Click each faculty member’s name for more detailed information.
Department of Geological Sciences
Expertise: Andrea Dutton is a carbonate geochemist with particular interest in paleoclimate and paleo sea level applications. She is an Assistant Professor in UF’s Department of Geological Sciences. She teaches courses in isotope geochemistry, oceanography, geochemical oceanography, and marine sciences. She is also a co-leader of PALSEA, an international working group funded by PAGES/WUN to explore the geologic record for empirical constraints on future sea level rise. More information can be found here.
Goals of the Sea Level Component: Evaluate the magnitude and timing of past sea level change in Florida and the broader region, including the Caribbean, to assess rates of sea level rise and patterns of inundation.
The specifics of the scope of the final project will be developed by the student in collaboration with the interdisciplinary team, but may include aspects such as:
1. Compile existing data on timing and position of sea level based on paleoshoreline features within a GIS framework to better constrain the geographic variance in contemporaneous sea level markers.
2. Identify spatio-temporal gaps in existing data and develop field-based data collection campaigns to span these gaps.
3. Explore the potential for applying the existing (compiled) and new dataset to glacio-hydro-isostatic modeling of the region to better quantify isostatic effects on past, present, and future sea level change in the region.
4. Employ glacio-hydro-isostatic modeling to better constrain rates of karstification of the Florida peninsula associated with dynamic changes in past sea level position.
This work will draw upon the rich sediment record of past sea level position in Florida and the Caribbean in collaboration with students and faculty of the WIGF as well as researchers from other institutions. The project will entail a combination of field-based and laboratory-based research. Studying past rates of sea level change during previous warm periods with similar ice sheet configurations is instructive to understand the future potential for gradual versus dynamic ice sheet collapse scenarios. Florida’s coastlines contain a vast archive of previous sea level oscillations, including that of the last interglacial period (~125,000 years ago) when global sea level was ~6 to 9 meters higher. Understanding the dynamics of ice sheets and sea level during these previous warm periods is critical to developing sound projections for future sea level behavior.
Department of Geological Sciences
Expertise: Jon Martin studies processes that control water chemistry in a variety of natural settings, and how the chemical compositions can be used for natural hydrologic tracers. He works on coastal aquifers and the relationship between the composition of submarine groundwater discharge and its effects on estuarine water quality. He is Professor of Geological Sciences and teaches courses in mineralogy, surface water and groundwater interactions, and hydrogeochemistry. More information can be found here.
Goals of the Aqueous Geochemistry Component: The specific goals of water chemistry will be to improve the understanding and predictive capabilities of how coastal fresh water resources may be impacted by changes in sea level. Emphasis of this component will be on observations and modeling of the chemical compositions of water in coastal aquifers. The chemical compositions will be used as tracers for reactions that may be expected to occur following changes in sea level and salinization of coastal aquifers or increases or decreases in fresh water discharge to coastal zones. Specific goals related to aqueous geochemistry will be:
1. Identify appropriate field sites for empirical studies of interactions between fresh water discharging from coastal to estuarine surface water.
2. Develop and implement techniques for observations and measurements of the magnitudes of exchange between surface water and groundwater in coastal settings utilizing natural chemical and isotopic tracers.
3. Use time-series analyses of observed changes in the chemical and isotopic changes in the mixed waters to assess the magnitudes and rates of reactions between the aquifer materials and discharging water.
4. Assess the flux of dissolved material into the aquifer from the oceans and discharging from the aquifers to the coastal zones and the impacts of these fluxes on water quality in the aquifers and estuaries.
Soil and Water Sciences Department
Expertise: Andrew Ogram is a microbial ecologist with interests in linking human activities to shifts in the structures and functions of microbial communities in soils and sediments. He is particularly interested in the microbial ecology of coupled biogeochemical cycles in anoxic zones. He is a professor in the Soil and Water Science Department and teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in microbial ecology and environmental science. More information on his program can be found here.
Goals of the Microbial Ecology Component: Variable sea levels are expected to change the geochemistry of estuaries and near shore subterranean aquifers, which in turn will impact the microbial communities that are responsible for critical biogeochemical cycling in these environments. The overall goal of the Microbial Ecology component will be to characterize potential shifts in microbial community structures in response to variable sea levels, and to link these potential shifts to changes in biogeochemical cycles. Specific goals within the Microbial Ecology component include:
1. Establish baselines for the distribution of specific functional groups of microorganisms within subterranean aquifers and estuaries, with particular attention to those groups involved in nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycling.
