A Mucked Up Lagoon

Lagoon Muck

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

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.

Engineering Team

Ashtok Pandit, Ph.D.
Professor, Department Head
Geoffrey Swain, Ph.D.
Hal Heck, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Program Chair
Robert Weaver, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Science Team

Charles Bostater, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Emily Ralston
Research Assistant Professor
Gary Zarillo, Ph.D.
George Maul, Ph.D.
Jon Shenker, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
John Trefry, Ph.D.
John Windsor, Ph.D.
Professor, Program Chair
Kelli Hunsucker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Ken Lindeman, Ph.D.
Kevin Johnson, Ph.D.
Pallav Ray, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Richard Aronson, Ph.D.
Professor and Department Head
Richard Turner, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Steve Lazarus, Ph.D.
Thomas Belanger, Ph.D.
Spencer Fire, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Austin Fox, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Education and Outreach Team

Kelli Hunsucker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Samantha Fowler, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Thomas Marcinkowski, Ph.D.
Professor and Program Chair

Video Spotlight


How you can make a difference


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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.

 Florida Sustainability Slide

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

Why Sustainability Slide

WHY SUSTAINABILITY? Implementing a Local Sustainability ProgramPresented by: Courtney Barker and Zach Eichholz


State of Florida Restore Lagoon Inflow Research Project

State of Florida Restore Lagoon Inflow Research Project FAQ - Florida Tech V1.5

State of Florida Restore Lagoon Inflow Research Phase 1 Exec Summary 2020

State of Florida Restore Lagoon Inflow Research Phase 1 Full Report 2020

Florida Tech Environmental Muck Dredging Research

FIT Environmental Muck Dredging Brief Summary of Key Research Findings and Recommendations

FIT Environmental Muck Dredging Research Findings and Recommendations.pdf


FIT EMD Year 1 peer-reviewed final research reports are found in: (All Year 1 results are in ONE Report)

Impacts of environmental muck dredging 2014‒2015. Final Project Report to Brevard County Natural Resources Management Dept., J.G. Windsor, Jr. (Ed.), July 2016

FIT EMD Year 1 Impacts of Environmental Muck Dredging 2014 2015 Florida Institu

FIT EMD Year 2 peer-reviewed final research reports are found in:

  1. Muck Dredging Research Project Management (Subtask 1), John Windsor, June 2019
  2. Biological Responses to Muck Dredging in the Indian River Lagoon, Part I.  Seagrass Monitoring and Infaunal Surveys (Subtask 2), Kevin Johnson, September 2017
  3. Biological Responses to Muck Dredging in the Indian River Lagoon, Part II: Fish Populations and Sea Grass Restoration (Subtask 3), Jonathan Shenker, March 2018
  4. Determining the Effectiveness of Muck Removal on Sediment and Water Quality in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida (Subtask 4A), Austin L. Fox, John H. Trefry, Robert P. Trocine, Stacey L. Fox, Jessica E. Voelker, December 2017
  5. Inputs of Nitrogen and Phosphorus from Major Tributaries to the Indian River Lagoon (Subtask 4B), John H. Trefry, Austin L. Fox, Robert P. Trocine, Stacey L. Fox, Jessica E. Voelker, Katherine M. Beckett, October 2017
  6. Hydrologic and Water Quality Model for Management and Forecasting within Brevard County Waters (Subtask 5), Gary Zarillo, April 2018
  7. Moving Muck & Fluidized Mud & Tributary Bedload Measurements at Dredge Sites (Subtask 6), Charles Bostater, May 2018
  8. Wind and microclimate analysis for application to fetch-limited wind wave growth analysis at IRL dredging locations (Subtask 7), Steven Lazarus, November 2017
  9. Feasibility of muck removal at fixed locations in the IRL watershed and subsequent ferrate treatment to remove nutrients and contaminants (Subtask 8), Robert J. Weaver and Thomas D. Waite, January 2018
  10. Source to Slime Study in Indian River Lagoon (Subtask 9), Leesa Souto, May 2019

 FIT EMD Year 3 peer-reviewed final research reports are found in:

 *Funding through DEP Grant Agreement Nos. S0714 and NS005 administered by Brevard County


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