Ecosystem Conservation

The Indian River Lagoon Observatory – Research


Harbor Branch has conducted research on the IRL since 1973, beginning with the Indian River Coastal Zone Study (1973-1976). Dr. Dennis Hanisak began conducting IRL research in 1984, as part of his Marine Botany Program, which focused on macroalgae. In the 1990’s, his research expanded to include seagrasses, and he conducted a detailed study of the relationship of water quality, light, and seagrass over a large extent of the lagoon. These data have been used by water managers in models of the IRL.

In 2004, Hanisak led a Harbor Branch effort to participate in the nascent Florida Oceans Initiative. This program, the Indian River Lagoon Research Initiative (IRLRI), was funded by a state legislative request through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) for three years. IRLRI laid the foundation for expanded research in the IRL by Harbor Branch scientists, including the development of the Indian River Lagoon Observatory (IRLO).

IRLO research focus is on the integration on the relationships of water quality, macroalgae, and seagrass, and their broader impacts of the IRL. As the major primary producers in this system, these ecologically important plants provide critical habitat and food for many organisms, are important in nutrient cycling, and have major impacts on other biotic resources, including fisheries. Seeking a better understanding of the environment these organisms live in has led to a greater research emphasis on understanding spatial and temporal variability of the highly dynamic IRL. This quest has led to the use of advanced technology to enhance our ability to collect and utilize critical environmental data.

Research projects include:

Submerged Plants of the Indian River Lagoon

IRLO Seagrass & Water Quality Time Series

Indian River Lagoon Observatory Network of Environmental Sensors

IRL Algal Bloom Investigation

Seagrass Restoration Feasibility Project

Love Your Lagoon Seagrass Nursery Project

Other researchers at HBOI and other institutions are conducting additional research projects that rely on IRLO, further extending the impact of this program.

The IRL is one of the longest barrier-island/tidal-inlet systems in the continental U.S.

HBOI ocean fish