Skip to Main Content
Institute of Environmental Research and Education

Faculty Seed Grants

The Institute of Environmental Research and Education (IERE) seeks to stimulate the creation of multidisciplinary research and creative projects related to the environment. IERE Research Seed Grants are intended to "seed" environmentally related research that subsequently results in the preparation and submission of a proposal to an external funding agency. 

The IERE Research Seed Grants are community-supported and funded 100% by donors. Thank our donors, River Branch Foundation and Vulcan Materials Company Foundation, for supporting faculty research and creating student research opportunities. To make a gift to advance environmental research and innovation at UNF, please visit our giving page.

Submission Process

Applications for the 2025 IERE Research Seed Grant cycle will be available in the fall of 2024.  Two grants in the amount of $10,000 will be awarded and funds can be used for the purchase of supplies and equipment, associated travel, publishing fees, student wages and faculty stipends. Proposals are reviewed by a committee of UNF faculty and are competitively awarded to the most meritorious proposals.  

  • 2024

    Carbon Capture and Storage from Landfill Gas using Metal Organic Framework Coupled with Enhanced Weathering with Combustion Residuals

    Florentino B. De La Cruz, Ph.D., Department of Civil Engineering

    Benjamin Williams, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

    Landfill gas, composed of 50% methane and 50% CO2, offers an opportunity for carbon sequestration of up to 67 million metric tons of biogenic CO2 equivalent annually. Our research proposes a process involving metal organic frameworks (MOF) to separate CO2 from landfill gas, followed by its permanent storage by converting CO2 into stable precipitates within metal-containing waste. The process feasibility, both technically and economically, will be evaluated through lifecycle and techno-economic analyses. This proposal contributes to sustainability and climate resiliency in several ways. Firstly, it aligns with the circular economy concept, turning waste into a valuable resource. Secondly, the process will enhance methane purity, crucial for high-energy-density fuel and chemical production. Additionally, the technology will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, aiding in combating climate change. This approach not only attempts to address environmental issues but also holds economic potential, as the carbon market is projected to reach $50 billion by 2030.

    Plan Bee: A Pilot Study Examining a Preschool Curriculum Unit on Bees and its Influence on Children's Learning and Parents' Environmentally Responsible Behaviors

    Adrien Malek-Lasater, Ph.D., Early Childhood Education

    Katrina Hall, Ph.D., Department of Literacy and Early Childhood Literacy

    Erin Largo-Wight, Ph.D., Department of Public Health; Director, Institute of Environmental Research & Education

    Pam Williamson, Ph.D., Department of Special Education

    Heather Barnes Truelove, Ph.D., Department of Psychology

    The project is designed to collect pilot data necessary to apply for an EDU Core Research National Science Foundation Grant on STEM learning. While the larger NSF study will examine a larger curriculum package, the purpose of this seed grant proposal is to collect pilot data to support our NSF application. Specifically, we will develop environmental and age-appropriate curriculum focused on bees to be implemented in two preschools. Next, we will deploy a mixed-methods crossover quasi-experimental design to compare outcomes of the intervention curriculum in both schools. In one school, we will implement the bee-friendly curriculum unit, while the comparison school will be on a waitlist for the intervention and engage as business as usual (e.g., serve as a control for purposes of data collection). Data will be collected pre and post to examine the impact on behavior, attitudes, norms, behavioral intention for those children and parents that experienced the environmental curriculum.

  • 2023

    Experimental Analysis of IrOx pH-Sensors for Embedded Concrete Monitoring at Wastewater or Sewage Stations

    Juan Aceros, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering

    Steve Stagon, Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering

    Adel ElSafty, Ph.D., Civil Engineering

    Sewage treatment stations, industrial wastewater, acid rain, and other chemically and biologically aggressive environments, are usually built using cementitious materials. The durability of these materials in such aggressive environments has been investigated and their degradation characterized. This deterioration is highly dependent on pH and accelerated at lower levels. It is therefore of great importance to monitor the pH level across these cement-based structures in-situ. Well suited embedded sensors that are mechanically robust, chemically stable, minimally invasive and inexpensive are needed for this task. In this work, we proposed the development of Iridium Oxide (IrOx) pH sensors based on sputtered IrOx films. Sputtered IrOx films are chemically robust, fast, and easy to miniaturize and fabricate in various shapes and sizes appropriate for remote embedding. Building on previous knowledge, this work aims to develop fundamental process-performance knowledge for sputtered IrOx sensors to enable their deployment in real-world applications critical to environmental infrastructure.

    Leveraging the local: quantifying and communicating wetland climate resilience at UNF

    Scott F. Jones, Ph.D., Department of Biology

    Kailan Sindelar, Ph.D., Department of English

    Christopher Baynard, Ph.D., Department of Economics and Geography

    Robert Richardson, ITS Campus Technology Services

    Climate change is the defining interdisciplinary issue of our time. For coastal ecosystems, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion are especially pressing climate impacts, but these issues are often difficult to visualize and communicate to the public. Further, predicting local climate impacts requires site-specific data that is currently lacking for many wetlands in northeast Florida. We propose to initiate long-term wetland climate resilience monitoring at two sentinel UNF properties connected within the Pablo Creek watershed: freshwater swamp on main campus and saltwater marsh on the Webb tract along the intracoastal waterway. This monitoring will leverage UNF’s unique location and faculty expertise to quantify and clearly communicate wetland resilience to climate change using ecological (wetland surface elevation change), geographical (remotely sensed imagery), and rhetorical (virtual reality) approaches. Ultimately, this project will provide the foundation for future work understanding wetland climate resilience for UNF and the broader northeast Florida region.

  • 2022

    Do the “forever chemicals” pose significant health risks to human and aquatic wildlife populations in northeast Florida? 

    Jim Gelsleichter, Ph.D., Department of Biology

    Amber Barnes, Ph.D., Department of Public Health

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    Because of their ubiquity and persistence in the environment and ability to cause harmful effects at low exposure levels, concerns about the environmental risks of the widely used chemicals known as the per- and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) has recently become one of the most important global issues pertaining to water pollution. Notwithstanding this, much remains to be learned about the levels of PFAS exposure in human and wildlife populations so that the threats posed by these chemicals can be properly evaluated. We propose to conduct an interdisciplinary study that examine the risks that PFAS contamination pose to the First Coast, by measuring PFAS concentrations in northeast Florida fish populations and Jacksonville residents. We will accomplish this by collaborating with University of Florida researchers who have extensive experience in the analysis of PFAS in human and animal samples, and are currently conducting a statewide assessment of PFAS levels in Florida waters.

