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UNF working with National Park Foundation to stop local coastal erosion

The University of North Florida has partnered with the National Park Foundation (NPF), the Green Team Youth Corps at Groundwork Jacksonville and Stericycle on an innovative approach to stabilize eroding shorelines using pervious oyster shell habitat.

As part of a grant donation by Stericycle to the NPF, UNF researchers will spend the next three years installing oyster reefs at the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve locations at Kingsley Plantation and Cumberland Island National Seashore. The reefs are environmentally-friendly and will allow native marsh grasses to regrow and provide habitat for a variety of marine species.

This solution will help defend the beaches from some of the threats facing coastal national parks such as rising sea levels, coral die-offs, marine debris, increased storm wave and wake energy, saltwater intrusion, ocean acidification and erosion.

The reefs were constructed using interdisciplinary skills from UNF researchers. Dr. Kelly Smith, biology associate professor, is leading the project and working in collaboration with Dr. Raphael Crowley, UNF Taylor Engineering Research Institute associate professor, to utilize his knowledge of shoreline coastal processes that result in shoreline erosion, as well as Dr. Chris Baynard, Geospatial Technologies associate professor, and Robert Richardson, Research Technology Services assistant director, for their drone, aerial photography and mapping expertise.

The UNF researchers are also teaming up with high school student apprentices from Groundwork Jacksonville to construct the reef structures.