News

February 28, 2020

EPA Recognizes Two Organizations in Florida for Receiving $430,611 in Funding for Coral Barrier Reef Projects in South Florida

News Source: Science Magazine

Author(s): Dawn Harris-Young

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (February 28, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized two organizations in Florida as recipients of South Florida Geographic Initiative (SFGI) Program grants. The grants are for projects that support protection and restoration of water quality, corals and seagrass in South Florida.

“EPA is proud to support projects that will help address environmental needs and challenges in South Florida waters,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “EPA is proud to fund local projects that will restore habitats and foster environmental awareness.”

“We are excited to use metabolomics approaches to decipher the contribution of the coral microbiome to the devastating stony coral tissue loss disease and the changing health of coral reefs in Florida," said Georgia Institute of Technology School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Assistant Professor Dr. Neha Garg.

“FWC appreciates the support of EPA as we work with our partners to address the significant threat SCTLD poses to our coral reef ecosystem,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Director Gil McRae. “We also want to acknowledge the foresight and commitment shown by the FKNMS Water Quality Protection Program in making funding for coral disease response a high priority.”

The SFGI grants include:

  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga. - $160,000 will be used to characterizing biomarkers of coral disease to develop early detection strategies and assess the role of microbial pathogens and metabolism in coral disease.
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Fla. - $171,365 will be used to increase knowledge of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) by characterizing the effect of the disease on the microbiomes of corals; analyzing water and sediment samples to determine how SCTLD may persist in the environment and lead to disease progression; determining if the microbial signature of SCTLD is consistent through the reef tract; and determining how corals surviving in the SCTLD zone respond with antimicrobial properties that aid their survival.
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Fla. - $99,246 will be used to continue surveillance of the progression of SCTLD westward along the Florida Reef Tract to include targeted assessments of the Marquesas and Dry Tortugas region.  This is a critical need as the disease progresses towards the Dry Tortugas National Park

SFGI grants are used to fund South Florida Program projects for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Water Quality Protection Program, Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, Caloosahatchee Estuary, Indian River Lagoon, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. The South Florida marine environment features world-class beaches, fishing and diving; highly-productive estuaries, extensive seagrass meadows, deep-water ports and the only coral barrier reef in the continental United States. These valuable natural resources provide for recreational and commercial fisheries, the multi-billion-dollar tourism economy, major shipping ports, and the millions of people residing along the coast.