1 UNF Drive
Building 1, Room 2200
Jacksonville, FL 32224
Phone: (904) 620-5804
Fax: (904) 620-2668
The Environmental Center at the University of North Florida seeks to stimulate the creation of multidisciplinary research projects related to the environment. To achieve this goal, the Environmental Center is leveraging its River Branch endowment to provide funding to faculty in the form of Seed Grants. The grants offered to faculty are intended to “seed” environmentally related research that subsequently results in the preparation and submission of a proposal to an external funding agency that is submitted through the Environmental Center. In addition, the Environmental Center especially hopes to inspire effective collaboration between faculty members and students in diverse disciplines. The Seed Grants are competitively awarded to the most meritorious proposals.
Two Seed Grants for up to $6,000 each will be awarded f
or the 2017 cycle.
The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31, 2016.
2017 Seed Grant Application
Determining Gopher Tortoise Burrow Occupancy Using a Robotic Camera 2010
Voices from the Stream: An Environmental History of the St. Johns River 2009
Dig in! Go Green! Fruit and Vegetable Gardening with Preschoolers 2009
Dr. Kelly Smith, Department of Biology
Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR)
Nicole Llinas, Biology Undergraduate Research Assistant
Retention ponds are ubiquitous in the southeast and play a key role in allowing stormwater to re-enter the groundwater supply; however, these ponds are sources of nutrients that can lead to nuisance algae blooms in recipient waterways. We propose using floating mats planted with Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) to achieve two goals: 1) Reduce nutrient levels in retention ponds through uptake by plant roots, and 2) harvest mature and healthy plants for control of sediment erosion and as habitat for coastal organisms. This collaborative effort between the education group at Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR) lead by Kenneth Rainer and the Department of Biology will merge scientific inquiry with environmental education. Outcomes of the project include: assessment of nutrient uptake in retention ponds, analysis of plant health response to floating mats and subsequent deployment in coastal shorelines, and integration of middle school student participation in plant harvesting and deployment as an environmental science activity.
Dr. Quincy Gibson, Department of Biology
Amber Brown, Biology Graduate Research Assistant
Recent necropsy reports have documented a large number of unexplained deaths among bottlenose dolphins in the St. Johns River, Jacksonville. Moreover, a number of these deaths occurred in low salinity areas of the river that are strong deviations from the residential population's known home ranges. These findings indicate that dolphins are traveling farther upstream into the freshwater, suggesting possible exposure to native toxin producing cyanobacterial blooms. In 2015, two dolphin stranding reports noted the presence of dermal "algal mats." Preliminary microscopic identification of these algal mats revealed the presence of both water mold and cyanobacteria. This combination could potentially provide an explanation for these previously unexplained fatalities. This research will focus on unusual strandings and the effects of freshwater cyanobacterial blooms on the health of dolphins in the St. Johns River.
Dr. Chris K. Johnson, Department of Economics and Geography
Dr. Chiradip Chatterjee, Department of Economics and Geography
Dr. Parvez Ahmed, Department of Accounting and Finance
Dr. Russell Triplett, Department of Economics and Geography
The objective of this study is to examine how measures of socioeconomic background, social capital and media exposure influence the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for water quality improvement. The purpose of this study is threefold: First, we will estimate residents’ monetary valuation for the improvement of tap water quality. Second, we will explain the influence of social capital and other socioeconomic factors on WTP. Finally, since Jacksonville’s tap water quality has attracted both positive and negative media attention, we will investigate to what extent the media attention influenced the monetary valuation for the improvement of tap water quality.
We propose a household phone survey of randomly selected residents in the city of Jacksonville by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at UNF with a target sample size between 500 and 1000 respondents. Students enrolled in Business and Economic Statistics (ECO 3411) will staff the phone bank. This will help to offset costs and offer students practical exposure to data collection procedures and the mechanics of random sampling. Looking ahead, we plan to use this data in support of proposal(s) for external funding for a more detailed in-person survey within the JEA service area and to develop a GIS map of water quality differentials across zip codes.
