The highly competitive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) RESTORE Science Program recently awarded over $1.5 million in funding to the University of Florida (UF) to advance the long-term sustainability of critical ecosystems that support fish stocks, fish habitats, and fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

Of the ten projects that received funding to conduct collaborative ecosystem science research across five years, two of the Florida Sea Grant and UF/IFAS faculty at the Nature Coast Biological Station secured grants to complete their research that will inform the decision-making of natural resource managers in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dr. Savanna Barry, Florida Sea Grant Regional Specialized Extension Agent for the Nature Coast, serves as the lead PI on a project that addresses management options for protecting seagrass from prop scars and other stressors. Dr. Barry and her team will use drones and surveys to produce a map of seagrass scars hotspots in shallow coastal waters. The team will also collect fish, invertebrate, and water quality information along these hotspots and compare it to areas without seagrass scars, giving resource managers more information on the impacts of seagrass scars on habitat quality for economically important recreational fish.

Florida Sea Grant UF Research Affiliate Dr. David Chagaris and his team will focus on enhancing the fishery managers’ ability to consider red tide impacts on reef fish management options. Dr. Chagaris will lead his team in developing new mapping approaches for red tides using satellites and biogeochemical models to map oxygen concentrations in red tides. These products will help estimate red tide mortality on valuable commercial and recreational species, and the collected data will be incorporated in stock assessments, guiding recommendations on acceptable amounts of harvests for each year.

Read the full NOAA RESTORE Science Program press release: https://restoreactscienceprogram.noaa.gov/funding/noaa-awards-16-8-million-to-actionable-research-in-the-gulf-of-mexico.