2. Employ field and manipulative laboratory experiments to characterize potential shifts in microbial community structure and function with changes in redox potentials and water chemistry expected from sea level variability.
3. Work with geologists, ecologists, and biogeochemists to provide microbial data and perspectives crucial to a more complete understanding of the impacts of sea level variability on coastal ecosystems.
4. Train students in modern microbial ecological approaches, including genomic and transcriptomic approaches.
The response of microbial communities to variable sea levels will likely be controlled initially by changes in water chemistry, including changes in the dominant nitrogen source and the relative availabilities of specific electron donors and acceptors. These changes are expected to result in shifts in the composition and activities of the resident microbial communities, which in turn will likely impact the rates and directions of dominant biogeochemical cycles. Students in the Microbial Ecology component will be part of an interdisciplinary team that will include geologists, ecologists, and biogeochemists that will seek to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms through which variable water chemistry will change elemental cycles in impacted environments.
College of Design Construction & Planning
Expertise: Dr. Zhong-Ren Peng is Professor/Director International Center for Adaptation Planning and Design (iAdapt), Urban and Regional Planning, UF College of Design, Construction & Planning. His research interests are transportation and land use planning, modeling and policy; planning for climate change; information technology for planning; international/China planning.
Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
Expertise: Bill Pine is an aquatic ecologist whose recent research is focused on how river and coastal ecosystems respond to changes in freshwater flow. He is an Associate Professor in UF’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and has a joint appointment with the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program. He teaches Quantitative Wildlife Ecology and Stream Fish Ecology. Additional information can be found here.
Goals of the Coastal Ecology Component: Rising sea levels and associated changes in freshwater inputs to coastal ecosystems are predicted to lead to changes in resilience of critical coastal ecosystems including oyster bars, forests, and salt marshes. In concert this could potentially lead to large changes in coastal ecosystems and human communities due to changes in fisheries resources and lost ecosystem services. The Big Bend region of the Florida Gulf of Mexico coast is an outstanding area for this type of study because it is largely undeveloped with a higher percentage of natural land cover. Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica populations in this area support economically valuable commercial fisheries and provided critical ecosystem services. However, the long-term viability of oyster populations is uncertain due to changes in freshwater flows and sea level rise which may require rethinking of existing oyster reef restoration and oyster fishery practices. Specific goals of the Coastal Ecology component include:
1. Assess the relationships between salinity, freshwater flow, elevation, harvest practices, and other variables on the distribution, growth, and survival of Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica in the Big Bend of Florida. Of keen interest is assessing how changes in freshwater flow from surface and sub-surface sources may change recruitment dynamics and predation risk.
2. Inform restoration activities for oysters in the Gulf of Mexico region through experimental restoration activities designed to reef resilience to changes in freshwater flows and sea level rise.
3. Link the learning above to models projecting changes in freshwater inputs and sea level rise to conceptualize and characterize how coastal succession of oyster bar and marsh communities may change along the low-gradient coastline found in the Big Bend region of Florida’s Gulf coast.
Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering
Expertise: Arnoldo Valle-Levinson is a coastal physical oceanographer studying hydrodynamics in estuaries, coastal lagoons, fjords and the continental shelf. He is a Professor in in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering Sciences and teaches courses in estuarine hydrodynamics, fluid mechanics, physical oceanography, data analysis, and experimental procedures. More information can be found here.
Goals of the Exchange Processes Component: Sea-level rise will increase saltwater intrusion into aquifers and estuaries. Intrusion will be particularly marked in karstic carbonate platforms throughout the Caribbean, such as Florida, the Bahamas and the Yucatan peninsula because of high permeability carbonate rocks. The main goal of this activity is to determine the processes that cause salinization of coastal aquifers and changes in freshwater discharge to coastal zones. Specific goals related to exchange processes are:
1. Identify the mechanisms that favor saltwater intrusion into subterranean estuaries underlain by karst terrains where conduit and matrix porosity and permeability represent separate flow paths.
2. Quantify the relative fractions of salt fluxes between point spring discharges and diffuse discharges.
3. Determine whether saltwater intrusion pulses are more frequent under certain weather patterns such as dry versus wet seasons?
4. Propose thresholds of sea level rise beyond which the net water flux will be directed into aquifers and estuaries.