Florida Tech Faculty Contract Supports Sebastian Inlet Habitat Protection

MELBOURNE, FLA. — Elizabeth Irlandi-Hyatt, Florida Tech associate professor of oceanography, has long participated in the protection of Sebastian Inlet-area
fisheries. With a $61,500 contract from the Sebastian Inlet District, she will be able to explore new methodologies to support her efforts in permit
compliance monitoring.
The focus of Irlandi-Hyatt and her students is to assess the benthic (sea bottom) communities of the very near-shore hard-bottom habitats, which can be
potentially impacted by beach nourishment activities. The usual monitoring methods, aerial photography and underwater visual observations, are hindered by
poor visibility.
“The contract will allow us to investigate the feasibility of using acoustic data to help quantify the amount of exposed hard bottom, or reef rock, and the
types of biological communities growing on the rocks,” said Irlandi-Hyatt. The communities include algae, sponge and worm reef.
“These efforts should help the district to manage their nourishment projects so that they have minimal impacts on near-shore habitats,” she added.

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