    Field analysis of pervious oyster shell habitat (posh) erosion mitigation performance

    Raphael Crowley, Associate Professor, Taylor Engineering Research Institute

    Kelly J. Smith, Associate Professor, Department of Biology

    William R. Dally, Professor, Taylor Engineering Research Institute

    Funding provided by Vulcan Materials Company Foundation

    Northeast Florida is home to several historically significant sites along its coast including the Timucuan Preserve (TIMU) and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM-NERR). Each of these sites is badly eroding due to boat wake action. In recent years, proposed Co-PI Smith developed pervious oyster shell habitats (POSH) as a method to reduce wake energy and subsequent shoreline erosion. Several of these POSH units have been installed along the mid intertidal zone at TIMU and GTM-NERR. This proposed project involves quantifying wave energy reduction associated with these POSH units as well as using stationary video capture to assess usage of POSH units by predatory fishes. The work will give several engineering and biology students the opportunity to conduct field work in a multidisciplinary environment and represents a significant collaboration between coastal engineers from the Taylor Engineering Research Institute (TERI) and biologists from our flagship Coastal Biology Program. If successful, the work proposed herein should result in at least one peer-reviewed journal publication and significant opportunities for additional funding.

  • 2021

    Forest Fire Tracking using Machine Learning and Thermal Imaging from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

    Dr. John Nuszkowski, School of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering)

    Dr. Alan Harris, School of Engineering (Electrical Engineering)

    Funding provided by the River Branch Foundation

    Wildfires are devastating due to the environmental concerns from the destruction of land, the significant release of greenhouse gases, and considerable emission of particulate matter that is concerning to public health. Improvements in wildfire detection, tracking, mitigation, and modeling would lessen the environmental impact from wildfires. The objective of this proposed work is to develop a wildfire tracking algorithm, using machine learning (ML), that is based on thermal imaging captured from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The ML algorithm will be a neural network (NN) model based on object detection for tracking the fire front. Thermal images will be captured by the research team’s UAV on terrain without a fire, with firepit(s), and with a prescribed burn. 

    Hydrogeological considerations for sinkhole development in the Silver Springs recharge basin in Marion County, Florida.

    Dr. Ryan Shamet, Civil Engineering

    Funding provided by the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation

    The Silver Springs state park in Marion County has played a tremendous role in the development of Central Florida’s national image of beautiful natural resources and unique eco-tourism attractions. However, with an increase in urbanization in the surrounding area, the groundwater emitted from Silver springs has seen a drastic increase in pollutant concentrations, in turn severely affecting the water quality and ecosystems within the silver river. A major contributing role for the increase in groundwater pollutants is the increase in sinkhole occurrences within the recharge basin for the springs. Sinkholes essentially provide a “direct connect” to the Floridian aquifer, allowing nutrient-rich surface water to enter the aquifer without any natural filtering or biological degradation processes. This study will investigate the influences of subsurface conditions to sinkhole formation within the area surrounding silver springs through implementing insitu soil laboratory testing and numerical modeling. This information will greatly benefit future decision making when designing stormwater management structures (i.e., ponds or roadway swales) to ensure less potential of pollutant groundwater entering the aquifer and deviating Silver Spring’s fragile environment. 

  • 2020

    Water and Disease in Florida: A Look Back as a Way Forward

    Dr. Amber N. Barnes, Department of Public Health

    Funding provided by Vulcan Materials Company Foundation

    Waterborne diseases, water-based toxins, and water-related vector-borne diseases are a significant cause of the reportable diseases and conditions influencing the health and well-being of residents of Northeast Florida and other regions of the state. Health care practitioners are required to report these cases to their county health department for public health patient tracking and outbreak response. These cases are input into the state’s Merlin system and the public can access monthly surveillance reports. However, a large-scale analysis on pathogen circulation among Florida residents over time has not been conducted. In addition, there has been no systematic reviews conducted on the animal and environmental reservoirs of these same pathogens throughout the state. This study will take a One Health approach to investigate the historical reports and trends of waterborne, water-based, and water-related diseases of public health importance that have been found in Northeast Florida residents, domestic animals and wildlife, and environments.

    Simulation and Assessment of Extreme Storm Events for Four Watersheds in the Lower St. Johns River, Florida USA

    Dr. Christopher J. Brown, School of Engineering 

    Samantha Kovalenko, Graduate Student, School of Engineering

    Funding provided by Vulcan Materials Company Foundation

    Currently, faculty and students from the UNF Civil Engineering Program are developing a comprehensive, coupled water resources model of the entire St. Johns River basin. The simulation model couples hydrologic models of more than 100 sub-basins in the watershed to the main stem of the St. Johns River and links the river itself to the Atlantic Ocean so that combined extreme flood events including the effects of rainfall, storm surge, tide, urbanization, and sea level rise can be evaluated. This study will use existing data, HSPF simulation models, and analytical methods to estimate the extreme water flows emanating from four of the sub-basins in the Lower St. Johns River watershed. The study will examine the 10, 25, 50, and 100-year return frequency rainfall events and the resulting flood flows from the same in the Black Creek, Julington/Durban Creek, Ortega Creek, and Upper Pablo Creek.

    Public Opinion on Climate Change: Assessing the Impact of Personal Experience

    Dr. Josh Gellers, Department of Political Science and Public Administration

    Dr. Enrijeta Shino, Department of Political Science and Public Administration

    Dr. Heather Barnes Truelove, Department of Psychology

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    Does personal experience with environmental hazards moderate the relationship between attitudes and political behavior? Research has shown that attitudes towards the environment are affected by many aspects of a person’s identity, including age, education, morals, political ideology, religious beliefs, sex, and values. Further, a person’s environmental attitudes influence his/her level of support for environmental policy. Climate change is a serious environmental issue that requires a timely policy response. Florida is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as sea level rise and more intense hurricanes. Interestingly, recent research shows that personal experience with environmental issues may affect support for environmental policies. Less is known about how these experiences affect political decisions that have implications for the environment, such as vote choice. Given Florida’s exposure to climate change-related events, it presents an ideal testing ground for assessing how personal experience with these occurrences might shape attitudes and subsequent voting behavior.

