Ecohydrology Research Group University of South Florida - School of Geosciences


Tyelyn selected for NOAA fellowship

We are so pleased to announce Tyelyn has been awarded the 2024-2026 NOAA Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship to expand on her research being conducted in the springs, seeps, rivers, and estuaries of Kachemak Bay, Alaska!! She looks forward to further collaborations with the community of Homer and KBNERR . We accompany this post with a picture of Tyelyn wading through the Everglades so she remembers Florida is fun, too, and doesn't forget to come back once in awhile!

Edgar successfully defends his PhD research

Edgar defended his dissertation, Development of decision-support tools for water resources management in Coupled Human-Natural Systems, today and is one giant leap closer to graduation. His research brings together hydrology, geospatial analysis, and social science to develop tools for water management and enhance stakeholder dialogue. He is pictured here post-defense being congratulated by his supportive labmates!

Tyelyn delivers the keynote presentation

Tyelyn delivered the keynote presentation at the annual Student Virtual conference of the Society of Wetland Scientists. She highlighted the importance of collaborations with community members and other stakeholders to research programs. She delivered this message through describing her research on the significance of groundwater to maintenance of streamflow and ecosystem support in salmon-bearing streams in Alaska while showcasing collaborations she has contributed to and benefitted from. These collaborations have led to increased community awareness of the significance of groundwater and have resulted in meaningful policy change.

Josephina selected for program in Ghana

Josephina has been selected to participate in an NSF funded program on Water Quality, Sanitation, and Climate Change Research in Ghana . Josephina will travel to Ghana Summer 2024 to gain insights on the international scope of topics she has been studying in Florida. She has been assisting with development of a decision support tool to identify Florida landscapes susceptible to water quality impacts from septic systems (funding provided by FDEP) in addition to developing machine-learning methods for detection of historical land use change (funding provided by EPA). The international experience she will gain through participation in this NSF project will undoubtedly enrich her research and provide new perspectives.

ERG Research Makes an Impact on Federal Policy

A recent article by the ERG, Reorganizing the waterscape: asymmetric loss of wetlands and gain of artifical water features in a mixed-use watershed, details the continued loss of wetlands and the simultaneous rapid gain in artificial water features (e.g., AWF, including stormwater ponds, golf course water features, and reservoirs) in the Tampa Bay Watershed, leading to a vast reorganization of the waterscape with unknown effects on ecosystem functions and the goods and services they provide. ERG was encouraged to write the paper during a conversation with Dr. Megan Lang, Chief Scientist with the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Wetland Inventory (NWI). NWI has been observing similar trends at a coarser scale nationwide, recently expressed in a report to the US Congress. The Wetland Status and Trends report , which draws upon the ERG article several times, expressly states, “We must commit to raising the bar related to ‘No Net Loss’ to a more explicitly defined standard of ‘No Net Loss’ of vegetated wetlands going forward.” This represents a clear shift away from past policies that tended to treat wetlands and many AWF as equivalent features in status and trends reporting.

Stephanie Lawlor's new position as Conservation Manager

Stephanie earned her MS in Environmental Science and Policy at USF, conducting research on historical mapping and land use change in Florida. She continued with us as a post-grad researcher integrating her insights and GIS expertise into development of a geospatial tool for wetland conservation and restoration in St Lucie County. She has recently accepted a position as Conservation Manager at the Southeast Alaska Land Trust in Juneau, Alaska. We will miss seeing her in lab but look forward to future collaborations and to going out for news and beers when she visits!

St Lucie County Installs Public Education Exhibit Highlighting ERG Research

The Oxbow Eco-Center and Preserve in St Lucie County, FL, has a new exhibit to illustrate the profound changes that have occurred in regional land use. Each change is an uncontrolled expeiment with potential consequecnces for down-gradient water quality. The new installation protrays land change since the earliest surveys, circa 1850s. Although it sounds like a long time ago, it was only a few generations ago and Florida was astoundingly different. Our recent publication Forensic wetland and deepwater habitat mapping for setting pre-development conditions details this work. It's fantastic to see it brought to the public in the form of this installation spearheaded by our collaborators, the St Lucie County Environmental Resources Department.

Congratulations Abby!

Abby was one of four students to win an award for posters presented at the University of Florida Water Institute Conference. She presented her honors thesis work, conducted with the ERG, and won $1000 towards travel to another conference. She was the first undergraduate student to ever win the award at that conference. Her poster was titled Tampa Bay Groups with Few Financial Resources Lack Benefits from Natural & Artificial Wetlands. Her work built upon insights gleaned by the ERG in the spatial analysis of waterbodies in the Tampa Bay Region, including the distribution of natural and artifical waterbodies, but newly incorporated the angle of Environmental Justice. See the related News Article here.

ERG presentations at the University of Florida Water Institute 2024 Symposium

The ERG was in full force at the recent symposium Sustainable Water Resources: Complex Challenges, Integrated Solutions , presenting on the topics listed below.

  • Mark: Opening Remarks as Chief Science Officer, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Mark: Spatial and Temporal Variability in Hydrological Connectivity in Stream-Wetland Flow Networks
  • Kai: Tool for Prioritizing Wetland and Water Project Prioritization in the Indian River Lagoon Watershed
  • Edgar: Pilot Scale Septic to Sewer Conversion Prioritization Map Using Analytic Hierarchy Process
  • Tyelyn: Groundwater Sustains Salmon Streams: Support to Streamflow and Temperature in South-Central Alaska
  • Stephanie: Forensic Wetland and Deepwater Habitat Mapping for Setting Pre-Development Conditions
  • Abby: Tampa Bay Groups with Few Financial Resources Lack Benefits from Natural & Artificial Wetlands

Funding Awarded for Development of a Decision Support Tool for Septic to Sewer Conversion Prioritization

Since 2019, the Florida Dept of Enviornmental Protection has provided $1.9 billion for targeted water quality improvement grants to local governments, much of it for septic-to-sewer conversions. However, many septic systems remain and decisions need to be made to determine which may pose a risk to water quality and should be prioritized for conversion to sewer. The ERG has been awarded funding to develop a geospatial tool to rate the relative vulnerability of landscape positions to nutrient additions such as septic leachate. This tool will facilitate conversion prioritization decisions among existing septic systems (OSTDS) and may be incorporated into permitting decisions regarding proposed installation of septic systems. This is a multi-phase project, starting first with landscape level physical considerations, such as soil properties, flood risk, surficial geology, topography, and proximity to surface water.

