Scientists, researchers and students gathered at Florida Tech’s Indian River Lagoon Research Institute’s Technical Conference on Coastal Water Quality on Sept. 27. Through oral presentations, shorter “tech teasers” and poster receptions, the conference explored a host of lagoon-related topics including muck removal and control, novel approaches to water quality improvements, policy, permitting and planning, governance, biosolids and storm water.
This year’s keynote speaker was Larry McKinney, senior executive director at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University. He discussed the importance of scientists using their knowledge to make an impact in their communities.
Other presentations featured industry representatives from Tetra Tech, a consulting and engineering firm in the areas of water, environment, infrastructure, resource management and international development. Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office Director Virginia Barker discussed the county’s initiatives to handle biosolids – organic matter recycled from sewage that can be treated as soil conditioner. Groundwater testing techniques were also discussed, featuring the work of Claudia Listopad, principal scientist and president of Applied Ecology, Inc.
The event also featured presentations from high school students. A Titusville High student looked at using concrete instead of plastic as a solution for oyster restoration, while a student from Vero Beach examined machine learning as a way to predict where algal blooms would form. The project also included an app that would allow users to see what areas to avoid that day because of the blooms.
Throughout the years, TechCon has seen a variety of experts from the science and engineering fields convene over potential solutions for the ailing lagoon. Florida Tech assistant professor of oceanography Kelli Hunsucker, a conference organizer with assistant professor of ocean engineering Robert Weaver, noted she would like to see TechCon’s reach expand with more experts from new areas such as Fort Pierce to complement the leading roles from Brevard and Indian River counties.
This year, due to strong community support, marked the first year TechCon awarded poster prizes for Florida Tech students. Sean Crowley, a biological oceanography master’s student, won for a poster on infauna recovery in seagrass beds post-dredging.
For more on TechCon and the Indian River Lagoon Research Institute, visit https://www.fit.edu/indian-river-lagoon/.