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UNF 2023 Seed Grant recipients announced

The University of North Florida’s Institute of Environmental Research and Education (IERE) announces the faculty recipients of the 2023 Seed Grants. One project will focus on monitoring the pH levels in chemically and biologically aggressive environments and the second project will study the relationship between wetland ecosystems and climate change. 

The competitive, merit-based Seed Grants are awarded annually to UNF faculty members to stimulate and “seed” the creation of environmentally related research and inspire effective collaboration between faculty and students in diverse disciplines.

UNF professors Dr. Juan Aceros, electrical engineering, Dr. Steve Stagon, mechanical engineering, and Dr. Adel ElSafty, civil engineering, were awarded funding provided by the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation for their project on “Experimental Analysis of IrOx pH-Sensors for Embedded Concrete Monitoring at Wastewater or Sewage Stations.”

Sewage treatment stations, industrial wastewater, acid rain and other chemically and biologically aggressive environments are usually built using cement materials. The durability of these materials and deterioration is highly dependent on pH. Their project will investigate the development of sensors to monitor pH levels that are mechanically robust, chemically stable, minimally invasive and inexpensive.

Dr. Scott F. Jones, biology, Dr. Kailan Sindelar, English, Dr. Christopher Baynard, geography, as well as Robert Richardson, ITS, were awarded funding provided by the River Branch Foundation for their research project on “Leveraging the local: quantifying and communicating wetland climate resilience at UNF.”

For coastal ecosystems, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion are especially pressing climate issues and predicting local impacts requires site-specific data that is currently lacking for many wetlands in northeast Florida. Their study will initiate long-term wetland climate resilience monitoring at two UNF properties connected within the Pablo Creek watershed, the freshwater swamp on main campus and the saltwater marsh on the William C. Webb Coastal Research Station 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.

The UNF Seed Grant program is supported by an endowment provided by the River Branch Foundation. A recent gift from the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation has allowed the Institute to expand the Seed Grant program and offer an additional grant focused on water issues in Northeast Florida.