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Coastal Watershed Institute

Coastal Watershed Institute

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Coastal Watershed Institute
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S.
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565

Phone: 239-590-7526

Mike Parsons


Current Projects

View at CREW
Inland: Lakes, Rivers, Ponds, Wetlands, & Uplands

Community Pond Health (Thomas) & Sediment Dynamics (FugateThomas);  

Restoration of Aquatic Vegetation in the Caloosahatchee (Everham); 

Frog Monitoring (Everham) and Avian Ecology (LeFevre);

Beach Profile at Fort Myers Beach
Coastal: Beaches & Barrier Islands

Beach Profiles & Adaptation to Sea Level Rise (Savarese , Jose);

Hurricane Landfalls in Southwest Florida (Muller);

Role of Barrier Islands & Fisheries in Native Caloosa Society (Savarese);

Estuarine area
Estuarine: Bays & Estuaries

Impacts of Freshwater Releases on Oysters (Parsons, Rumbold) &  Seagrass (Douglass);

Critically Endangered Smalltooth Sawfish (Tolley, Urakawa);

Shellfish Ecology (Richard) & Sustainable Aquaculture (Urakawa, Tolley); 

Long Key Research Site
Marine: Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, & Atlantic Ocean

Oil Spill impacts in the Gulf of Mexico (Parsons, Urakawa);  

Shark Physiology  (Rumbold) & Environmental Toxins (Parsons, Rumbold);  

Artificial & Coral Reef Ecology (Parsons);





What's going on in your Lab?


Dr. Mike Parsons, Director CWIDr. Parsons

We are examining samples collected in the Florida Keys to study Gambierdiscus, the phytoplankton responsible for producing the toxins that cause CFP.  We will analyze how Gambierdiscus populations react to changing seasons, coral bleaching, and storm events, in order to better understand how CFP is related to environmental dynamics.  We are also processing algae and fish samples to extract and (semi) purify the toxins to determine how toxin levels are related to changing environmental conditions. 

Read more about the CiguaHAB Project


Another team of students is exposing phytoplankton and seagrasses to diluted crude oil to examine how the oil affects their health and growth.  These data will then be compared to data collected from field samples to better understand how the Deep Water Horizon oil spill may have impacted these components of the coastal ecosystem in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

We are also studying how well different macroalgae (seaweed) species grow using aquacultured fish waste water, and subsequently how effectively the algae clean the water (remove nutrients) so that it can be recirculated back into the fish tank.


Did you know? 

The element gold is thought to be formed when stars collide.


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Dr. Darren RumboldDr. Darren Rumbold

Recent projects focus on transfer of mercury through the South Florida coastal food web from invertebrates up to king mackerels and sharks. My laboratory has completed a number of studies on methyl mercury (MeHg) accumulation in fish, birds, panthers and, most recently, sharks. 

My laboratory has employed stable isotope analysis of nitrogen as a tool to examine biomagnification integrated across the entire food web (i.e., Food Web Magnification Factor or FWMF). This approach also allows us to disentangled and assess separately variations in basal concentrations of MeHg entering the food web, either due to variations in bioavailability of the various mercury species or activity of the methylating bacteria. In effect, quantifying mercury transfer to higher trophic levels, in addition to alerting us to the risk of exposure, is now becoming another tool to study the complexity of food webs dynamics among ecosystems.  


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Dr. Felix Jose Dr. Jose and the BOB

Dr. Jose's recent projects focus primarily on physical ocenaography, coastal circulation modeling, waves, and sediment transport. Previous work has included hydrodynamics and heavy sand transport along south west coast of India, studying the environmental effects of future sand mining from transgressive sand shoals off the Louisiana coast, and natural resources damage assessment from the landfall of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, by simulating the storm surge and the stranding of salt water in low lying marshes.


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Dr. Mike Savarese

Dr. Savarese's research interests span the field of geobiology, combining disciplines from biology and geology to interpret the history of environmental change. His current research programs include the effects of sea-level rise on coastal environmental evolution, the history and paleoecology of reef development, and the effects of environmental change on oyster reef ecology. Michael is very active servicing Southwest Florida’s environmental needs. Over the years he has served on the Board of the Watershed Council, he has been an active member of the Big Cypress Restoration Coordination and the SW FL Regional Restoration Coordination Teams, the SW FL Feasibility Study Team, and the South Golden Gate Estates Restoration Project Delivery Team.


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Dr. Serge Thomas

A central theme in much of Dr. Thomas’ research is to determine ecosystem level consequences of natural and anthropogenic stresses in aquatic ecosystems. Dr. Thomas works principally with primary producer communities in shallow marine/freshwater hydrosystems, linking ecosystem structure to physico-chemical variation by understanding functional processes at the base of the food web. His research has combined descriptive and experimental approaches to determine causal relationships between biotic and environmental variation.


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Dr. David Fugate Fugate

We are currently looking at phosphorous retention in Storm Treatment Areas (STA), quantifying & justifying sea grass restoration, studying animals in the benthic zone, as well asthe turbidity, erodibility and sediment dynamics that play a role in the occurrence of brown water along the coast of SWFL. 


Read more about Dr. Fugate's Lab


Did you know? 

Dr. Fugate is also an artist


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Dr. James Douglass

I am an ecologist interested in describing, protecting, and teaching about the biological diversity and beneficial ecosystem functions of coastal marine habitats. Coastal oceans are simultaneously threatened by decreasing water quality, changing physical conditions, and overharvest of ecologically important species. I address the interactive effects of these threats through conservation-directed research and teaching at Florida Gulf Coast University.

At FGCU I continue my seagrass research, integrating findings from Florida, Virginia, and New England. My scientific approach combines manipulative experiments with observations of spatial and temporal variation in natural communities, and I strongly believe in the complementary natures of experimental and descriptive ecological research. 


