Welcome to the Coastal Ecology Laboratory!

Coastal ecosystems around the world are experiencing unprecedented pressure from population growth, tourism, and resource exploitation. Tourism is the economic driver for much of the coastal zone, however, the market is dependent on the quality of the environment, affordable costs and unique experiences. The Coastal Ecology Laboratory at University of Miami focuses on coasts of South Florida and insular Caribbean.

Who We Are:

Kathleen Sullivan Sealey (Associate Professor)

Catalina Vasquez (Doctoral Candidate)

Jacob Patus (Graduate Student)

Zoi Thanopoulou (Graduate Student)

Krystle Young (Graduate Student)

Caitlin Camarena (Undergraduate Research Assistant)

What We Do:

The Bahamas

The islands of The Bahamas are unique in their geology and are very vulnerable to over-development. The threats include not only loss of terrestrial species, but also the impact of land-based sources of pollution on near-shore marine environments. The long-term goal of the Coastal Ecology Laboratory is to better understand coastal processes on tropical carbonate islands, and to develop guidelines for sustainable use of small islands where reef resources are critical to both the economy and the culture. Sustainable use guidelines are needed to:
  1. Stabilize the coastal zone and environment for the long-term, and permit only development that can weather 100-year storm events and climate change impacts. Coastal stability will minimize the costs of mitigating erosion and damage to roads, buildings, and other infrastructure.
  2. Protect coastal biological diversity for both plant and animal species. Coastal wildlife is under threat from physical alteration as well as from invasive species in the coastal zone.
  3. Minimize the flux of nutrients and pollutants from land to near-shore marine environments, especially coral reefs.

Biscayne Bay, Florida

Coral patches and coral diversity will increase in the areas where the coastal restoration and buffer zones improve water quality, primarily reducing salinity extremes and pollution loading. Epifauna biodiversity will be positively correlated with coral diversity. Coral diversity will be lowest in areas where dredging has occurred and no coastal restoration has occurred. This study presents a test of the hypotheses that:
  1. Differences in coastal development between protected areas along Biscayne Bay, and developed areas (e.g. Coconut Grove) are detectable in terms of physical and chemical parameters of the water column and sediments, and
  2. Differences in coral patches’ condition between the sites are significant and detectable due to differences in the improvement of water quality from restoration efforts – both to coastal and adjacent freshwater wetland environments.

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