Dr. Stephen Stagon, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Amy Lane, Department of Chemistry
The U.S. Navy estimates that biofouling increases drag on the hulls of its ships by up to 40%, resulting in an annual cost of over $1 billion. Biofouling occurs through a multi-step process, beginning with the attachment of microorganisms and the formation of a biofilm which larger fouling organisms preferentially attach to. Biofilm formation may be mitigated using two approaches: chemical or mechanical. Chemically, surfaces are coated with a toxic substance that kills the biofilms if they are to attach. This approach is environmentally negative, as the toxins are often non-specific and impact organisms in the entire marine ecosystem. Mechanically, surfaces can be featured in such a way that the biofilm forming microorganisms physically cannot attach or find them non-preferable. While there is literature detailing the interaction of biofilm forming microorganisms on microstructured surfaces there is almost no investigation of the effects of nanostructured surfaces. In this project we aim to investigate the effects of nanofeatured surfaces, being metal nanorods, made of environmentally benign materials on the formation of marine biofilms. This project may result in a novel means of preventing biofilm formation and will serve as preliminary data to attract funding from the Navy or the NSF.
Dr. Curtis Phills
, Department of Psychology
Dr. Paul Fuglestad
, Department of Psychology
Dr. Heather Truelove, Department of Psychology
Climate scientists have a message: anthropogenic climate change and its negative consequences are real (IPCC, 2013). Unfortunately, the presentation of that message has not resulted in a large groundswell of support of pro-environmental initiatives (Gallup, 2014). Part of the reason for this may be that the message on climate change may not resonate with the general public on a motivational level. Regulatory fit theory (Higgins, 2000) proposes that elements of a message can be designed to induce a motivational “fit” such that people perceive the message as more resonant are in turn more likely to follow through with the message’s recommendations. Persuasive messages commonly use either a promotion focus—emphasizing the pursuit of ideals and positive outcomes—or a prevention focus— emphasizing the fulfillment of obligations and the prevention of negative outcomes. When other features of a persuasive appeal (e.g., visual imagery, calls to action) “fit” with the focus of message, persuasion and behavior change are increased. The proposed research will take advantage of the fact that pro- environmental messages tend to be framed in terms of striving for ideals (e.g., Be Green!) or fulfilling obligations (e.g., Don’t Pollute!). Across two laboratory and one field experiment we will investigate the effectiveness of presenting pro-environmental messages in manners designed to induce regulatory fit. We predict that when people view pro-environmental messages that induce regulatory fit they will value the environment more and perform more pro-environmental behaviors. We will also test whether valuing the environment mediates the influence of the messages on behavior.
Dr. Robert L. Thunen, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work
This is a pilot study to examine the environmental, archaeological, historical and cartographic data for information on the St. Johns River from the mouth of the river to the end of Mill Cove (our study area). Specifically, I am interested in what the natural and cultural landscape was like in the year 1564—the year the French arrived and built La Caroline Colony. We start with the fundamentals: to examine maps from recent topographic surveys, then move back investigating earlier maps, ending with maps of the first Spanish Period to get a sense of how much the river’s fundamental hydrology has been impact by dredging, erosion, and soil displacement. Next, we examine the possible locations for the Mocama (Timucua) contact villages based on both the archaeological and historical documents. From there, we begin to seek funding for a multidisciplinary research project focused on reconstructing the natural habitats and ecology of the 16th century. Some of this can be based on archaeological remains of flora and fauna from archaeological sites. In other cases, this will require cooperation across natural science disciplines with discussions about what habitats and species were likely here. The long-term goal is to arrive at a best estimate of the historical ecology similar to what was done in New York City for the Welikia Mannahatta Project.
