Kevin Johnson of Indian River Lagoon Research Institute Earns $250,000 IRL Superbloom Research Contract

MELBOURNE,FLA.—Florida Tech Associate Professor of oceanography and environmental science (Department of Marine and Environmental Systems) Kevin Johnson has received $250,000 from the St. Johns River Water Management District. He will track the factors affecting the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) superbloom in the northern lagoon.

“Algae should be eaten by herbivores, but IRL algae have been blooming out of control in spite of grazers,” said Johnson. “My research will focus on the distribution and abundance of herbivores in the field and on lab tests to examine the diets and feeding rates of grazers, including their potential to consume nuisance algae.”

Harmful algal blooms in the IRL are becoming common with the recent “brown Tide” resulting primarily from a species of algae known as Aureoumbra lagunensis. These blooms are largely to blame for the recent dramatic loss of sea grass habitat, dietary problems in manatees and other issues in the IRL. Johnson is currently conducting field monitoring of critical sites between Melbourne and Titusville, sampling zooplankton fortnightly with the hope of better understanding the grazers in the algal bloom ecosystem.

Johnson earned a doctoral degree in biology from the University of Oregon. Before coming to Florida Tech, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Fla., where he investigated Florida coast invertebrates. He was also a postdoctoral fellow at the National Science Foundation’s Center for Environmental Analysis—Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology, located at California State University, Los Angeles, where his research was on mussel population dynamics. He is the author of a widely known identification manual for herbivorous zooplankton and is active in several international scientific research societies.

Johnson is part of the Indian River Lagoon Research Institute (IRLRI). The recently established institute is a collaboration of the university’s scientists, engineers, coastal resource managers and educators, working independently and with community organizations to improve and sustain the health of the Indian River Lagoon.

The Department of Marine and Environmental Systems offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Coastal Zone Management, Earth Remote Sensing, Environmental Resource Management, Environmental Science, Meteorology, Ocean Engineering (including Naval Architecture), and Oceanography.”

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