Coastal Connect is a quarterly newsletter from the Coastal Training Program. It is distributed to the CTP working groups, committees, and advisory groups across northeast Florida including the First Coast Invasive Working Group, the Oyster and Water Quality Task Force, the Management Advisory Group, attendees from workshops, training, events, collaborative meetings, and more! This is a new resource that we hope connects stakeholders throughout northeast Florida and provide information on projects, resources, funding, and tools.
If you'd like to subscribe to the quarterly Coastal Connect, please email the Coastal Training Program Coordinator.
Volume 1, January 4
Volume 2, April 8
Volume 3, July 3
Volume 4, October 4
State of the Reserve
The GTM Research Reserve hosts an annual “State of the Reserve” research symposium to highlight projects and studies that have been conducted within the Reserve. Research and monitoring conducted by Reserve staff, volunteers, and visiting scientists from all over the world inform management decisions to understand population dynamics, water quality, and the restoration of important habitats. Long-term monitoring networks, like the System-Wide Monitoring Program (SMWP), provide opportunities to assess the effects of coastal storms and serve as a baseline to examine changes throughout many years.
Click below to view posters, presentations, and programs from previous symposiums:
2010: “Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Reserve”
2011: “Managing Partners”
2012: “Preserving Public Lands to Sustain Healthy Communities”
2013: “Changing Tides”
2014: “Science to Management”
2015: “Ecosystem Services”
2016: “Working Waters”
2017: “The Art of Science in Our Community”
2018: “Celebrating 20 Years”
Invasive and Native Plants
An invasive plant is an introduced species of plant that usually comes from another place (state, country, continent, ocean; not all non-native species are considered invasive) and aggressively expands, becoming a problem in its new location by impacting human health, the economy, and/or the environment. Invasive plants can spread in numerous ways including seeds in nursery plants and soils, misidentification, foreign ships entering ports, fruits and flowers brought home by travelers, or landscaping, boat trailers, propellers, etc. not properly cleaned before or after transportation.
Workshops and Trainings
The GTM Research Reserve’s CTP Coordinator serves as co-chair for the First Coast Invasive Working Group, coordinating on regional invasive species issues. The First Coast Invasive Working Group is one of sixteen Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA). CISMAs are an alliance of stakeholders focused on invasive species management throughout the state of Florida. CISMAs work together to address prevention, early detection and rapid response, monitoring, management and education and awareness of invasive species. Each CISMA includes partners from federal, state, and local government agencies, tribes, private citizens, and interested community organizations that manage invasive species.
GTM Research Reserve staff can provide workshops on invasive plants and native alternatives for landscaping to interested groups including HOAs, landscape companies, and citizen organizations. Please contact the CTP Coordinator if you would like them to provide a workshop for your group.
Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR)
Early detection and rapid response is a coordinated set of actions to find and eradicate potential invasive species before they spread and cause harm. Early detection involves surveying for, reporting, and verifying the presence of a non-native species, before the population establishes or spreads so widely that eradication becomes infeasible. Rapid response is the process used to eliminate the initial population of a species from a specific location.
Source: U.S. Department of the Interior
First Coast EDRR Species:
Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia)
Gray sheoak (Casuarina glauca)
Old world climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum)
Skunk vine (Paederia foetida)
Guinea grass (Panicum maximum)
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta)
Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia)
Tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum)
Canary Island tamerisk (Tamarix canariensis)
Beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia)
AlterNatives of Northeast Florida
Plant Vegetative Characters
Invasive and Native Plant Look-Alikes
Florida State and Local Fertilizing Ordinances
Monitoring Archaeological Resources
Partnering with the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), Heritage Monitoring Scouts is a public engagement program focused on tracking changes to archaeological sites at risk, particularly those impacted by climate change in the form of erosion and sea level rise.
Help monitor the thousands of resources within Florida and over 50 within the GTM Research Reserve boundaries. Become a Heritage Monitoring Scout, today!
