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

Phone: (239) 590-1006
Fax:     (239) 590-1066

Press Release


FGCU Student Places in International Estuarine Research Conference

FORT MYERS, FL - Three Florida Gulf Coast University faculty members, their research assistant and a handful of students recently attended the Estuarine Research Federation’s international conference. For FGCU student Emily Lindland, the event was a perfect pearl.

Lindland, biology senior from Fort Myers, won first honorable mention in the student research competition for her senior thesis “Time of Accumulation on an Oyster Reef: Implications for the Monitoring of Environmental Change.” According to Lindland’s study, oyster reefs form in a typically short amount of time where fresh and salt waters merge. This relatively quick accumulation means that researchers should be able to use the position of fossil reefs, developed long ago, to mark the geographic location of sea level at some previous time in the earth’s history. Lindland was one of more than 200 students presenting papers.

Associate professor of Earth Systems Science Mike Savarese, assistant professor of Environmental Studies Aswani Volety, and associate professor of Environmental Studies Greg Tolley, along with research assistant Sharon Thurston, presented a study that marked a milestone in their own research activities. Their work focused on the effects that water management has on the physiology and ecological distribution of oysters within Collier County’s estuaries. The South Florida Water Management District, National Fish and Wildlife Federation and FGCU Foundation funded the major project.

According to the study, oysters are abundant within Southwest Florida’s estuaries and are sensitive to human-induced changes in water quality. This makes them good candidates to measure estuarine health. Further, their health status can help environmental managers to better target conditions for restoration. The study included Henderson Creek, Blackwater River and Faka-Union Canal - areas all affected by various man-made conditions.

One of the primary purposes of the international ERF is to promote research in estuarine and coastal waters.

Several other undergraduates collaborated with the faculty members and participated in presentations: Sherith Bankston, environmental studies major from Powell, Tenn.; Matt Benolkin, environmental studies major from Fort Myers; Rashel Grindberg, biology major from Fort Myers; and Erin Rasnake, environmental studies major from Lehigh Acres.

Stephanie Obley, earth systems science senior from Port Charlotte, also presented her senior thesis “Influence of Sea Level Rise on the History of Estero Bay and River.”

FGCU’s science programs require students to conduct independent or collaborative research as part of their degree. The research provides students with experiences comparable to the rigor typically obtained with a master’s degree.

For more information, contact Savarese at (941) 590-7165.

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