Drs. Butler and Lambert; Diamondback Terrapins: Filling the Distribution Gaps and Developing Gaps and Developing a Nesting Habitat Index for Northeastern Florida
Drs. Largo-Wight, Guardino, Hall, and Mr. Charles Hubbuch; Cultivating Healthy School Environments: An Outdoor Classroom Pilot Study
Dr. Nicholson; Lead Exposure for Children in Poverty: The Importance of Primary Prevention
Drs. Dinsmore, Parkinson, Zoellner, and Rossi; Using Different Types of Text to Change Beliefs About Environmental Science and Perceptions of Scientific Evidence
Dr. Keith Ashley;
Negotiating the Tides: Shellfish Collecting at the Mill Cove Complex (AD 1000-1250)
Dr. Peter Bacopoulous; Spatial-Temporal Distribution of Beached Oil Tar Balls in Northeast Florida
Dr. Christopher Baynard; Determining Surface Disturbance Patterns Related to Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Activities in West Florida
Drs. Amy Lane and Thomas Mullen; Natural Products as Environmentally Friendly Inhibitors of Aquatic Biofilms
Dr. Heather Truelove; Spillover of Pro-Environmental Behavior
Drs. Katrina Hall, Lunetta Williams & Wanda Hedrick; Earth Matters Book Club: 3rd Graders and UNF Students
Drs. Quincy Gibson & Courtney Hackney; Abundance and Movement Patterns of Bottlenose Dolphins within the Estuaries of Northeast Florida
Dr. Aiyin Jiang; Analysis of Thermal Features in Solar Shingle Roof
Dr. Cliff Ross; Impacts of Salt Water Intrusion on the Physiology and Biochemistry of Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Dr. Bart Welling; Osprey Eco-Films: An Environmental Documentary Series for UNF
Drs. Joe Butler and Alan Harris,
Determining Gopher Tortoise Burrow Occupancy Using a Robotic Camera
Dr. Julie Richmond, Dolphin Photo Identification in the Jacksonville Area
Dr. Tony Rossi, Proposal to Determine the Extent and Severity of Laurel Wilt Disease and the Decline of Redbay Trees on the UNF Campus
Dr. Charles Closmann,
Voices from the Stream:
Environmental History of the St. Johns River
Drs. Cheryl Fountain, Janice Hunter and Rebecca England, Dig In! Go Green! Fruit and Vegetable Gardening with PreSchoolers
Dr. Chris Johnson, Poverty and Homelessness: Improving Disadvantaged Communities through Sustainable, Urban Gardening
Dr. Erin Largo-Wight, The Refinement and Testing of an Instrument to Measure Health-Related Environmental Quality at Work: TheNature Contact Questionnaire
Dr. Cliff Ross, Effects of Environmental Stressors on Seagrass Susceptibility to Infection and Disease
Dr. Joe Butler,
Habitat Restoration Techniques to Enhance a Gopher Tortoise Population on the Campus of University of North
Dr. James Gelsleichter, Multibiomarker Assessment of Fish Health in the Lower St. Johns River
Dr. Lori Lange, Transformational Encounters with the Natural Environment at UNF: Impacts on Environmental Identity, Affective Connectedness and Well-Being
Drs. Michael Lentz and Dale Casamatta, DNA Sequence Analysis of Aquatic Viruses from Lake Oneida
Dr. Daniel Moon, Biological Survey and Assessment of Lakes and Ponds on UNF Campus
Dr. Joe Butler, Department of Biology
Gopher tortoises are listed as a Threatened Species in Florida due to extreme human pressure to develop their habitats coupled with their low natural reproductive potential. Previous researchers have predicted the extinction of this species within the 21st century. I have begun a project with several undergraduate and graduate students in the Pumpkin Hill State Preserve that includes locating and marking tortoise burrows on the 19,000 acre property. The protected status of this environment offers a unique opportunity to study this dwindling species over the long term. I propose to continue the burrow marking through September 2007 and add several other aspects to the work. A simple burrow count will allow us to offer a population estimate. In mid-April we will begin bucket trapping for tortoises several days each week. We will determine the sex, and will weigh, measure, mark and release all captured tortoises. These data will allow us to calculate a sex ratio and estimate the demographics of the population. From mid-May through the end of June we will cease trapping in order to allow tortoises to deposit nests. During that time we will search burrow aprons for nests. If we locate at least 10 or 12 nests, we will cover half of them with nest protectors to deter predators. All will be monitored to determine the extent of nest predation, and the successful ones will be used to determine the incubation period.
Dr. Daniel Cox, Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Joseph Campbell, Mechanical Engineering
Dr. James Fletcher, Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Alexandra Schonning, Mechanical Engineering
Solar Splash has existed for fourteen years under the authority of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the sponsorship of various corporate benefactors. The goal of the competition is to design and build a solar-powered boat that will have a successful balance of speed, agility, and endurance as measured by three different competitions. The competition courses are a sprint, slalom, and distance (endurance) course, each emphasizing different aspects of ship design in a broad range of operating conditions while using solar irradiance as the energy source. Power, length, and stability standards must be adhered to, as well as requiring a technical paper, a presentation, and an inspection of the students' workmanship. The overarching project goal is an introduction to an energy-sustainable design process for the mechanical and electrical engineering students. The students also get a chance to explore alternative energy sources that will help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in a nontraditional application. The project acts as a bridge to the engineering profession and the community in general to show that the use of alternative energy can be fun and exciting and not just a particular choice for the future.At UNF, the project emphasizes the commitment of the School of Engineering to the instruction of "green" engineering to our students. This multiyear project matches the University's commitment to "green education" and interfaces nicely with the JEA Energy Laboratory (under the direction of Dr. James Fletcher), a facility dedicated and funded by JEA to bring "clean and green engineering" projects to the student of the College of Computing, Engineering, and Construction.The present UNF team seeks to establish a multiyear program to design, build, redesign, and modify increasingly competitive entrants to the Solar Splash student design project. It is seeking support (see the Proposed Budget section) from the Environmental Center for the remainder of the 2006-07 academic year, with the recognition that the project will continue for a number of following academic years but using, in those years, its own funding sources. It is believed that by the end of the 2007-08 academic year, the succeeding Solar Splash teams can then sustain the project, in conjunction with the Center, but without needing its direct funding support.