System-Wide Monitoring Program
The goal of the National Estuarine Research Reserve's (NERRs) System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) is to measure short-term variability and long-term changes to gain a better understanding of how our estuaries function, change over time, and to predict how coastal systems respond to natural and human-induced change. SWMP is implemented at each one of the 29 NERRs across the country using standardized protocols and instruments. SWMP at the GTM Research Reserve is comprised of three core components: water quality, weather, and vegetation.
To learn about SWMP, check out these resources:
Accessing NERRS Data
Downloading NERRS Data
Using NERRS Data
In 2015, the Oyster and Water Quality Task Force (OWQTF), originally formed in 1995 in response to shellfish harvesting closures, was revitalized to integrate and increase stakeholder knowledge of water quality and oyster sustainability within the Guana, Tolomato, and Matanzas rivers. Since then, the OWQTF has met three to four times annually to address the ongoing issues and data gaps regarding water quality and shellfish of the GTM Research Reserve region. The priority of the group is to assess the current status of oysters and water quality and to develop strategies and actions that will maximize their health. The task force provides research findings and recommendations to management agencies and other stakeholders. Information includes water quality as it relates to storm events, oyster settlement, fecal coliform hotspots, oyster harvesting data including size classes, monitoring protocol dissemination, predator presence, shellfish harvesting status, and more.
The OWQTF is a voluntary group representing agency, academic, and community stakeholders concerned about the health of our estuarine waters and the capacity to harvest oysters for generations to come. At these meetings, representatives from Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Servies (FDACS), St. Johns County, Flagler County, City of St. Augustine, the Matanzas Riverkeeper, Florida SeaGrant, University of North Florida, Flagler College, University of Florida (including the Whitney Laboratory of Marine Biosciences), local homeowners, and local oyster harvesters have been present. The CTP Coordinator co-chairs the task force with the GTM NERR Research Coordinator.
For more information, visit the Oyster and Water Quality Task Force website.
Guana Water Quality Project
Inspired by momentous community interest in the health of Guana Lake, multiple sponsors, including the Audubon Society and the Friends of the GTM Research Reserve, generously funded an initial year of water quality sampling and subsequent laboratory analyses starting in July 2017. A partnership between the GTM Research Reserve, Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was formed to collect monthly water samples. Samples were collected from three sites in Guana Lake (Micklers, Lake Middle, Lake South) and two sites in the Guana River (River North and Guana River). After the one-year pilot study, additional resources were provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration (DEAR) and FWC. Starting in July 2018, an additional five sampling sites were added, and all ten sites were sampled for a full year.
The main objective of this study effort was to quantify spatial/temporal variability of selected water quality parameters within the Guana system. Water quality observations in this system have been very limited historically and this study aimed to develop a baseline survey of water quality over a variety of seasonal conditions and a spatial gradient. Secondary objectives included assessing current water quality conditions and studying hydrologic connections at Mickler’s weir and Guana dam.
The GTM Research Reserve recently released a two-year summary report for the Guana water quality project. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Nikki Dix.
Sustainable Public Use
Living shorelines use plants or other nature elements such as oyster reefs to stabilize the shorelines of estuarine coasts. Living shorelines can help improve water quality, provide habitat for fisheries, increase biodiversity, and allow for increased recreation.
Living shorelines are more resilient to storms than traditional hard armoring. Hard armoring such as bulkheads or seawalls can prevent the natural marsh migration and could accelerate or create coastal erosion. The marshes and oyster reefs of natural and living shorelines serve as natural barriers to waves, storm surge, and coastal erosion. Approximately 15% of marsh can absorb 50% of an incoming wave energy.
Whether you are a homeowner, coastal engineer, or restoration practitioner, visit the Living Shorelines Academy to see current projects, resources, and even training modules. Also, be sure to watch "Living Shorelines: A Habitat Friendly Alternative for Shoreline Stabilization" a video made by the North Carolina NERR Coastal Training Program.
