Florida Institute of Technology

Indian River Lagoon Research

Scientific research at Florida Tech is helping cultivate sustainable solutions to revitalize one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems in North America.

“The distribution of muck has continued to increase in the lagoon and the release of nitrogen and phosphorus from muck sediments may have played an important role in fueling these algae blooms.”

— John Trefry, Florida Tech Professor of Ocean Engineering


A Mucked Up Lagoon

Right in Florida Tech’s backyard is the Indian River Lagoon, home to more than 3,000 species of plants and animals that are suffering from a half-century of neglect and pollution. As more people have made the Space Coast their home and increased development and pressure on the lagoon, marine life has been decimated by a deadly chain reaction started from fertilizer run-off and waste water. The lagoon is now home to a massive build-up of muck, a thick mixture of nitrogen and phosphorus that resembles black tar. In some parts of the lagoon, the muck has reached epic proportions, up to 10 feet high, suffocating seagrass beds, a vital part of the lagoon’s eco-system. Muck is contributing to large scale algae blooms which consume massive amounts of oxygen, choking out marine life. Now, the lagoon is afflicted with massive die-offs fish, sea turtles, manatees and dolphins. Through concerted research efforts, Florida Tech faculty and students are developing solutions to the Indian River Lagoon’s dire situation.

A Brief History of the Lagoon

Research Stories

Meet our Experts

A group of more than 20 faculty members with decades of scientific research experience related to the Indian River Lagoon have come together to form the Indian River Lagoon Research Institute (IRLRI). Collectively, Florida Tech scientists and engineers are developing solutions to the major issues plaguing the health of the lagoon, including muck and nutrients, lagoon flow, nutrient reduction, sediment loading, ecosystem recovery, policy and management, and engineering technologies. Part of the mission of the IRLRI also includes outreach and education to help the community and lagoon stakeholders understand the importance of IRL problems and their role in creating solutions. The IRLRI collaborates with numerous institutions and agencies along the lagoon with the common goal of improving the lagoon’s eco-system.

Video Spotlights

How you can make a difference

To help bring oyster beds back to the shores, the IRLRI’s Living Docks program invites local residents to turn docks and seawalls along the shores of the lagoon into homes for oysters. Participants hang mesh bags filled with used oyster shells from the sides of a dock or seawall and submerged into the water. The presence of the shells attract oyster larvae, which then propagate and grow. A single dock with 37 pilings—with an average of 32 oysters per piling—can filter about 21 million gallons of water per year.

There are many ways to help improve the health of the Indian River Lagoon, from adopting eco-conscience landscaping practices like reducing fertilizer usage, preventing grass clippings from going down storm drains and growing Florida-friendly native plants to simple things like picking up trash and after your pet. Little actions can go a long way.

Attend TechCon2018. Join us during our annual Technical Conference on Coastal Water Quality hosted by the Indian River Lagoon Research Institute. The conference is focused on adapting and applying science to guide management decisions and develop solutions aimed at improving coastal water quality.

Learn more. https://give.fit.edu/irlri-techcon

Ready to help restore the Indian River Lagoon? Check out our Oyster Restoration guide and learn how you and a colony of oysters can make the lagoon a more hospitable environment for marine life.

indian river lagoon oyster restoration guide

Lagoon Forums

A series of informational forums focused on the Indian River Lagoon health, with the goal of connecting scientists, engineers, citizens, and municipalities in a joint effort to find solutions.

Sustainability in Local Governments of East Florida:
Expanding Opportunities
Ken Lindeman, Professor, sustainability Program Chair Department of Education & Interdisciplinary Studies

Implementing a Local Sustainability Program
Presented by: Courtney Barker and Zach Eichholz



For questions regarding IRLRI related activities,
call 321-674-8936

For questions regarding the IRLRI or research-based projects,
please contact one of the IRLRI Directors:

Robert Weaver, PhD: rjweaver@fit.edu
Kevin Johnson, PhD: johnson@fit.edu
Jon Shenker, PhD: shenker@fit.edu

For questions regarding outreach events or communitybased projects,
please contact one of the IRLRI Outreach Coordinators:

Kelli Hunsucker,PhD: khunsucker@fit.edu