What is an Estuary?

Estuaries are important nursery grounds for many organisms that later move to oceanic habitats as adults. These rich ecosystems are economically valuable, providing habitat at some life stage for 75% of our nation’s commercial fish catch, and as much as 90% of recreational fish catch. Additionally, estuaries act as natural filtration systems for water as it flows out to the ocean.

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Citizen Science

Citizen science is the collection of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists. At the Marine Discovery Center we work to engage the community in the environmental research happening in our own backyard. We collaborate with environmental scientists, researchers, and universities around the state to bring diverse and informative programs to New Smyrna Beach to give volunteers the opportunity to assist with ongoing research projects. The data collected by our volunteers is used to discover the unknown, aid in management decisions, and influence educational policy. There is always a need for citizen scientists at MDC.

To participate in most of our citizen science programs, you must first become an MDC Volunteer. Visit our volunteer page for information.

Project Plankton

MDC is monitoring the phytoplankton and zooplankton populations living in the Indian River Lagoon, right off our dock! By building this data set, we will be able to better understand the variety of life invisible to the naked eye and how plankton respond to environmental changes.

Volunteers will learn how to properly collect plankton, prepare plankton samples, and catalog species. This project is open to the public! Register for an upcoming workshop HERE

Horseshoe Crab Nesting Surveys

Volunteers survey five locations within the lagoon searching for mating pairs nesting on shorelines. Walking surveys are conducted along shorelines, with volunteers assisting in locating and capturing the animals, as well as recording data and tagging the horseshoe crabs with numbered U.S. Fish & Wildlife tags.

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Seagrass Surveys

Volunteer citizen scientists participating in the surveys record which species are present in designated locations of seagrass beds, as well as how much area each species of grass covers, density and height of the beds, presence and density of macroalgae, water depth across the bed and water clarity. Data is used by SJRWMD to assess the growth and health of seagrass beds in the lagoon.

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Salt Marsh Monitoring

Over time our restored salt marsh has become a vital habitat for many key lagoon species. MDC partners with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and university researchers to regularly monitor plants, soil, marine species and water quality in the marsh. Volunteers are often needed to help with fish, invertebrate, and plant surveys using equipment such as seine nets, fyke nets, and quadrats.

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Shoreline Restoration

Get Involved!

Shoreline and oyster bed restoration takes a lot of helping hands! We often have volunteer opportunities that are open to the public.

What’s going on right now? Currently we need help making biodegradable “volcanos” out of cement and jute! Workdays are most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – and also the 1st and 3rd Saturdays – from 9am to 12pm  through mid February 2024. Open to volunteers 16+ (with accompanying adult for those under 18). Pre-registration is required.

Register online…

Shuck and Share

Lagoon Restoration through Oyster Recycling is just one component of the Marine Discovery Center’s ongoing efforts to restore shorelines in the area.

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Living Shorelines

Living shorelines are an erosion prevention method that use natural barriers such as plants, oysters, and limited rock to protect fragile shorelines while maintaining valuable habitat. Living shoreline projects utilize native and salt tolerant plants at different levels of elevation to avoid the loss of sediment, help to improve water quality via filtration of upland run off, and create habitat for aquatic and terrestrial species

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Our Mission:

"To protect and restore Florida's coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."