  • 2019

    Distribution of Diamondback Terrapins in Coastal Georgia

    Dr. Joseph Butler, Department of Biology

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    I propose to survey the saltmarshes of Georgia for diamondback terrapin populations and nesting sites so they can be managed and protected in the future. As long-lived vertebrates living at the interface of the marine and shoreline habitats, terrapins can serve as a sentinel species as coastlines succumb to sea level rise. Terrapins suffer mortality in crab traps and lose nesting habitat to shoreline development for homes and seawalls. In Georgia over 100 creeks and numerous barrier islands offer terrapin habitat, however few published terrapin accounts exist from there. Eight undergraduates will assist with data collection from the boat during four separate field trips in 2019. The ultimate goal is to investigate the entire Georgia coastline, a quest we began in 2015. In 2019, we will survey from St. Andrew Sound south to the Georgia - Florida border. Undergraduates will co-author publications and/or presentations and use their data for Senior Seminar.

    Durable and Environmentally Sensible Materials for Oyster Reef Restoration

    Dr. Craig Hargis, College of Computing, Engineering & Construction

    Dr. Kelly Smith, Department of Biology

    Funding provided by Vulcan Materials Company Foundation

    Oyster reef restorations often incorporate recycled materials, such as oyster shells or derelict crab pots, into their design, which is desirable from an industrial ecology point of view. However, an often-unintended consequence of this material reuse is the premature failure of the oyster reef scaffolding due to poor structural detailing or improper material selection by researchers who are experts in aquatic biology, but not experts in materials science or engineering. This research project seeks to bridge biology, engineering, and materials science disciplines and develop oyster reef substrates, which are both durable and environmentally friendly. If the external grant is funded, a series of oyster reef substrates utilizing recycled oyster shells and derelict crab pots will be constructed and then deployed in the William C Webb Coastal Research Station. Material samples from pre- and postdeployment will then be analyzed at the Materials Science and Engineering Research Facility to understand how the materials perform in intertidal zones. If the external funding is not secured, the project will be scaled down to look at performance of model structures in the environment.

    American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) distribution across an urban landscape

    Dr. Adam Rosenblatt, Department of Biology

    Eli Beal, M.S. Graduate Student

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    Urbanization is increasing at a rapid rate across the southeast U.S., yet our understanding of the ecological effects of such change is still rudimentary. One major way that urbanization may affect ecological systems is through changes in the distribution and abundance of large top predators, but little research on this issue has been done. To address this knowledge gap, I am proposing to begin a research program that monitors the distribution and abundance of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) within a major urban area: Jacksonville, FL. I will survey alligator populations within nine tributaries of the lower St. Johns River (characterized by a gradient of urbanization) across four seasons to determine how land use and seasonality influence alligator habitat use and population density. The results of this research will help inform alligator management strategies within urban areas and increase our understanding of the ecology of this iconic species in a rapidly changing world. This project will also create field research opportunities for UNF graduate and undergraduate students, and the results can be used to educate the public about the potential effects of human activities on local wildlife.

    Student Driven Design and Implementation of a Solar Powered Watering System and Educational Display at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens

    Dr. Stephen Stagon, School of Engineering

    Dr. Anthony Rossi, Department of Biology

    Funding provided by Vulcan Materials Company Foundation

    This grant, in conjunction with a UNF Transformational Learning Opportunity Grant, supports an interdisciplinary team of five Biology and five Engineering students working under the guidance of Dr. Tony Rossi (Professor of Biology) and Dr. Stephen Stagon (Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering) to conceptualize, design, and build a solar powered watering system for a native flower display at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens (JAG). The watering system meets a critical need for JAG, as watering is currently performed via "bucket brigade" by JAG volunteers. The watering system will draw water from the pond via a submerged pump and will transport it to a reservoir near the flower beds. The reservoir will serve as the backdrop for an educational display that the students will create about the watering system and solar energy. Students involved in this project will gain experience in a real interdisciplinary project with a community partner.

  • 2018

    Living on the Leading Edge of an Expanding Range: Examining the Physiological Response of Mangrove Species to Temperature and Environmental Change

    Dr. Michael Aspinwall, Department of Biology

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    Climate warming is causing rapid changes in saltmarsh and mangrove plant communities. Freezing temperatures have historically restricted the distribution of mangrove species to parts of south Florida. Yet, warmer temperatures have facilitated the northward expansion of mangroves, resulting in a parallel reduction in saltmarsh habitat. This project aims to examine the physiological mechanisms involved in mangrove species northward expansion. In particular, this project will determine whether mangrove species growing at the leading edge of an expanding range vary in thermal acclimation of key physiological processes (photosynthesis and respiration), and whether salinity and nutrient availability modify mangrove physiological responses to temperature. The project will take place at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM-NERR), and will involve a factorial experiment with three mangrove species, two salinity levels, and two nutrient levels. This project will improve our understanding of mangrove responses to temperature, as well as predictions of mangrove range expansion in response to future climate.

    Bench-Scale Testing of Microbial Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP) Treated Sand Dune

    Dr. Raphael Crowley, School of Engineering

    Matthew Davies, Department of Chemistry

    Dr. Terri Ellis, Department of Biology

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    Sand dunes are often the primary means of protection from hurricane storm surge and associated wave action. However, dunes are highly erodible and do a relatively poor job of protecting the coast when compared with other coastal protection measures such as seawalls, bulkheads, or revetments. It would be beneficial to develop a sustainable rapid-deployment system that could be used to strengthen the dunes just prior to a hurricane. Microbial-induced calcite precipitation (MICP) is one technology that would appear to be suitable for such an application. A study is proposed whereby synthetic bench-scale dunes will be built in UNF's new wave basin, (basin will be completed by December 2017), treated via MICP, and subjected to wave action. Erosion will be quantified by measuring the dunes' profiles, and results from treated dunes will be compared with results from untreated dunes to determine erosion improvement.

    Exploring Ecological, Morphological, and Molecular Aspects of Cyanobacterial Communities Isolated From Ichetucknee Springs, Branford, FL

    Dr. Dale Cassamatta, Department of Biology

    Alyssa Garvey, Biology Graduate Research Assistant

    Funding provided by Vulcan Materials Company Foundation

    Anthropogenic nutrient pollution has led to an increase in harmful algal blooms in recent years, with an increase in both eukaryotic algae and cyanobacteria. Cyanobacterial blooms can be of particular concern due to their ability to produce toxins. Because of the ability for cyanobacterial blooms to occur in both freshwater and marine habitats, characterizing species composition of these communities in areas of high social and economic importance is crucial to limiting potential exposure. This project aims to characterize cyanobacterial communities isolated from Ichetucknee Springs in order to document and inform the public of potential exposure to any toxin-producing species.

