly unusual for them to leave this area until they are ready. But our experts found thatwhen danger is afoot, the sharks do run.

    Institute scientists, Dr. Jay Sah and Dr. Michael Ross, are investigating how water management decisions have influenced the species of America's Everglades. 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.

  • Everglades Hydrogeology

    The mechanics of how the Everglades ecosystem works is partly driven by the hydrogeology of the area. Institute researchers, Dr. Rene Price and Dr. Mike Sukop, focus their research on the water cycle of the Everglades. They look at how sea level rise impacts the hydrological processes in the national park, as well as the nutrient cycling of the ecosystem.

    Price's research involves using chemical tracers to identify water sources, groundwater flow and the relationship between groundwater and surface water. 

    Sukop studies the impact that an increased demand of water from urban south Florida areas will have on the Everglades. He uses regional economic modeling tools to forecast population and water use for the near future. With this information, he can hypothesize water consumption and the related possible future water demands on the national park.

  • The Everglades Ecosystem

    There is a lot still left to learn about the Everglades, including how resilient it will be to climate change. Our scientists are answering these questions. 

    Understanding Mangrove Ecosystems

    Dr. Danielle Ogurcak is working to better understand connections between drivers leading to the degradation of mangrove ecosystems in both Rookery Bay (Florida Everglades) and Jobos Bay (Puerto Rico) and the effects on ecosystem services provided to the surrounding communities.

    Dr. Steve Oberbauer works to quantify ecosystem exchanges of CO2, CH4, H2O and energy with the atmosphere in order to identify the effect that our changing environment has on the Florida Everglades. 

    Dr. Sparkle Malone studies the effects of anthropogenic disturbance (water management) and climate change (temperature, precipitation, salinity) on ecosystem structure, function and carbon dynamics in Everglades fresh and brackish water ecosystems. 

    Dr. Evelyn Gaiser, the Institute's esteemed George Barley Endowed Chair, examines variation in algal community structure over long temporal and broad spatial scales. Her research focuses on algae, especially diatoms, which produce 30% of the world’s oxygen and serve as indicators of ecosystem change. Being at the base of aquatic food webs, diatoms act as sentinels of change in the Everglades ecosystem.

Experts on the Everglades

FIU researchers work in all parts of the Everglades and with partners in government, nonprofit organizations and businesses.

Meet Our Experts 

Media seeking interviews should contact Ayleen Barbel or Chrystian Tejedor or browse featured experts.

Support Our Work

Your support allows us to provide the science needed for improved policy and management decisions, helping to ensure a future for the Florida Everglades and other ecosystems.