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FAU Kelly Family Foundation Undergraduate Internships in Coastal Affairs

Offered through FAU Harbor Branch Pillar that focuses on:

Ocean and Environmental Science & Technology

beach aerial

Coastal regions are important as both places to live and visit and they have significant ecological and economical value. Our coasts and oceans are particularly vulnerable to pollution, nutrient run-off, overfishing and climate change which affect ecosystem health and biological diversity on land and in the sea. Consequently, we face a major challenge in defining policy, regulation and management to address these threats on a local, regional and even a global scale.

This Internship program provides undergraduate students an opportunity for analysis of important questions in Coastal Affairs, an interdisciplinary research area for marine and coastal management. Students will research timely issues from the ocean science as well as the policy/planning perspective.
The Internships, open to students enrolled as undergraduates at the time of the internship, will be $4,000 each and will be approximately 20 hours per week during the spring semester (approx. 17 weeks) and 40 hours during the summer semester (10 weeks). Depending on the topic, the internships require that students relocate or commute to one of FAU’s campuses to complete their internship. Up to five internships will be awarded.

The deadline for submission of application materials is 5pm Friday December 8th 2017. The application process is detailed below.

The following five projects are available. Click each to read more about the project.
  1. Wetspots from sea-level rise: Identifying micro-scale flood risk through geospatial groundwater-tide-elevation analysis
  2. Historical changes of Florida’s coastline since 1950
  3. Engineering Mangrove-like Structures for Energy Harvesting and Coastal Protection
  4. Environmental Influences on Sea Turtle Nesting and Hatching Success
  5. Examining Seasonal Prey Abundance of Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis) in the Indian River Lagoon
To apply for an internship :
  1. Complete the on-line application form. and submit it through the form below. Download the application form here.
  2. Send Official Transcripts to Dr. Peter McCarthy, Associate Director of Education, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, 5600 US Hwy 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946
  3. Request one letter of recommendation from an FAU faculty member sent either by mail to the address above or mail e-mail to pmccart5@fau.edu
  4. The deadline for submission of all information is 5pm on December 8th, 2017
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1. Wetspots from sea-level rise: Identifying micro-scale flood risk through geospatial groundwater-tide-elevation analysis
Mentors: Dr. Colin Polsky (Florida Center for Environmental Studies) and Dr. Fred Bloetscher (Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science)
Primary Project Location: FAU Davie campus
Southeast Florida sea levels have risen significantly in recent years. Consequently, many Broward County (and nearby) neighborhoods are experiencing a growing number of flooding hours per year – even in the absence of rainfall. These events are most common during the semi-annual King Tide events, which are naturally-occurring cycles linked with the position of the moon relative to the earth. Our growing challenge is that these natural events are generating increasing flood impacts. Several FAU faculty have been engaged with the sea level rise adaptation domain – what is often called “coastal resilience” – in recent years. This project will engage an FAU student to assist in identifying localized (i.e., neighborhood-level) flood risk through geospatial groundwater-tide-elevation analysis. Coastal resilience is a new and exciting inter-disciplinary field, one for which there is a growing job market, and a heightened public visibility.
Expected student outcomes:
  • Development of expertise in geospatial (GIS, LiDAR, multivariate statistics, relational database) analysis, therefore, strong quantitative and critical reasoning skills are necessary
  • Development of expertise in flood mitigation technologies (e.g., seawalls, berms, stormwater valves)
  • Development of expertise in stakeholder engagement, therefore, an engaging personality is necessary
  • Produce a poster for presentation at the FAU Undergraduate Research Symposium, Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, and/or a relevant national or international conference.
  • This research would be suitable for manuscript publication in the FAU Journal of Undergraduate Research.
2. Historical changes of Florida’s coastline since 1950
Many beaches in Florida are likely to have been eroded, overwashed or inundated by hurricane events, human induced activities or gradual climate changes. The public and the research community is interested to understand the change rate of coastlines in Florida in the recent decades. Historical literature and aerial images will be investigated to create the Florida’s coastline changes map since 1950. Old aerial images and new satellite observation will be georeferenced to a unified coordinate system to create the maps.
Mentors: Dr. Hongbo Su (Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science) and Dr. Tsung-Chow Su (Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science)
Primary Project Location: FAU Boca Raton campus
Expected student outcomes:
  • A database of coastline maps for different time period from 1950
  • Coastline change rate (m/year) every 20 year since 1950
  • An interactive map online and available to the public
  • Produce a poster for presentation at the FAU Undergraduate Research Symposium, Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, and/or a relevant national or international conference.
  • This research would be suitable for manuscript publication in the FAU Journal of Undergraduate Research.
3. Engineering Mangrove-like Structures for Energy Harvesting and Coastal Protection
Protection of US coastlines against natural disasters and access to renewable energy are two major challenges that the Nation is currently facing. Recent hurricane landfalls in the US have again dramatically exposed the vulnerability of millions of Americans. Furthermore, the high-level dependency on fossil fuels to provide basic services adds another level of complexity. In this project we propose the design and testing of an array of resilient mangrove-like structures with two far-reaching goals: 1) protect coastlines and 2) harvest energy from tide streams.
Mentors: Dr. Oscar Curet (Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering and Computer Science) and TBD
Primary Project Location: FAU SeaTech, Dania Beach
Expected student outcomes:
  • Design and testing of a mangrove-like structure prototype for hydrodynamic studies and energy harvesting. The experiments will be performed in the Hydrodynamic Laboratory at SeaTech.
  • Produce a poster for presentation at the FAU Undergraduate Research Symposium, Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, and/or a relevant national or international conference.
  • This research would be suitable for manuscript publication in the FAU Journal of Undergraduate Research.