    Perception of Drinking Water Quality in the City of Jacksonville, FL: The Influence of Consumer Location Within the Distribution System

    Dr. Chiradip Chatterjee, Department of Economics and Geography 

    Dr. Russell Triplett, Department of Economics and Geography

    Dr. Christopher K. Johnson, Department of Economics and Geography

    Dr. Chung-Ping A. Loh, Department of Economics and Geography

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    We received a UNF Environmental Center Seed Grant in 2016 to conduct a telephone survey designed to assess the willingness-to-pay for improvements in the quality of drinking water among local residents. The findings from that project suggest the need for follow-up research designed to fully explore the role of information, outreach and public awareness in water usage within the community. As part of this proposal and study design we have been collaborating with officials from JEA to widen the reach of a survey that includes more detailed questions regarding usage, information availability, information processing, trust in institutions, health history, demographics and geography. With the cooperation of JEA, we will pair the survey responses with administrative data on water usage. Using regression methods, we will (1) estimate the determinants of perceived quality of tap water, and then, conditional on (1), (2) estimate the determinants of water usage in the home.

  • 2017

    Spartina alterniflora Floating Nurseries: Growing Plants to Reduce Nutrient Loading and Enhance Coastal Shoreline Restoration

    Dr. Kelly Smith, Department of Biology

    Kenneth Rainer, Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR)

    Nicole Llinas, Biology Undergraduate Research Assistant

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    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.

    Correlating Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) strandings to cyanobacterial and cyanotoxin exposure in the St. Johns River, Jacksonville

    Dr. Quincy Gibson, Department of Biology

    Amber Brown, Biology Graduate Research Assistant

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    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.

  • 2016

    Willingness to Pay for Safe Drinking Water: A Contingent Valuation Study in the City of Jacksonville, Florida

    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

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    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.

    Metallic Nanorods as Effective Environmentally Benign Biofilm Inhibitors

    Dr. Stephen Stagon, School of Engineering

    Dr. Amy Lane, Department of Chemistry

    Funding provided by River Branch Foundation

    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.

  • 2015

    Should we 'Go Green!' or 'Police Pollution': Using Regulatory Fit Theory to Craft Effective Pro-Environmental Messages

    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.

    In the Land of Mocama: Environmental and Cultural History of 1564

    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.

  • 2014

    Diamondback Terrapins: Filling the Distribution Gaps and Developing Gaps and Developing a Nesting Habitat Index for Northeastern Florida

    Dr. Joseph A. Butler, Department of Biology

    Dr. J. David Lambert, Department of Building Construction

    The Diamondback Terrapins is the only species of turtle in North America that prefers the brackish water habitat, and it ranges from Cape Cod all the way to Corpus Christi. Throughout its range if shares this habitat with blue crabs, a situation that leads to thousands of terrapins drowning in blue crab traps each year. A further threat is habitat loss due to coastal development. When houses and seawalls are built on terrapin nesting and foraging areas these turtles are subjected to inferior habitats and often perish rather than adapting. For at least a decade researchers have been searching for terrapin nesting areas and population concentrations throughout the range, the idea being that once critical areas are identified they can be protected. Since 1995 I (JAB) have studied terrapins in northeastern Florida and I have data on populations in Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, and Flagler counties. My data set, however, is not continuous and there are miles of shorelines and tidal creeks that I have yet to survey in those counties. My plan is to "connect the dots" so that the entirety of the four northeastern counties is surveyed for diamondback terrapins, a linear distance of about 100 miles. As I have from the start, I will work with Dr. David Lambert of CCEC and his students to produce ArcGIS maps of the areas demonstrating where terrapins are concentrated. Further, we will develop a nesting habitat suitability index to predict where terrapins will be. By comparing satellite images and high resolution aerial photographs of known terrapin nesting habitats with other areas we have not surveyed we hypothesize that various characteristics such as vegetation patterns and sandy beaches will lead us to nesting spots. If this proves to be the case it will be of benefit to terrapin researchers throughout the range.

    Cultivating Healthy School Environments: An Outdoor Classroom Pilot Study

    Dr. Erin Largo-Wight, Department of Public Health

    Dr. Caroline Guardino, Department of Exceptional, Deaf, and Interpreter Education

    Dr. Katrina Hall, Department of Childhood Education, Literacy, and TESOL

    Chuck Hubbuch, UNF Physical Facilities

    This study focuses on cultivating the school environment through the implementation of an outdoor classroom to foster health and learning among children. Findings across multiple fields suggest that regular "nature contact" strengthens cognitive abilities and facilitates health outcomes. Outdoor classrooms are an emerging application of these findings. The goal of this study is to enhance an existing outdoor classroom and measure its impact on children's health and learning compared to an indoor classroom. An experimental crossover design will be used at a local elementary school. For each participating class, the treatment condition will consist of using the outdoor classroom for one STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and literacy lesson per week over the four-week pilot study. The control condition will consist of one matched lesson per week in the indoor classroom. Each week student learning and well-being data will be collected via child and teacher surveys and researcher observation in the treatment (outdoor classroom) and control (indoor classroom) conditions. Independent t-test analyses will be utilized to compare student learning and well-being between the treatment and control conditions. Feasibility and practicality of using the outdoor classroom will also be measured via teacher survey and descriptive data will be reported. We expect better health and learning-related outcomes in the outdoor classroom treatment condition compared to the control condition.

    Lead Exposure for Children in Poverty: The Importance of Primary Prevention

    Dr. Jody S. Nicholson, Department of Psychology

    Parents are front-line defenders for their children's health, protecting them from exposure to environmental neurotoxins such as lead. With this belief, my research focuses on the development of interventions that improve parental knowledge of lead exposure risk to lower children's blood lead levels. With adequate knowledge of how to construct a low-risk environment, parents should be able to minimize their children's blood lead levels. My interventions target low-income families whose children demonstrate lead levels above average, but below what is considered lead poisoning (i.e., between 3-9.9 mg/dl). The Centers for Disease Control is encouraging primary prevention (i.e., prevention of occurrence before adverse effects) efforts for children within this range, as there are still adverse consequences of lower levels of exposure, but less programming and research devoted to this range as compared to children considered lead poisoned (BLL > 10). As a developmental psychologist, I focus on factors that could enhance or limit a parent's ability to incorporate knowledge into changes in health behavior and, consequently, reduced biological indicators of exposure in their children. For example, personal and social factors such as self-efficacy, stress, and financial or educational constraints may constrain the effectiveness of an education-based intervention for some parents.