The ERG at AGU in San Francisco December 2023

The ERG was well-represented at the AGU Fall Meeting, presenting on the following topics:

  • Mark: Reorganizing the Waterscape: Asymmetric Loss of Wetlands and Gain of Artificial Water Features in a Mixed-Use Watershed
  • Edgar: Mapping Groundwater Recharge Potential in High Latitude Landscapes Using Public Data, Remote Sensing, and Analytic Hierarchy Process
  • Tyelyn: Groundwater Support in Streamflow and Stream Temperature in Non-Glacial, Salmon-Bearing Streams in South-Central Alaska
  • Eojin: Forecasting Groundwater Temperature Using Historical and Projected Data in the Kenai Peninsula Lowlands, Alaska

The ERG has a new project in Alaska: Utilizing beavers to mitigate climate drying peatland

USF-ERG is collaborating with Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Alaska Center for Conservation Science, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, and University of Oregon on a multidisciplinary project studying the potential use of beavers as a nature-based solution to counter peatland drying in the Kenai Lowlands, Alaska. USF-ERG’s role in this collaborative project is to conduct hydrologic analyses to test what function a beaver dam may play in lag, sink and source hydrologic functions.

Society of Wetland Scientists and the ERG

Mark Rains was selected for the 2023 SWS Fellows Award. This is the highest recognition of achievement bestowed by SWS. Mark has been an active memeber of SWS since the 90s and his nomination by his peers and selection by the SWS Fellows Committee was particularly meaningful. Meanwhile, Kai was elected to a three year term on the SWS Executive Board as Secretary-General! They are both proud and honored to be recognized by this society.

Mark's busy year of Plenaries

Mark has been invited to deliver plenary and opening talks to diverse audiences in 2023. It's great to see widespread interest in ERG research and perspectives!

Congratulations Edgar!

His achievements have earned him The Richard A. Davis Memorial Scholarship- awarded by the USF Geology Alumni Society USF Geology Alumni Society

Summer 2023 Field Work in Alaska

The University of South Florida Ecohydrology Research Group (USF-ERG) had a busy summer working alongside KBNERR and other partners and stakeholders on both existing and newly launched projects. Drs. Mark and Kai Rains and their PhD student Tyelyn Brigino were joined at times by two Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholars, Eojin Lee (Columbia University) and Maxwell Lyons (UC San Diego). The USF-ERG team continued a long-term study of the role groundwater plays in supporting salmon-bearing streams. This year, they continued focusing on spatial and temporal variability of groundwater, with an added focus on peatlands. They installed monitoring wells, installed continuous water-level and conductivity recorders, and collected water samples. This project has been funded through numerous grants over the years but is currently funded through a grant from the City of Homer with matching funds from the USF-ERG. The USF-ERG team also helped launch a new study on the roles beaver dams and beaver dam analogs might play in hydrologic restoration and the related support of ecosystem functions and services, including carbon sequestration. They helped select field sites and then installed monitoring wells and continuous water-level recorders. This project is funded by a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Alliance and is being conducted in collaboration with the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the UAA-ACCS, KBNERR, and the University of Oregon.

Groundwater sustains public water supply

USF-ERG and the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve were contracted by the City of Homer, Alaska to translate USF-ERG knowledge on groundwater recharge and discharge locations in the Bridge Creek Reservoir watershed into actionable information for source water protection. The reservoir supplies water for city residents and serves as the headwaters for major rivers in the Kenai Peninsula Lowlands. This information is actively being used by stakeholders, like the City of Homer and Kachemak Heritage Land Trust, to ensure lasting groundwater discharge to the Bridge Creek Reservoir.

Rivertrek- Paddling to raise funds to restore and protect the Apalachicola River

Kai participated in the annual Apalachicola Riverkeepers Rivertrek, a 5 day event in which paddlers kayak 107 miles of the Apalachicola River, camping along the way. This event is intended to raise funds to protect and restore this mighty river that delivers over 20% of the freshwater input to the Gulf of Mexico and is amongst the top five hotspots or biodiversity in the nation.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appoints Mark Rains as the Chief Science Officer for the State of Florida


The Ecohydrology Research Group and the U.S. Supreme Court

Mark Rains and three colleagues, backed by eight scientific societies and in collaboration with a national legal team, wrote an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States on a case involving the Clean Water Act. The case, County of Maui, Petitioner, v. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund; Sierra Club-Maui Group; Surfrider Foundation; West Maui Preservation Association, Respondents (2020), was argued in Fall 2019 and decided in Spring 2020. In a 6-3 decision, the Court closed a massive loophole in the Clean Water Act, affirming for the first time that pollutants that travel through groundwater and then emerge into surface waters are in fact covered by the Clean Water Act. This ruling is important affirmation of the role of science in sound federal policy and decision-making. Justice Breyer, writing for the majority, cited our amicus brief while clearly laying out the scientific justification for the Court's decision. The full court opinion can be found here: County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund

Media Coverage
Related Seminar by Mark Rains and David Kaplan (UF)