Since 2008, the Everglades Foundation has awarded scholarships to students in support of research projects in the field of advancing Everglades restoration. From a highly competitive pool of candidates, this year the selection committee has awarded 4 students a total amount of $43,000. Meet the newest ForEverglades Foundation Fellowship awardees below.
Elizabeth Kelly is a PhD student and Abess Fellow at the University of Miami’s Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. Elizabeth was awarded the Everglades Foundation ForEvergades Scholarship of $10,000. Her work focuses on the connection between watersheds and human health, including relationships between water and sediment quality, the presence of microorganisms, and public health. Ms. Kelly is working with Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriele on identifying contaminant inputs to the coastal zone and resulting beach water quality. Her research goal is to link Lake Okeechobee discharges to levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIBs) in waterways and beaches. FIBs are bacteria such as enterococci and Escherichia coli that are present in fecal material and can serve as indicators of fecal pollution in water and sediments. Ms. Kelly is particularly interested in the impacts of nutrient releases on levels of FIB in the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Estuary, as these watersheds have suffered from beach closures due to excessive levels of FIB. Her study has an ultimate goal of understanding the connection between nutrients and FIBs, and identify the sources of both. In this way, public health, and the economies of the watershed communities can be protected and maintained.
Sean Charles is a PhD student at Florida International University and was awarded the Everglades Foundation FIU ForEvergades Scholarship of $20,000. Sean’s research focuses on the ways that changes in vegetation associated with climate change, succession and ecosystem development alter the function of wetland ecosystems. Coastal wetlands are some of the most ecologically important ecosystems on the planet because they filter water, provide habitat, buffer the coast from storms and store more carbon per area than any other ecosystem. His PhD work focuses on how expansion of woody mangrove trees into marshes as sea level rises is likely to alter carbon dynamics in coastal wetland soils. Because wetland soil carbon is a globally important “blue” carbon sink and plays an essential role in allowing wetlands to keep pace with sea level rise, understanding how mangrove encroachment will alter soil carbon storage through time is critical for Everglades conservation and restoration. Sean is very excited to receive this funding to further his research and to work with the Everglades Foundation in the future.
Kelley is a PhD student at Florida International University. Kelley was awarded the Everglades Foundation ForEvergades Scholarship of $10,000. Her research focuses on understanding regional variation in the population dynamics and dispersal ecology of the invasive shrub Brazilian Pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) across southern Florida. How does the survival, growth and reproduction of Brazilian Pepper in the Everglades compare to how Brazilian Pepper is behaving in other habitats across southern Florida? Kelley is also studying interactions between Brazilian Pepper and the birds and mammals that eat and disperse its seeds. My project involves a combination of fieldwork and mathematical modeling, with the goal of providing region-specific insights to aid the efforts of managers seeking to control the population growth and spread of Brazilian Pepper.
Mustafa is a master’s student at Florida International University and was awarded the Everglades Foundation ForEvergades Scholarship of $3,000. In his research, Mustafa is assessing peoples’ preference for the restoration of Everglades and its relevancy with the offered ecosystem services. Everglades restoration offers a variety of ecosystem services (ES) including hurricane protection and flood risk reduction, water purification, habitat for several endemic species and recreational opportunities etc. However, altering the quality, quantity and spatiotemporal distribution of water challenged the system’s functionality and sustainability. In order to protect and restore the system several initiatives are underway including the largest attempt of ecosystem restoration in the US, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. With its gradual implementation, the nature and extent of different ES will change both spatially and temporally. Therefore, througout his research, Mustafa will attempt to understand public preference for restoration and how that varies for different ES. Moreover, analogous to the services, public preferences can also differ geographically. Mustafa’s research will also focus on accounting this spatial variation during the implementation of the restoration effort to avoid possible local conflicts and make the initiative more socially acceptable.