Student Researcher Helping to Make Lawns Lagoon Friendly

The Indian River Lagoon (IRL) has been suffering from high nutrient inflows that include stormwater run-off, fertilizer and lawn clippings. These nutrients degrade the lagoon’s water quality which leads to the build-up of muck, algal blooms and consequently major fish die-offs.

To combat these issues, the sustainability minor research project of ocean engineering student, Andrew Shillingsford, developed new measurement tools for assessing the Lagoon Friendly Lawns program developed by Keep Brevard Beautiful (KBB).  This eco-certification program awards Member, Silver, or Gold ratings to homeowners who adopt basic lawn management practices that reduce stormwater runoff from lawns.

Shillingsford extended work by earlier students on the Lagoon Friendly Lawns proof of concept to validate the project and its potential impact.  One goal was to determine the areas of Brevard County that could have the largest impact on reducing nutrient inflows by studying creek discharge and water circulation in the lagoon.

I was able to estimate that approximately 3.5 million pounds of total nitrogen could be prevented from entering the lagoon if all properties in Brevard County were enrolled in the program,” says Shillingsford.

During the course of his research, Shillingsford estimated that Turkey Creek has the highest discharge rates of all the areas studied.  He reported his results in the Sustainability Category at the Northrop Grumman Science and Engineering Showcase at Florida Tech on April 6.

 Shillingsford also gained hands-on experience using the tools of the coastal engineering trade including ADCIRC which models tides and water circulation.

“ADCIRC is a model used by many large coastal engineering firms and is something that I will use in my future career.”

Coupled with Shillingsford’s concern for the lagoon and goal of pursuing a career in engineering, he says that he has gained valuable experience from Florida Tech’s sustainability minor research program that he will employ as a coastal engineer. More information on this innovative program is at Lagoon Friendly Lawns.

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