Dr. Nick Hudyma, Civil Engineering
Dr. Tayeb Guima, Electrical Engineering
Dr. Dean Krusienski, Electrical Engineering
Dr. Alan Harris, Electrical Engineering
Retention ponds are routinely constructed to contain runoff rainwater from highway systems. In central Florida, dry retention ponds are often used because the natural sand acts as a filter and the treated runoff rainwater can recharge shallow unconfined aquifers. Since the retention ponds are gravity fed, they must be constructed at a lower elevation than the highway systems. The excavation required for construction brings the bedrock surface closer to the ground surface and increases sinkhole activity. The formation of sinkholes undermines the effectiveness of dry retention ponds and allows unfiltered runoff rainwater to pollute shallow groundwater resources.This collaborative project brings together civil and electrical engineers to design, develop, and test a low-cost, remote sinkhole monitoring system which will incorporate radio-frequency identification technology. The system will be tested in both a laboratory setting and field setting. If sinkhole development can be remotely monitored, crews can be proactive and repair the forming sinkholes before unfiltered water can pollute shallow groundwater resources.
Dr. Janice Hunter,
Florida Institute of Education
Ms. Frances Gupton, The Don Brewer Early Learning and Professional Development Center
The Young Naturalists project focuses on increasing the background knowledge and concept development of 3- and 4-year-old children (n = 55) enrolled in three classes at the Don Brewer Early Learning and Professional Development Center. This study builds on the work of, Novak & Gowin (2004), Zimmerman (2005), Hirsch (2006), and Neuman & Celano (2006) regarding concept mapping, elementary science learning, and the knowledge gap of at-risk, young children. Learning experiences will involve plants and their role in the environment. Instructional activities will include advance organizers or statements of scientific beliefs to guide the children's investigations. Investigations will include activities such as determining the effects of fertilizer on plant growth. Building background knowledge will be emphasized as the children engage in concrete experiences with plants in a butterfly garden to be developed on the center's grounds. Vocabulary development will be emphasized through read aloud activities based on environmental books purchased with grant funds. Concept mapping will be used to document the hierarchical relationships described by the children before, during, and after learning experiences have been initiated. Instructional materials, teacher training materials, and family involvement materials will be made available to other child care centers, especially those in high-needs neighborhoods.
Dr. Dale Casamatta, Department of Biology
Viruses are a ubiquitous and important component of every ecosystem. There are as many as 50,000,000 virus particles in 1 milliliter of seawater. Despite this abundance, we know very little about virus diversity in most ecosystems, and virtually nothing is known of the viral component of the critical aquatic ecosystems of northeast Florida. Recent advances in DNA technology provide new tools to explore virus genetics on a scale not previously possible. This proposal will fund a pilot project for a new initiative at UNF to explore the viral diversity of the aquatic systems of northeast Florida. Our objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of concentrating, cloning, and direct DNA sequencing of virus isolates from local aquatic ecosystems. It is hypothesized that many harmful algal blooms eventually die off through viral infection. A thorough understanding of this component of the ecosystem will be critical for predicting and managing future algal blooms and their potential economic impact. Our long term project will sample the genetic diversity of the viral populations in fresh- and near-shore saltwater ecosystems in northeast Florida.
Dr. Peter M. Magyari, Clinical & Applied Movement Sciences
Mr. Ryan Myers, Eco Adventure
This project is designed to encourage University of North Florida students to experience the natural assets of the UNF campus while increasing physical activity and gaining experience utilizing Environmental Science Technologies in a recreational and educational atmosphere.Health practitioners and academics in Community Health have been lamenting for years about how technological advancements have lead to the reduction in leisure time physical activity in America's youth. Our challenge has been finding ways to utilize technology in a manner that encourages physical activity in a segment of the population that is drawn to technology for their leisure time pursuits. GeoCaching is a widely popular environmental adventure game where players use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology to locate a hidden object (cache) based on its longitude and latitude coordinates. These caches are often located in relatively remote areas that require the player to hike in a short distance and then hike back out again. Players will typically walk several miles in a search session.We propose to offer students the opportunity to check out a OPS unit and pedometer through the Eco Adventures program and complete a questionnaire that relates caches found, information learned, and distance walked during each session.
