Dr. Geoffrey Smith Awarded Pensacola and Perdido Bay Estuary Program Community Grant


We are excited to announce Dr. Geoffrey Smith, Northwest Florida State College biology instructor, has been awarded a Pensacola and Perdido Bay Estuary Program (PPBEP) community grant. MKEI is honored to be able to assist Dr. Smith as he studies peripheral oyster populations in Santa Rosa Sound and urban bayous of Pensacola Bay.

Oysters are critical components of estuaries along the gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States. They provide food and shelter to numerous fish and invertebrate species; increase water clarity through their feeding activities; and can serve as shoreline erosion buffers against waves and storm surge.

Oyster populations are traditionally monitored along the shoreline and in open waters of estuaries. Some water bodies, however, lack suitable substrate for oyster growth or oyster reefs. They may have been impacted by various human activities such as harvest, dredging, and run-off containing sediments and pollutants.

Peripheral oysters are oysters that do not form traditional reefs and often grow on various human-made structures (dock pilings, seawalls, rocky rip rap shorelines, etc.) Peripheral oysters are seldom considered when assessing oyster populations, but can serve in a similar role to traditional oyster reefs (food, habitat, water filtering) and may supply larvae that can help to restore/establish oyster reefs.

Dr. Smith and researchers at MKEI will be collecting videos of these peripheral oysters throughout Santa Rosa Sound and some of the urban bayous in Pensacola Bay. Images from the videos will be used to estimate the abundance and size of oysters growing on different types of structures. This information will then be mapped to visualize areas of high and low peripheral oyster abundance based on structure type.

MKEI is proud to assist Dr. Smith in this project. The information collected as the result of Dr. Smith’s grant work will further serve our community in the regional efforts to provide understanding and conservation of our environmental resources.


Pictured: Logan McDonald, Community Outreach Coordinator for PPBEP; Dr. Geoff Smith, NWFSC biology instructor; Matt Posner, Director of PPBEP; Robert Bender, Escambia County Commissioner-District 4.

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