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Dr. Greg Tolley

Dr. Greg Tolley is Professor of Marine Science, Chair of the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, and Program Coordinator of the M.S. Environmental Science program at Florida Gulf Coast University. He is also the former Director of Graduate Studies at FGCU.

His current research interests focus on the influence of freshwater inflow on estuarine ecosystems and aquatic resources. Specifically, this research addresses how variation in the timing, amount, and quality of freshwater delivered to estuaries influences the physiology of estuarine organisms, shapes community structure of oyster-reef and zooplankton assemblages, and impacts the potential value of oyster reefs as essential fish habitat. A Certified Fisheries Professional with the American Fisheries Society, Tolley is Acting Director of the Florida District of the American Institute of Fisheries Research Biologists. He has also been active in the local community, having served on the boards of directors of the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum, and the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, and as a member of the Education Committee of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.


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Dr. Toshi Urakawa

I use molecular ecology approach to investigate my interests in aquatic environments.  Since microbes are invisible and many of them are unculturable, this approach perfectly matches my needs.  Tracking down of nucleic acids in environments, sometimes it is called environmental DNA (eDNA), can be also used in various study settings, particularly in the study of endangered species and invasive species. Publications

My lab has been working on the Oil Spill restoration project in the Gulf of Mexico with Dr. Parsons, a Six Mile Cypress Slough (wetland) project, an Aquaponics project with Drs. Parsons, Mitsch and Thomas, Studies of Nitrifying microbes with many colleagues (international collaboration), a study on the Feeding habits of sawfish with Dr. Gregg Poulakis, Fish transportation and aquaculture with Dr. Tolley, a snake tracking project with Dr. Herman, and a Seagrass project with Dr. Douglass.

Read more about the Microbial Ecology Lab


Did you know? 

Students call me Dr. Toshi.  I am a dog person and have two incredibly sweet hot dogs (mini dachshunds). 


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Dr. Jo MullerDr. Muller

Dr. Muller is working on a project that will reconstruct the hurricane history of Southwest Florida over the past five thousand years by identifying hurricane overwash deposits in back-barrier lagoons and marshes. Records will be correlated with existing paleotempestological studies to determine patterns of hurricane activity and inactivity. To understand how the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have impacted hurricane activity in the past, correlations will be made with previously published paleo-ENSO and paleo-SST studies. In addition, the study will establish a site-specific Southwest Florida hurricane database that will be used to better understand the characteristics of storms that produce overwash deposits.


Read more about the Paleoclimatology Lab


Did you know? 

Dr. Muller was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 


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Dr. Edwin EverhamDr. Everham

Currently we are: exploring patterns of anuran (frog) communities through time in southwest Florida as indicators of environmental change, monitoring interactions of the invasive Burmese python with the native eastern indigo snake, tracking the vectors of change in Lake Trafford following restoration dredging, analyzing the impact of mosquito control on non-target organisms, continuing work on restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation in the Caloosahatchee River, and tracking long-term growth in multiple forest plots in the region toward quantifying carbon dynamics.


Did you know? 

Ecology is not rocket science – it is much more complicated than that! 


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Dr. Kara LeFevre Dr. Lefevre

Before joining CWI, I had been studying patterns of Common Tern nest site selection and site persistence in northern Lake Huron, with the Canadian Wildlife Service, and Contributing to a collaborative, large-scale study of boreal forest bird distributions, with the Boreal Avian Modelling Project. BAM is creating predictive habitat models from existing survey and environmental data, to improving our understanding of boreal bird ecology and habitats across North America.


Read more about the Avian Ecology Lab


Did you know?  

One of my most influential life experiences was spending a year backpacking “around the world” to celebrate the turn of the millennium.


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Dr. Joelle RichardDr. Richard

To date, my research has focused on (a) the role of phenotypic variability in the success of biological invasions, (b) resilience of coral reef ecosystems, (c) coastal Antarctic trophic food web and pelagos-benthos coupling and (d) the response of benthic organisms and communities to environmental changes. I have experience in experimental approaches both in situ using SCUBA diving, and in the laboratory from the organism to the ecosystem level. I have worked in diverse ecosystems, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and in Temperate and Tropical environments.

Together with MSc student Bass Dye and FGCU professor Felix Jose, we are building the hydrodynamic model of the Charlotte Harbor Estuary to be able to then couple it with the transport oyster larval model. To build this model, we use existing public data including measures of tides, wind, and freshwater discharge.

To couple this hydrodynamic model to oyster larval transport, we will use the 15 years of oyster monitoring conducted by FGCU. This summer we will be analyzing this long-term dataset to try to understand what are the most important environmental parameters for predicting oyster growth and recruitment. We will also look more closely at the impact of the big 2014-2016 El Niño event on the oysters.

Another student, Savannah Myers, is coming with me to France this summer to work on the scallop shells. Karen Walker and William Marquardt from the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville have shared with us some scallops they found doing excavations in the Pineland Site Complex. We will bring those precious shells together with some current shells with us to France. We want to look at the growth rate of the scallop and perform some stable isotope analysis on the shell. For molluscs, the oxygen isotopic composition of shell carbonate is determined, in part, by the temperature and oxygen isotopic composition of the water in which the shell was formed. Once calibrated, the measurement of the d18O of the shell can be a proxy of the temperature of the water. In Brest, France, we will work in collaboration with Julien Thébault from the Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer.


Did you know? Blue space gives us half of our oxygen, provides billions of people with jobs and food, holds the majority of Earth's biodiversity including species and ecosystems, drives climate and weather, regulates temperature, and is the sole source of hydration and hygiene for humanity throughout history.


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