    Using Different Types of Text to Change Beliefs About Environmental Science and Perceptions of Scientific Evidence

     Dr. Daniel L Dinsmore, Department of Foundations and Secondary Education

    Dr. Meghan M. Parkinson, Department of Foundations and Secondary Education

    Dr. Brian P. Zoellner, Department of Foundations and Secondary Education

    Dr. Anthony M. Rossi, Department of Biology

    While scientific evidence exists to help solve many environmental issues, this scientific evidence is often either ignored or misunderstood. The purpose of this project is to investigate how and why scientific evidence is either ignored or misunderstood. We propose to investigate how readers comprehend messages about scientific evidence with different types of text (informational, persuasive, and narrative). Additionally, this project will examine how scientific habits of mind, prior knowledge, and interest may affect an individual's ability to understand the scientific evidence presented about environmental topics. Using structural equation modeling we will test the effects of type of text on comprehension, the role of individual differences (e.g., scientific habits of mind) on comprehension, and the interaction of type of text and individual differences on comprehension. This project brings together a multi-disciplinary team from the Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences in addition to funding two undergraduate research assistants. Findings from this project will be disseminated in both conferences and journals, as well as used to develop a grant proposal in which an intervention will be designed to change scientific habits of mind for better comprehension of scientific evidence in the general public.

  • 2013

    Negotiating the Tides: Shellfish Collecting at the Mill Cove Complex (AD 1000-1250)

    Dr. Keith Ashley, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

    One-thousand years ago Native Americans in present-day Jacksonville lived off the natural bounty of the salt marsh-estuary ecosystem. Their villages, camps, and resource procurement sites were placed in locations that afforded ready access to daily life-sustaining caloric resources in the form of fish, shellfish, reptiles, and land mammals. Wild plants, nuts, and fruits were procured, but farming was not practiced. The UNF Archaeology Lab is committed to research that highlights how local Native Americans interacted with their natural environment. Of utmost importance to reconstructing past Native American lifeways in the St. Johns River estuary is determining specifically where Natives were living and what foods they were targeting at different times in the year. I believe the best way to address this is empirically through seasonality studies on biological materials recovered from archaeological sites.

    Spatial-Temporal Distribution of Beached Oil Tar Balls in Northeast Florida

    Dr. Peter Bacopoulos, Taylor Engineering Research Institute

    The proposal is to design and implement a coupled field campaign and numerical modeling strategy for understanding the spatial-temporal distribution of beached oil tar balls in northeast Florida. The project is scaled and scoped to serve as a seed for a larger study in the future that would involve external funding. The seed grant, if awarded, would enable the formation of an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students from UNF. The interdisciplinary basis of the pilot project would be the integration of coastal engineering and environmental chemistry. UNF students involved with the pilot project would include one graduate student in coastal engineering and one undergraduate student in environmental chemistry. The objective of the pilot project would be to establish the coupling of a field campaign with a numerical model to study the transport dynamics and sources of beached oil tar balls along the northeast Florida coast. Tangible outcome would include spatial-temporal maps of distributed beached oil tar balls along the northeast Florida coast plus the storage and custody of field-collected beached oil tar balls. Additional outcome would include the coupled field-modeling approach itself plus the experience of its preliminary application in northeast Florida and ways to improve on the approach.

    Determining Surface Disturbance Patterns Related to Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Activities in West Florida

    Dr. Chris Baynard, Department of Economics and Geography

    The purpose of this study is to understand the role of oil and gas exploration and production activities on land-use and land-cover change in west Florida. The goal is to map the patterns and quantify the extent of surface disturbance related to OEPA over time in Santa Rosa County using remote sensing and GIS techniques.

    Natural Products as Environmentally Friendly Inhibitors of Aquatic Biofilms

    Dr. Amy Lane, Department of Chemistry

    Dr. Thomas Mullen, Department of Chemistry

    This proposal describes efforts to study naturally occurring molecules as environmentally friendly inhibitors of undesirable biofilms. Biofilms are microorganisms embedded in a coating that facilitates surface adherence. Thick biofilms form on myriad aquatic surfaces, negatively impacting the function of these surfaces. Organic molecules are often employed to eliminate biofilms, but the majority of these chemicals pose serious environmental consequences as they are toxic not only to biofilm-forming organisms, but also to a broad community of aquatic creatures. Hence, there is a strong need for molecules that inhibit biofilm formation without impacting aquatic community health. Natural products, molecules produced by living things, are hypothesized to hold immense untapped potential as non-toxic, environmentally friendly biofilm inhibitors; the Lane and Mullen research groups possess over 150 marine natural product mixtures. The goal of this study is to explore these natural molecules as non-toxic biofilm inhibitors through interdisciplinary methods capitalizing on the complementary expertise of Dr. Lane in natural products chemistry and Dr. Mullen in atomic force microscopy-based surface imaging. This project may afford novel non-toxic methods to control biofilms, mitigating their negative environmental and economic consequences. This study will offer preliminary data for an NSF grant application and provide undergraduate research opportunities.

    Spillover of Pro-Environmental Behavior

    Dr. Heather Truelove, Department of Psychology

    In recent years, hundreds of programs have been implemented in the US to encourage residents to adopt pro-environmental behaviors. An implicit assumption among program designers is that the adoption of one pro-environmental action positively spills over to (increases) the adoption of additional pro-environmental actions. Yet, others have warned that promoting pro-environmental behavior change could lead to negative spillover effects in which the adoption of one pro-environmental action leads to a reduction in other pro-environmental actions or reduced support for comprehensive policy measures. Despite these assumptions, relatively little research supports either effect. Instead, research has produced mixed results, with evidence for both positive and negative spillover effects. Furthermore, research has been limited by a reliance on correlational designs and limited investigation into the psychological factors that explain and constrain these effects. The proposed research will involve the training of UNF students to conduct lab-based and web-based experimental studies to examine (1) the existence of positive and negative spillover effects within a diverse set of pro-environmental actions and support for pro-environmental policies, and (2) the psychological and situational conditions that give rise to positive vs. negative spillover effects. This research has significant implications for environmental policymaking and environmental interest groups.