Re-Engineering Living Shorelines for High-Energy Coastal Environments
The GTM Research Reserve was a part of a National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Science Collaborative grant-funded project with the University of Florida from 2016 to 2019. Shorelines and salt marsh habitats within the GTM Research Reserve have been retreating at rates of 1 meter per year (Silliman et al. 2019) which has led to a loss of intertidal oysters, a loss of habitat, and a loss of ecosystem services. A potential stressor of this is boat wake energy, which, like oceanic boat traffic, is also increasing within our estuaries.
This project, in partnership with Christine Angelini, Ph.D, et al. from the University of Florida, designed a hybrid structure that acted as a double barrier to dissipate wave energy along the Intracoastal Waterway in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The team's approach consisted of two lines of defense to protect the salt marsh. The first structure was a set of semi-permeable breakwalls filled with crepe myrtle branches. Landward side of those structures were alternating oyster restoration structures of 1) oyster shell filled gabions and 2) Biodegradable EcoSystem Engineering Elements (BESE-elements).
Above: Boat wake in the Intracoastal Waterway affects the breakwalls
Above: Breakwalls with crepe myrtle branches and oyster restoration structures.
Intracoastal Monitoring System
Shoreline erosion is a main threat and challenge that has been identified by regional restoration practitioners, land managers, and researchers. One conclusion gained from Dr. Christine Angelini's NERRS Science Collaborative project "Re-Engineering Living Shorelines for High-Energy Coastal Environments" was that little is known about the extent of boat activity in the Intracoastal Waterway. Some of the larger commercial boats are tracked using on-vessel automatic identification system (AIS) transponders, but most small vessels used for recreation do not require that level of tracking. In February 2019, University of Florida graduate student Lauren Brisley and the GTM Research Reserve began monitoring boat traffic and boat wake energy at a site along the Guana Peninsula and Tolomato River. Lauren is partnering with dedicated GTM volunteers to assist with data downloads and video analysis for the near-continuous video monitoring of the Intracoastal Waterway. Stay tuned for more updates about this project!
Above: Volunteers are trained at the video camera tower on the Guana Peninsula.
Above: A view of the Intracoastal Waterway from the camera.
Florida Living Shorelines
Oyster Restoration Workgroup
NOAA Habitat Blueprint: Living Shorelines
Regulatory Considerations in Permitting Small-Scale Living Shorelines in Florida
Living Shorelines In Gulf Coast States: Florida Resource Catalog
Guidance for Considering the Use of Living Shorelines
Climate Change and Resilience
Our Resilient Community
With increased population along coastlines, there is a need to increase built infrastructure such as coastal commerce, development, job opportunities, sewer connections, and roadways. With the recent increase of coastal hazards such as flooding, storm surge, and hurricanes, those that live within our coastal communities and the built infrastructure (new and old) are at risk of coastal hazards. The actions and planning of our coastal communities are important in maintaining balance of quality of life, the natural environment, and more.
Every community faces hazardous threats such as droughts, extreme temperatures, flooding, wildfires, population pressures, material spills, and more. Resiliency means that our community can “bounce back” after those hazardous events, such as stock market crashes, droughts, the wildfires in 1998, Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Irma, common nor’easters, and even coastal flooding events. It means that we will be able to withstand, respond to, and recover quickly after hazardous events without significant or long-term damage to our natural resources, cultural assets, economy, and infrastructure and critical facilities.
The impacts of hazards such as climate change, including sea level rise, are happening now and will bring challenges to our coastal community. It is important to improve resiliency within our community to preserve the values, natural ecosystems, agriculture, and quality of life.
Weather VS. Climate Change
Weather is what you experience when you step outside on any given day. It indicates what the short-term temperature, precipitation, and overall conditions will be like. Most days in Florida, the weather is sunny and humid with our regular afternoon shower.
Climate change is the average of the weather patterns in a location over a longer period, usually 30 years or more (NOAA). While the conditions are described as hot or cold and wet or dry, which really describe the air conditions, they are influenced by what is happening on land and in the water. The climate of the Earth is changing (NCA, 2018). These changes are observed not only through monitoring data, but also more extreme temperature changes, increased heavy precipitation events, wildlife and plants migrating and living in regions they never lived before.
