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.
Robert Weaver, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Science Team

Charles Bostater, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Emily Ralston
Research Assistant Professor
Gary Zarillo, Ph.D.
Jon Shenker, Ph.D.
Emeritus Faculty
Kelli Hunsucker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Ken Lindeman, Ph.D.
Kevin Johnson, Ph.D.
Visiting Research Professor
Pallav Ray, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Richard Aronson, Ph.D.
Professor and Department Head
Richard Turner, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Steve Lazarus, Ph.D.
Spencer Fire, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Austin Fox, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Education and Outreach Team

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

Video Spotlight


How you can make a difference

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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.

Support lagoon friendly legislation at the local, county, and state level. 

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.

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

Lagoon Straight Talk

Lagoon Straight Talk June 2022 at Florida Tech. Organized by the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition
with presentations by Dr. Duane DeFreese, Executive Chairman of the IRLNEP; Vinnie Taranto, Chairman of the SOIRL Citizens Oversight Committee; and Dr. Jeff Eble, Project Coordinator for the Lagoon Ocean Inflow Research Project. (YouTube Video)


State of Florida Restore Lagoon Inflow Research Project

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

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

State of Florida Restore Lagoon Inflow Research Phase 2 Exec Summary 2021

State of Florida Restore Lagoon Inflow Research Phase 2 Full Report 2021

State of Florida Lagoon Inflow Research Phase 3 Interim Report March 2023

View the MCR Restore Lagoon Inflow research update with Dr. Jeff Eble (January 11th, 2022).

Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Restore Lagoon Inflow Project.

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: (All Year 1 results are in ONE Report)

Click here to find FIT EMD Year 1 peer-reviewed final research reports

FIT EMD Year 2 peer-reviewed final research reports:

Click here to find FIT EMD Year 2 peer-reviewed final research reports

FIT EMD Year 3 peer-reviewed final research reports:

Click here to find FIT EMD Year 3 peer-reviewed final research reports

*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 the IRLRI Director:

Robert Weaver, PhD: rjweaver@fit.edu 

For questions regarding outreach events or community based projects,
please contact the IRLRI Outreach Coordinator:

Kelli Hunsucker,PhD: khunsucker@fit.edu