  • 2012

    Abundance and Movement Patterns of Bottlenose Dolphins within the Estuaries of Northeast Florida

    Dr. Courtney Hackney, Department of Biology

    Dr. Quincy Gibson, Department of Biology

    In 2009, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recognized two estuarine stocks (i.e. populations) of bottlenose dolphins along the east coast of Florida: the Indian River Lagoon stock and the Jacksonville stock. The dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon have been the subject of extensive long ‐ term study. However, dolphins in the Jacksonville area have received relatively little research attention. In March 2011, UNF initiated a long ‐ term dolphin monitoring program to fill this knowledge gap and provide much needed data on the dolphins inhabiting the St. John's River. However, important questions remain, especially regarding the size and geographical boundaries of the Jacksonville dolphin population. These questions cannot be answered without expanding our research efforts beyond the river. In recognition of the need for larger ‐ scale coordinated research efforts to address these questions, a Northeast Florida Dolphin Research Consortium was recently established. The primary goal of the following research proposal is to partially fund UNF's participation in a large ‐ scale collaborative effort to determine the abundance and movement patterns of bottlenose dolphins throughout the estuaries of the Northeast Florida region. This project will enhance the research opportunities for students by enabling them to experience the collaborative nature of science first ‐ hand.

    Earth Matters Book Club: 3rd graders and UNF students

    Dr. Katrina Hall, Department of Childhood Education

    Dr. Lunetta Williams, Department of Childhood Education

    Dr. Wanda Hedrick, Department of Childhood Education

    The Earth Matters Book Club partners 3rd grade children from Tiger Academy, a YMCA charter school situated in Jacksonville's northwest, economically disadvantaged area (32209 zip code), with UNF College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) undergraduate students. UNF buddies will read nonfiction books focused on Florida Sunshine State Standard SC.3.L15 Diversity and Evolution of Living Organisms: A. The earth is home to a great diversity of living things, but changes in the environment can affect their survival, with a focus on conserving Earth's natural resources. UNF undergraduate "buddies" will partner with 3rd graders to discuss the books and complete extension activities based on the science standards. The children will plan a related project with their UNF buddy to present at a "family science literacy" night held at the Tiger Academy. The UNF students will assist in developing science and literacy activities for family night that parents can later replicate at home. Results will be measured through increases in children's vocabulary knowledge (pre and post testing), reading engagement levels, and results from surveys given to the UNF students, the children, the teachers, and caregivers about their increase in knowledge as a result of the book club and family night.

    Analysis of Thermal Features and Energy Performance of Solar Shingle Roof

    Dr. Aiyin Jiang, Department of Building Construction Management

    Dr. Gerald Merckel, School of Engineering

    Dr. Daniel Cox, School of Engineering

    Our long-term objective at UNF is to set up a research program of sustainable building and infrastructure system, which serves the community of the university and Florida as environment-friendly and energy-saving construction technology resources. Our immediate interest is to apply next generation roofing material – solar shingles - to buildings to turn buildings from energy consumers to energy generators. Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells, capturing sunlight and transforming it into electricity. However, solar shingle requires a roof substratum that can handle a large amount of heat gain as compared to conventional shingle. More heat gain from solar shingle roof increases attic and building cooling loads and reduce roof durability. The proposal will conduct an experiment by applying electrical sensors to a mockup roof to collect data and analyze the temperature profile, roof temperature fluctuation, and heat flow of solar shingle roof. It will also analyze the electricity generated by the solar shingle roof, and identify the energy savings from solar shingle roof and extra heating and cooling loads from solar shingle roof. The results of the research will enrich the thermal feature studies in solar shingle roofs, and promote thermally efficient, economically viable, and structurally sound next generation roofing materials.

    Impacts of Salt Water Intrusion on the Physiology and Biochemistry of Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)

    Dr. Cliff Ross, Department of Biology

    Bald cypress-based ecosystems are among the most important wetland habitats found in the southern United States. These habitats, along Northeast Florida are currently being subjected to physiological stress by saltwater intrusion. While there is an increasing awareness of the effects of global climate change on coastal ecosystems, the physiological responses and salt tolerance of bald cypress have not been thoroughly explored. To date, there have been no studies describing the precise physiological mechanisms employed by Bald Cypress that allow them to endure short periods under hypersaline exposure. Furthermore, the analysis of selected metabolites and/or proteins produced in a physiological stress response can provide a simple and inexpensive means to measure the onset and magnitude of sublethal stress the plant is experiencing. Thus, stress "biomarkers" can be used to determine the actual onset of salinity stress, providing more precision than simply observing post hoc cypress reductions. The goal of this proposed research is to understand how elevated salinity influences bald cypress health and to quantify the impact of salt exposure using metabolic response measurements as stress indicators. This information can provide physiological threshold values that can be used by resource managers to identify deleterious habitat alterations for bald cypress in estuaries.

    Osprey Eco-Films: An Environmental Documentary Series for UNF

    Dr. Bart Welling, Department of English

    As the critical and commercial success of An Inconvenient Truth (2006) demonstrated, environmental documentaries have come a long way from their humble origins on the margins of the film industry. In my experience, however, too few of our students and fellow citizens of the First Coast seem to know that the eco-documentary genre even exists. I am applying for an Environmental Center seed grant to help change this situation by designing UNF's first-ever environmental film series (for March and April, 2012), which could serve as the foundation for an annual environmental film festival. Not only would I use the grant to sponsor free public screenings of five critically-acclaimed documentaries on crucial environmental topics (food, energy, oceans, extinction, and sustainability), but I would invite students, faculty members, and community experts to serve on panels associated with each film. I would also create a Web site both to advertise the films and to promote discussion of them. Finally, depending on his availability, I would use part of the grant to host Curt Ellis, one of the stars/directors of King Corn (2008), at the screening of his film, and in at least one meeting with students.

  • 2011

    Determining Gopher Tortoise Burrow Occupancy Using a Robotic Camera

    Dr. Joe Butler, Department of Biology

    Dr. Alan Harris, Electrical Engineering

    We propose to build and field test a robotic camera to determine occupancy of burrows by gopher tortoises. Tortoise researchers and land managers typically estimate tortoise population numbers using a count of the burrows rather than counting every tortoise present. Sometimes tortoises utilize more than one burrow at a time, in which case the number of burrows would overestimate the tortoise number. On other occasions tortoises may share burrows with others, which would cause a straight burrow count to underestimate the number of tortoises. To account for such problems earlier researchers devised a correction factor of 0.614 which the burrow number would be multiplied by for a population estimate. Others have questioned this correction factor and have argued that these numbers should be site specific because tortoises behave differently in varying habitats.

    The method of determining a site specific correction factor is to select a segment of the burrow population and determine how many tortoises actually occupy those burrows (# tortoises/# burrows = correction factor). In some cases where tortoises were to be moved offsite, burrows were excavated to determine occupancy. In areas where burrows must be left intact burrow cameras have been used with varying success.

