Florida Sea Grant’s Inaugural Research Symposium Makes Waves in Coastal Science

FSG Director, Dr. Sherry Larkin. Image courtesy of Tyler Jones (UF/IFAS).

On January 18th, the inaugural research symposium hosted by Florida Sea Grant took place at the University of Florida, with over 120 attendees; among them were UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant extension agents, specialists, affiliated researchers, and a cohort of funded students.

The vision of the event was to highlight Florida Sea Grant’s role in coastal and marine science, addressing key focus areas such as Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, Resilient Communities and Economies, and Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The event also illuminated how passionate individuals and teams contribute to the broader understanding of our coastal and marine ecosystems.

A diverse group of experts showcased their research during the symposium. Research topics included: the feasibility of utilizing sargassum (brown seaweed) for composting, sponge restoration through aquaculture, managing horseshoe crabs through citizen science, the relationship between seagrass meadows and carbon storage, implementing living shoreline and oyster restoration projects using plastic-free material, and so much more!

Laura Tiu and Ana Zangroniz (Extension Agents), Jack Payne (NSG Advisory Board), and Hayley Lemoine (FSG Aquaculture Fellow). Image courtesy of Tyler Jones (UF/IFAS).

Despite each research addressing distinct challenges specific to Florida’s coastal environment — the presentations illustrated how these studies mutually reinforce one another, showcasing the collaborative synergy between UF researchers and Extension Agents, and amplifying the overall impact of applied research.  

“Advancing marine and coastal science requires concentrated disciplinary research, often leaving faculty with limited opportunities to connect and explore complementary aspects of projects addressing similar issues from different perspectives,” says Dr. Sherry Larkin, Director of Florida Sea Grant. “This symposium spotlights integrated projects across research and extension, aiming to enhance habitats, fortify coastal economies, and promote the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture.”

During the luncheon, Dr. Mark Rains, Florida’s Chief Science Officer, and the Keynote Speaker, delivered a thought-provoking message. His address centered on the insightful theme, “We’ve never solved a problem we didn’t first understand.”

This symposium spotlights integrated projects across research and extension, aiming to enhance habitats, fortify coastal economies, and promote the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture."

Chief Science Officer, Dr. Mark Rains. Image courtesy of Tyler Jones (UF/IFAS).

Dr. Rains stressed the importance of comprehending the changes in Florida’s water supply and quality over the past decade, urging collaboration across disciplines for impactful solutions. UF’s extensive range of disciplines, outstanding students and faculty, and strategically positioned Extension agents across the state position the university to develop solutions tailored to the unique regional needs of Florida. 

Amidst the abundance of research in Florida, Florida Sea Grant stands out for its adept dissemination of information. Dr. Rains acknowledged the organization’s effectiveness in conveying knowledge, specifically commending the impactful efforts showcased in the Florida Blue-Green Algae State of Science Symposium.

The research symposium also welcomed other distinguished guests, including Dr. Norton (Vice President of UF Office of Research), Dr. Angle (UF Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs), Dr. Davis (Senior Associate Dean for UF/IFAS research), Jonathan Pennock (Director of National Sea Grant), Kelly Samek (FSG Program Officer), and Daniel Hartley (Representative for Congresswoman Kat Cammack). Their presence highlighted the significance of the event on both a local and national scale.

The gathering also served as a platform for knowledge exchange and student training, with eleven undergraduate and graduate students supported by Florida Sea Grant delivering presentations on their respective research. This provided them with the opportunity to connect not only with each other but also with professionals in the field.

“I was honored to have a seat in the room full of so many accomplishments and so much ambition and was proud to have a platform to highlight my research to the FSG community,” says Clark Morgan, Ph.D. Student at Florida Atlantic University and recipient of both a Guy Harvey and a Florida Outdoor Writers Association scholarship. 

Morgan’s research focuses on the viability of using weighted descent as a realistic strategy for recreational barotrauma mitigation of goliath grouper.  

 “I regularly present my research, but showcasing it to FSG was a privilege, reciprocating the symbiotic support. Witnessing the scope and scale of FSG projects, impacting communities across various disciplines, was amazing. I embraced the opportunity to cross-pollinate ideas and impact with other researchers, and afterward, I felt empowered to maximize my momentum. Learning about FSG’s history and recent transformation heightened my gratitude for being a part of it.”

Florida Sea Grant’s inaugural research symposium marks a significant step forward in fostering collaboration, innovation, and understanding within the coastal science community. As the waves of research continue to ripple, the symposium has set a precedent for future advancements in knowledge and solutions for our coastal ecosystems.

See the links below for PDFs of the PowerPoint presentations by session:

Read the full research symposium agenda and details here

For more event photos, check out the Florida Sea Grant 2024 Research Symposium Photo Album.