4. Environmental Influences on Sea Turtle Nesting and Hatching Success
The highly dynamic nature of beach environments can significantly influence the ecological integrity of sea turtle nesting habitat. This is especially apparent following the impact of tropical storms (hurricanes) and/or cold fronts. In response to erosion, humans may introduce additional significant change through mitigation efforts such as nourishment or hard structures. In South Florida, threatened and endangered sea turtles utilize the beaches for part of their lifecycle, with 45% of the world’s loggerhead sea turtles nesting on Florida beaches. The success of turtle nesting depends on numerous factors, such as beach slope and width, sand composition, temperature, grain size, and water potential. Thus, it is critical to understand what physical factors influence sea turtle nesting (and hatching) and thus how various management decisions and/or designs might then impact sea turtle habitat. In this study, we propose to collect data quantifying physical changes in the beach environment where sea turtles nest to evaluate the influences of sediment and beach morphology on sea turtle nest temperature and inundation relating to embryo mortality rates in Boca Raton. Beach profiles will be surveyed at multiple locations, with sediment collected from cross-shore locations representing different nesting sites across the beach (i.e., near the dune where greens nest, at the mid-beach where loggerheads nest, and just above the mean high water where leatherbacks nest). Temperature loggers will be deployed within a select nests and control areas. The upper limit of wave runup will be identified from flood pipes installed along the survey transects and confirmed using the upper limit of profile convergence (identified based on time-series profiles). The location (i.e., proximity) of sea turtle nesting sites within 10 m of the survey transects recorded and nesting patterns (collected by the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Sea Turtle Specialists) mapped and analyzed. These data will then be compared with embryos from select nests to determine the potential correlation between temperature, flooding and embryo mortality rates. This interdisciplinary project proposes to combine the expertise of Drs. Tiffany Briggs (Geosciences) and Sarah Milton (Biology) to investigate beach dynamics and sea turtle nesting.
Mentors: Dr. Tiffany Roberts-Briggs and Dr. Sarah Milton
Expected Student Outcomes:
  • Strengthen a student’s ability to analyze complex coastal processes and the biology of sea turtle nesting and embryo mortality
  • Ensure proper training in field and lab techniques for data acquisition and analysis.
  • Work side-by-side in the field and laboratory with graduate students, fostering an important component of scientific research: collaboration and partnership.
  • Produce a poster for presentation at the FAU Undergraduate Research Symposium, Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, and/or a relevant national or international conference.
  • This research would be suitable for manuscript publication in the FAU Journal of Undergraduate Research.
  • Student will work with a Community Partner, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, in Boca Raton to disseminate his or her findings.
  • It is anticipated that data generated by this project may serve as a basis for other undergraduate Directed Independent Study (DIS) projects, or perhaps integrate as baseline data for future external proposals.

The project will use common snook (Centropomus undecimalis) as a model for large predatory fishes in examining the abundance of prey species available in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon ecosystem under varying environmental conditions. The results would inform several ongoing graduate student projects. Current connections with Florida Fish and Wildlife will be utilized to collect common snook stomachs. Gut analysis will be performed to determine prey species preference. These data will be compared to seine catches of prey species and snook. Then the seining data will be analyzed across different environmental conditions, such as flow, temperature, and salinity. Snook are an ecologically and economically relevant species, being both a top predator in their ecosystem and bringing in millions of dollars to the Florida’s economy each year through sportfishing. Unlike many species, common snook have a wide range of tolerance for changes in salinity or dissolved oxygen. After an extreme event, like a hurricane, there is a shift in prey assemblage, generally from more marine to more freshwater species. Although some predators will also leave during this time, some fishes such as snook can take advantage of new prey sources. Understanding these shifts in prey assemblage and abundance can inform our interpretation of predatory fish distributions, including how to manage and protect these important species. This project seeks to gain an understanding of the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem based on a bottom up analysis.
Mentors: Dr. John Baldwin (Department of Biological Sciences, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science) and Dr. Matt Ajemian (Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute)
Primary Project Location: Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
Expected Student Outcomes:
  • A student working on this project would be able to develop their ability to conduct research while applying it to real-world problem.
  • This student will be able to engage with other students and organizations working in this field.
  • The skills learned in this project would translate into future research.
  • The ultimate goal is for the student to acquire a further understanding of how to protect marine species, and conserve natural waterways through science and research.
  • Produce a poster for presentation at the FAU Undergraduate Research Symposium, Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, and/or a relevant national or international conference.
  • This research would be suitable for manuscript publication in the FAU Journal of Undergraduate Research.




 Last Modified 11/13/17