    We will build a subterranean robot to navigate burrows in the UNF tortoise population. It will integrate a high-definition camera, drive mechanism and robotic control device all powered by a microcontroller. The microcontroller will allow a researcher to use a computer interface on a laptop to communicate directly with the robot while viewing a live video feed. Navigation information received from onboard sensors will be monitored using the computer.

    We will use the robotic camera to establish the occupancy of tortoise burrows, thus determining the appropriate correction factor for our site. 

    Dolphin Photo Identification in the Jacksonville Area

    Dr. Julie Richmond, Department of Biology

    Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are commonly observed throughout the coastal regions of Florida. Extensive efforts to identify and track dolphins in the Florida Intracoastal Waterways and Atlantic Seaboard have been conducted to the north and south of Jacksonville; however, little information is available for this species in the Jacksonville area. The last extensive population survey was conducted in 1997. Last month an official unusual mortality event (UME) was declared for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the Jacksonville area. Although little is known about this population of bottlenose dolphins, efforts are underway to assess the cause for the UME. Consistent, long term monitoring of the bottlenose dolphin population in Jacksonville will be beneficial for government officials and managers that are charged with maintaining healthy sustainable populations of marine mammals. The primary goal of this research proposal is to begin to develop a long term photo identification program for the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the Jacksonville area. This long term project will provide extensive opportunities for many undergraduate and graduate students at UNF to study ecology, genetics, behavior, and physiology of this local population of bottlenose dolphins.

    Assessing the Extent of Laurel Wilt Disease on Two Native Species of Bay Trees Tree on the UNF Campus

    Dr. Anthony Rossi, Department of Biology

    Laurel wilt disease is often a fatal infection caused by a non-native fungus (Raffaelea lauricola) that is spread from tree to tree by an exotic beetle (Xyleborus glabratus). Trees are inoculated with the fungus during gallery formation by adult beetles; females lay eggs in these galleries and the beetle larvae feed on the fungal hyphae - eventually fungal growth plugs the water-conducting xylem vessels of the plant causing the leaves to brown and wilt; typically, the tree will eventually die from the infection. Both the beetle and the fungus are believed to have originated in Asia and arrived in the United States in wooden packing materials or pallets over a decade ago. Although the disease was first noticed to affect the red bay trees in 2002 around Savannah, Georgia it has rapidly spread throughout the southeastern coastal plain of the U.S. including South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. This disease has the potential to cause both ecological and economic damage because the laurel family of trees includes both native trees such as red bay (Persea borbonia) and swamp bay (P. palustris), but also commercially important species such as avocado (P. americana). While loss of a commercial product such as avocado is relatively easy to estimate, ecological impacts of declining native bay trees is more problematic; red bay in particular is an important food plant for native animals such as the Palamedes swallowtail butterfly.

  • 2010

    Voices from the Stream: An Environmental History of the St. Johns River

    Dr. Charles Closmann, Department of History

    I am requesting a seed grant to fund the planning of a senior seminar on the environmental history of the St. Johns River. More specifically, I seek funding to cover the costs of designing a course that will rely heavily upon oral interviews to explore the evolving relationship between the river and the communities that have lived along this river over the last fifty years.

    This is a worthy project for several reasons. Most importantly, by exploring how different stakeholders have interacted with the river over time, we can uncover more profound lessons about society's attitude toward nature in the last half century. We can also learn from the local knowledge and experience of those politicians, commercial fishermen, and environmentalists who have made the river a central part of their professional lives. Finally, this project will result in digitally recorded, transcribed interviews that will become part of a traveling exhibit sponsored by the St. Johns Riverkeeper, an important organization dedicated to preserving the river and its history.

    Dig In! Go Green! Fruit and Vegetable Gardening with Preschoolers

    Dr. Cheryl Fountain

    Dr. Janice Hunter, Florida Institute of Education

    Dr. Rebecca England

    The purposes of this proposed project are to 1) increase young children's knowledge of plants and their role in the environment thereby addressing the knowledge gap that exists for many young, at-risk children; 2) introduce scientific learning through hands-on instructional experiences; and 3) examine concept development in young children as it relates to the role of plants in the environment. The long-term goal is to create a seasonal fruit and vegetable garden that will be maintained by the children, teachers, and families. The garden will be a source of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and will enable the children to engage in hands-on learning experiences focused on scientific inquiry, the life cycle of plants, plants as a food source, and the environmental benefits of plants. This project will be implemented at All About Kids, Inc., a childcare center that serves children who reside in high-needs neighborhoods, and will include approximately 50 three- and four-year-old children and four teachers. All About Kids has also been included in the Jacksonville Journey, a city-wide initiative that has a component to improve early literacy.

    Poverty and Homelessness: Improving Disadvantaged Communities through Sustainable, Urban Gardening

    Dr. Christopher Johnson, Department of Economics and Geography

    This is a multidisciplinary, community based TLO that will offer students the opportunity to learn about the problem of poverty and homelessness through a partnership with the Clara White Mission for the Homeless (located in downtown Jacksonville). Students will design and implement a sustainable organic garden in connection with the Culinary training program offered by Clara White. This TLO will involve UNF students interacting with Clara White Culinary Arts program participants as they implement a model organic garden and develop a detailed plan of how the Clara White Mission could implement organic gardening to sustain their various food assistance programs. The project will require UNF students from multiple academic disciplines to work on key aspects of the project. Student participants in the TLO will work directly with a faculty mentor in their respective disciplines and contribute to a detailed written plan of how the Clara White Mission should proceed with successfully expanding the model created during the semester, while participants can expand the model to his/her respective community.

    The Refinement and Testing of an Instrument to Measure Health Related Environmental Quality at Work: The Nature Contact Questionnaire

    Dr. Erin Largo-Wight, Department of Public Health

    Understanding and promoting healthy places is an important focus of environmental health. Nature contact is a central component to the study and promotion of healthy places. Currently, there are no published measures of nature contact, which hinders study and application. This study was designed to refine and test my preliminary instrument to measure nature contact at work, the preliminary Nature Contact Questionnaire (NCQ). The NCQ will be modified based on new evidence and my preliminary findings. An expert panel will review the revised instrument for face validity. A census of UNF office staff with specific job codes (n=244) will be invited to participate in a test-retest study to assess the instrument's reliability and validity. It is expected that the revised NCQ will represent a valid and reliable measure of nature contact at work. The survey will allow researchers and practitioners to measure forms of nature contact to fill gaps in research and best inform practice and design of healthy places.