According to climate.gov, since 1980, the United States has experienced 241 “billion-dollar” weather and climate disasters, similar to the map below. The cumulative costs of these disasters exceeds $1.6 trillion. The weather and climate disasters from 2018 cost $91.0 billion in economic and societal impacts.
Sea Level Effects
Sea level change is the change in the average ocean water surface elevation—or height. It can be expressed at a global, regional, or local level. This change can be measured by tidal gauges that are referenced to nearby land benchmarks. The NOAA National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON) collects accurate water level changes throughout lakes, estuaries, and oceans for many services including navigation, engineering, and preservation.
Through the National Science Foundation, Villanova University and a team of researchers are monitoring how our salt marsh habitats are transitioning into mangrove habitats as a result of warming temperatures and sea level rise. While in natural ecosystems, these salt marsh habitats are able to migrate eastward, in areas where development is placed along shorelines, the salt marsh habitat cannot migrate. Salt marsh habitats are crucial to our coastal community not only because they provide habitat to juvenile fishes, but also because they decrease the rate of erosion and absorb storm surge.
NOAA Digital Coast
NOAA’s Digital Coast is an online and in-person platform that enables data use in conversations regarding coastal management decisions. The data ranges from economic data to satellite imagery and is utilized in visualization tools, predictive tools, and tools that simply help make the data easier to find and use. The Digital Coast also provides trainings and case studies that show how communities throughout the coastal zone are utilizing data and the Digital Coast tools. NOAA’s Digital Coast partners with national agencies and organizations such as the American Planning Association, Association for State Floodplain Managers, Coastal States Organization, National Association of Counties, The National States Geographic Information Council, The Nature Conservancy, Urban Land Institute, and the NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (which includes the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and Association) to ensure that the tools and resources developed are usable and relevant to the coastal management community.
All of these tools are available to anyone with internet access, so be sure to check them out at https://coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/! The best way to practice using these tools is to narrow down the visualizations to your home, your office, or a place that you frequently visit.
Sea Level Rise Viewer tool, a mapping tool available on Digital Coast
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit
Fourth National Climate Assessment
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Partnering with the Community
Management Advisory Group (MAG)
The GTMNERR Management Advisory Group (MAG) holds regular meetings on the third Wednesday of the third month of each calendar quarter of the year. Meeting agenda items are finalized approximately two weeks prior to the meeting. The MAG is comprised of 26 members from partnering agencies as well as twelve citizen appointees. The meeting location alternates between the Visitor Center (505 Guana River Road, Ponte Vedra Beach) and the Marineland Field Office (9741 Ocean Shore Blvd., St. Augustine).
December 18, 2019, 6:00 pm, at the Marineland Field Office
March 18, 2020, 6:00 pm, at the Visitor Center
June 17, 2020, 6:00 pm, at the Marineland Field Office
September 16, 2020, 6:00 pm, at the Visitor Center
December 16, 2020, 6:00 pm, at the Marineland Field Office
If you have any questions about the MAG, please contact Abby Kuhn.
Partnering Organizations and Agencies
The GTM Research Reserve CTP is privileged to work closely with many local and regional stakeholders and partners throughout northeast Florida:
City of St. Augustine
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Florida Department of Transportation
Florida Division of Recreation and Parks
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida Inland Navigation District
Florida Public Archaeology Network
National Estuarine Research Reserve System
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Park Service
Northeast Florida Aquatic Preserves
Northeast Florida Regional Council
St. Johns County
St. Johns River Water Management District
Town of Marineland
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
UF IFAS Extension
University of Florida
University of North Florida
Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience
Southeast and Caribbean Regional Coastal Training Programs
ACE Basin Reserve (SC)
Jobos Bay Reserve (Puerto Rico)
North Carolina Reserve System (NC)
North Inlet-Winyah Bay Reserve (SC)
Sapelo Island Reserve (GA)