The High Impact Practice of Undergraduate Research associated with a Two-Year Water Quality Monitoring Project in Northeast Florida

Monday 3:00pm


Matthew Brown, Flagler College
As coastal populations and coastal development pressure increase, it is critical that coastal waters are monitored for potential changes in water quality due to any excavation or sediment removal project. In Spring 2016 the state of Florida approved $2.8M in funding to restore the Summerhaven River (south of Matanzas Inlet in northeast Florida) nearly eight years after a series of tropical storms and hurricanes breached the dune line and filled it with sand. The project began in January 2017 and as of late September 2017 the Summerhaven River was opened and flowing once again. As part of a funded, collaborative research effort between the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, the U. of Florida, and Flagler College, a two year, bi-monthly water quality monitoring effort was initiated in November 2016 and continued until October 2018, one year after the restoration project ended. While results will be presented that highlight the significant impact that natural storm events have on water quality as compared to a river restoration project, this presentation will also highlight the high-impact practice of undergraduate research as experiential student learning. The research presented was largely carried out through several undergraduate research assistantships within the Coastal Environmental Sciences major program at Flagler College, an undergraduate teaching college in northeast Florida. Students with little-to-no previous research experience were trained in both field and analytical techniques for the analysis of chlorophyll-A, major nutrients, turbidity, and total suspended solids. A number of these students presented this work at local and regional conferences and the cumulative research experience would be best described as transformative and inspiring.