    Effects of Environmental Stressors on Seagrass Susceptibility to Infection and Disease

    Dr. Cliff Ross, Department of Biology

    Several important seagrass species are susceptible to periodic outbreaks of 'wasting disease' that trigger rapid population declines and create a notable loss of vital habitat required for other organisms. Wasting disease has been associated with the presence of an opportunistically pathogenic slime mold of the genus Labyrinthula. This organism is ubiquitous in seagrass beds and periodically, for unknown reasons, becomes a virulent pathogen that is capable of destroying plant tissue. Although there is an increasing awareness of the impacts of diseases in the marine environment, the elucidation of marine plant defense responses against invading pathogens is just emerging. Resistance to disease with respect to plant innate immunity has not been investigated in seagrasses and is important for understanding how plant pathogen interactions occur in the marine environment, and to offer insight as to how immunity evolved in plant systems. There are currently no reported studies that accurately quantify the physiological impacts of disease on seagrasses that have been pre-exposed to environmental stressors (e.g. elevated salinity, elevated temperature, reduced light). The goal of this proposed research is to understand how elevated salinity influences seagrass susceptibility to Labyrinthula and to quantify the impact of infection using physiological and metabolic response measurements as stress indicators.

  • 2009

    Habitat Restoration Techniques to Enhance a Gopher Tortoise Population on the Campus of University of North Florida

    Dr. Joe Butler, Department of Biology

    The southwestern quadrant (SWQ) of the UNF campus provides habitat for over 100 gopher tortoises, a species elevated to Threatened status in July 200 8. This population represents a microcosm of a species in peril that UNF students can study in perpetuity. However, the habitat has not been properly managed for over a decade. Tortoises need low-growing plants for their diet. Shrubs and trees can create a canopy, shading the ground and precluding their growth. Natural fires previously prevented such canopies, but today managing habitat for tortoises entails artificial burning.

    The SWQ will be artificially burned this fall. My students and I will assess vegetation, canopy cover, and soil beforehand and monthly thereafter through September 2009 (and beyond). We will trap, measure, mark and release tortoises in order to evaluate population demographics. We will also monitor tortoise nesting and nest success after the burn.

    Three undergraduates are working with me on TLOs, one is on a DIS, and seven others are volunteering. Most will choose to do individual projects within our overall framework, and some will be used for Senior Seminar and at professional conferences. This project allows me to revisit a tortoise population that I studied intensively 15 years ago.

    Multibiomarker Assessment of Fish Health in the Lower St. Johns River

    Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, Department of Biology

    The purpose of this study is to develop a long-term, student-run annual survey of fish health in the lower St. Johns River. The goal of this research is to determine if exposure to environmental pollutants, such as toxic metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and organochlorine pesticides is altering the health of fish in this river basin. All of these compounds have been detected at levels that threaten animal health in certain sites within the study area. To accomplish this goal, Dr. Gelsleichter and students enrolled in his toxicology courses and/or completing independent study credits under his mentorship will compare the presence and levels of several chemical-specific biomarkers - "fingerprints" of exposure to certain types of chemicals - in fish sampled from polluted and less impacted locations within the River. In addition to identifying if pollutant effects are occurring in these populations, the use of this "multibiomarker" approach will allow the research team to determine which of these pollutants pose the greatest risk(s) to wildlife health. Furthermore, by conducting this survey over multiple years, this program will be capable of determining if pollutant exposure and effects are declining as a result of efforts currently underway to restore this river basin.

    Transformational Encounters with the Natural Environment at UNF: Impacts on Environmental Identity, Affective Connectedness and Well-Being

    Dr. Lori Lange, Department of Psychology 

    DNA Sequence Analysis of Aquatic Viruses from Lake Oneida

    Dr. Michael Lentz, Department of Biology

    Dr. Dale Casamatta, Department of Biology

    Biological Survey and Assessment of Lakes and Ponds on UNF Campus

    Dr. Daniel Moon, Department of Biology

  • 2007

    Population Structure and Reproductive Ecology of Gopher Tortoises in the Pumpkin Hill Preserve

    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.

    The Use of a Multiyear Student Senior Design Competition to Involve UNF Students in "Green Engineering"

    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.

    Remote Monitoring of Sinkhole Development in Dry Retention Ponds to Mitigate potential Groundwater Pollution

    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.

    Young Florida Naturalists 

    Dr. Janice Wood, Florida Institute of Education

    Dr. Janice Hunter, Florida Institute of Education

    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.

    Preliminary Characterization of Aquatic Viruses in Northeast Florida

    Dr. Michael Lentz, Department of Biology

    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.

    GeoCaching: A Technological Game of Hide and Seek

    Dr. Peter M. Magyari, Clinical & Applied Movement Sciences

    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.

  • 2006

    A Survey of the Planktonic Algal Community from the Sawmill Slough

    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.

    Determination of the Dispersal Patterns of the Invasive Green Mussel

    Dr. Matthew Gilg, Department of Biology

    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.

    Cultural Differences in Coping During Hurricane Katrina

    Dr. Dominik Güss, Department of Psychology

    Natural disasters like volcano eruptions or hurricanes dramatically change not only the physical environment but change the lives of people in most profound ways. Many lose their material possessions, their means of livelihood, their lifestyles, and tragically for some, their loved ones. The goal of the grant proposal to be developed is to study how victims of hurricane Katrina reacted, coped with, and survived this unfortunate environmental disaster. The focus of the investigation will be on psychological reactions of different cultural and ethnic groups. Psychological reactions refer to e.g. plans, fears, decisions, and actions. Cultural groups refer to people who lived in the affected areas and who have different ethnicities, i.e., Caucasians, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other ethnic groups. The reactions of people from these cultural groups when hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast during different time periods will be studied: shortly before the hurricane made landfall, when the hurricane made landfall, and the aftermath of the hurricane. Hypotheses regarding different reactions of different ethnic groups will be derived from previous cultural and cross-cultural research (and my research on disaster management and cultural differences in problem solving and decision making). Further literature review and the geographic facts ( e.g., like the census of the residents there) will help in narrowing down the research to identifying a few cultural and ethnic groups.

    Testing Thresholds in Animal Development

    Dr. John Hatle, Department of Biology

    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.

    Development of a Restoration Plan for Betz Tiger Point Preserve

    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.

    Utilization of Native Plant Communities to Reduce Toxic Runoff and Erosion along the Proposed UNF Eco-Friendly Roadway

    Dr. Anthony M. 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.