The Chemical & Physical Ecology Program addresses both research and applied science questions on the impacts and interactions of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and silica) and physical parameters (salinity, light) in riverine, estuarine and coastal environments. The group forms a NELAC-approved water quality laboratory with certification inspections conducted by the Florida Department of Health and a Quality Manual which addresses all aspects of sample collection, analytical and reporting practices. These quality measures are applied to all projects to ensure acceptable accuracy and precision of all analytical results.

Areas of focus for the program include statistical analyses of the nutrient regimes associated with blooms of Florida’s “Red Tide,” Karenia brevis, as well as other phytoplankton taxa. We are examining the variations in the supply of nutrients from the major SW Florida estuaries, and are also studying the responses of both typical coastal phytoplankton and K. brevis to selected nutrient additions under more controlled laboratory experiments. Novel sources of nutrients that may support harmful algal blooms have also been examined, quantifying either the amount of nutrients supplied as flux from the sediments to the water column or measuring the nutrient concentrations of sediment interstitial waters.

Freshwater supplies to estuaries are under considerable pressure as Florida’s population and drinking water demands increase. The Program has performed a number of studies to establish the chemical and physical conditions of tidal rivers as a function of flow rates to allow Florida’s Water Management Agencies to set appropriate withdrawal limits that are protective of estuarine biota and habitats. We also continue to provide monitoring services to permitted entities to ensure that these limits remain effective and appropriate and to permit municipalities to track the conditions and trends of their respective estuarine waters. Projects include both routine discrete sampling at selected stations, intensive surveys with flow through instrumentation and water quality measurements, stormwater sampling and installations of continuous monitors of weather, water level and water quality.

Funding agencies have included the U.S. EPA, NOAA, the State of Florida, Southwest and South Florida Water Management Districts, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, Florida Department of Health, as well as local counties and cities.

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