5th Annual IRLRI TechCon Featuring Potential Lagoon Fixes

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Scientists and researchers from around Florida will discuss the latest efforts to fix the ailing Indian River Lagoon as Florida Institute of Technology’s Indian River Lagoon Research Institute convenes its 5th annual Technical Conference on Coastal Water Quality on Friday, Sept. 27.

Starting at 9 a.m., the conference will explore muck removal and control, novel approaches to water quality improvements, policy, permitting and planning, governance, biosolids and storm water. The conference will also feature oral presentations, shorter “tech teasers” and poster receptions.

Presentations include measuring groundwater entering the Indian River Lagoon; approaches for forecasting algal blooms; novel technologies for improving water quality; new techniques and sensors for measuring water quality; and citizen science projects aimed at monitoring the Lagoon.

Florida Tech assistant professor of oceanography Kelli Hunsucker has noted some of the new trends to be discussed, such as using machine learning to improve water quality.

She also said the event has grown, including more poster presentations, as well as the number of attendees, including an increase in high school students. A Titusville High student’s project looks at using concrete instead of plastic as a solution for oyster restoration.

“I love that,” Hunsucker said. “From a young age, they’re starting to realize that, ‘Hey, my backyard is in peril; what can I do to try to help?’ Even if it’s not a novel idea, at least they’re starting to think along those lines and getting the experience of designing a project and coming up with hypotheses.”

The keynote speaker is Larry McKinney, senior executive director at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University. Through his education and experience, he has the unique perspective to balance a healthy gulf and a healthy economy. With hands-on research and committed leadership, McKinney has developed a reputation for taking on difficult and controversial environmental issues like endangered species conservation, water resource development, and habitat loss in Texas.

For TechCon organizers Hunsucker and ocean engineering associate professor Robert Weaver, speakers from outside the area who have had success restoring their local bodies of water provide critical insight into complex issues.

“I think it’s extremely important to look to your ‘neighbors’ and look to see what they’re doing and not re-invent the wheel,” Hunsucker said. “It doesn’t mean that something that worked in one place may work here, but you can kind of look at the successes and figure out what might be a good fit for you.”

This year’s TechCon is sponsored by Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition, Sebastian Inlet chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Conradina chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, Applied Ecology and Duncan McClurg.

For more information, visit https://event.fit.edu/techcon/.

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