Dr. Dale Casamatta, Department of Biology
Algae form the basis of nearly all aquatic primary productivity. Further, the algal community composition can significantly impact the rest of the food web, as toxic, noxious or inedible forms cause trophic cascades impacting the rest of the community. Thus, in order to characterize aquatic ecosystems it is imperative that the algal composition be understood. The purpose of this grant proposal is to catalogue the algal community from the water-bodies located in the Sawmill Slough Preserve on campus. To that end we will intensively collect samples from peak growing times (early spring through the summer), and sample more infrequently (monthly) the rest of the year. This project will utilize supervised undergraduate and graduate students and lead to the establishment of a campus aquatic inventory.
Invasive species are second only to habitat destruction as a cause of extinctions of native species in the United States. Invasive species can also have negative economic impacts due to their interactions with economically important native species and with local businesses. Therefore, the monitoring and control of invasive populations is of utmost importance. Within the last six years the Asian green mussel, Perna viridis, has been found in several locations in Florida and Georgia. While it is thought that the spread of P. viridis will be limited due to a lack of tolerable temperatures it is likely to spread throughout Florida where it has the potential to displace local native species such as oysters and other bivalves. Furthermore, Green Mussels are acknowledged fowlers of both sea going ships and the intakes of power plants and other industries. Therefore, it is important to document the spread of these newly established populations.This project has three foci: 1) determine the rate, distance and direction of dispersal of larvae from the currently established populations; 2) determine their reproductive cycle; 3) assess the population genetics of the known populations to determine if they were individually established.
Dr. Dominik Güss, Department of Psychology
This proposal will fund small, personal spending accounts for biology students enrolled in graduate environmental physiology. This course will be taught by me in spring 2006. An understanding of physiology is essential for environmental biologists to predict how organisms might respond to human-made changes in their surroundings. This course will teach these concepts by guiding students through three independent research projects. The first project will be on human walking, which will show the students how the course will be run. The second project will examine osmoregulation, using fluid transport by the tubules of crickets. The rate of water transport by the tubules will be tracked. This experiment setup can be manipulated by introducing salts or drugs into the bathing saline. The third project will examine thermoregulation in fruit flies, in response to either heat shock or caloric restriction. This well-studied system will be used to teach protein quantification. All projects will teach experimental design and scientific writing. This proposal seeks to augment this experience by giving students small accounts with which to finance their own projects. This will permit learning of budgeting limited funds for biological projects, as well as augmenting their knowledge of environmental physiology.
Dr. Dan Moon, Department of Biology
As part of the Preservation Project Jacksonville, the City of Jacksonville is seeking to restore a number of properties in Duval County. One of the properties given highest priority is Betz Tiger Point Preserve in the northeast part of the county. It is the goal of COJ to restore this pine plantation to the "old Florida" habitat that was present before the anthropogenic disturbance. The goal of the proposed project is to accomplish the critical preliminary steps necessary prior to restoration of the site. There are three primary objectives of the proposed research. First, the habitat type that was present prior to establishment of the slash pine plantation will be determined. Second, a local reference site for this habitat type will be identified. Data on plants, animals and soils at the reference site will be collected in order to establish a "target" outcome for the restoration of Tiger Point. Third, soil conditions present at the Tiger Point site will be compared to soil characteristics at the reference site in order to document any amendments or amelioration required prior to initiation of restoration activities.
Dr. Tony Rossi, Department of Biology
The purpose of this project is to assess the ability of native plant communities to act as natural buffers between for storm water runoff between the proposed "eco-friendly" roadway and the Sawmill Slough Conservation Area on the UNF campus. The project will be conducted in four phases: 1) initial assessment of native plant communities along the proposed roadway prior to construction; 2) construction of "test communities" of native semi-aquatic plants to mitigate negative impacts of storm water runoff on surrounding natural communities from the roadway; 3) propagation of plants and 4) establishment of native plant communities along completed roadway and long-term monitoring. This project is multi-year in scope, a "Seed Grant" will allow me to accomplish the first two goals of the project, while applying for additional funding from external sources to accomplish the last two. Moreover, undergraduate biology majors will be allowed to participate on this project, while acquiring field research experience for college credit. As a result, costs for the initial plant diversity study and construction of the experimental test communities will be greatly reduced.
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