Marine Ecosystem Health

Indian River Lagoon Observatory:

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function of an Estuary in Transition

Save Our Seas plate  

This research is supported by proceeds from Florida's Save Our Seas specialty license plate.

Principal Investigator: M. Dennis Hanisak, Ph.D.



IRL map

Harbor Branch is located on the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), a unique, highly diverse, shallow-water estuary that stretches along 40% of Florida’s east coast and yields an estimated $3.7 billion annual economic impact for the state. Water quality in the IRL has changed significantly over the last century due to land-use and drainage alterations arising from agriculture and residential development. Harbor Branch’s portfolio of IRL research spans more than 40 years and is the foundation of an emerging initiative to promote better understanding, management and preservation of this resource for generations to come: the Indian River Lagoon Observatory (IRLO).

IRLO is a long-term, multidisciplinary and ecosystem-based program designed to address emerging issues of environmental health in the IRL system by achieving a better understanding of the biodiversity and ecological functions of the lagoon and how they are impacted by the surrounding human population. Essential elements of IRLO include:

  • A long-term, multi-disciplinary, ecosystem-based approach
  • A drive for greater cooperation among organizations conducting IRL research to share information and ideas and to engage the public
  • A network of observing stations with sensing technologies to better capture IRL conditions, enabling science

Ultimately, IRLO will produce an enhanced understanding of IRL ecology and its relationship with human health and the regional economy, and narrow the gap between research and resource management through a new collaborative focus for research institutions, governmental agencies and bodies, not-for-profits and other interested parties.


Indian River Lagoon Symposium: A Forum for Collaboration

IRL symposium

The Indian River Lagoon Symposium is the result of a multi-institutional, multi-agency effort to provide a forum for discussing IRL science and its application to management of the lagoon. The symposium is open to scientists, decision makers, students, education and outreach professionals, and the interested public. The intent is to help facilitate better communication among these groups so that the gaps between research and its application can be narrowed. Previous programs and abstracts of presentations as well as information on upcoming symposia can be found here .


Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatories (LOBO) for Intensive, Real-time Water Quality Sampling in the Indian River Lagoon

LOBO installation

A network of LOBOs will form the IRLO backbone, complementing our traditional monitoring techniques and greatly enhancing data collection, synthesis and sharing. LOBO units provide real-time, high-accuracy and high-resolution water-quality data and archived data via a simple web-based interface to all who wish to access it. We have deployed two LOBOs in and near the Harbor Branch Channel adjacent to long-term research sites; additional units will deployed throughout the IRL based on successful grantsmanship. This network will:

  • Facilitate modeling and correlation of environmental data to biological and physical phenomena of the IRL
  • Enable researchers to follow environmental changes in the IRL
  • Facilitate modeling and correlation of environmental data to biological and physical phenomena of the IRL
  • Provide a framework for innovation in coastal and estuarine monitoring technology
  • Help resource and planning managers to make informed decisions for the good of the IRL
  • Create a platform for education and outreach activities
Access LOBO data here
More information on our LOBOs can be found here
A primer on how to use our LOBO data, including highlights of our first four months of deployments, can be found here


Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatories (LOBOs) for Water Quality Sampling in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon

LOBO sites in the St. Lucie EstuaryBased on our initial pilot work above, FAU Harbor Branch was awarded two million dollars from the 2014 State Legislative Budget for a real-time water quality monitoring network and predictive modeling system for the St. Lucie Estuary, with the funds administered by Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The specific locations of those monitoring stations were determined following a technical workshop with interested stakeholders at the first meeting of FAU Harbor Branch’s Indian River Lagoon Observatory Science and Technology Advisory Committee on July 29, 2014.

The summary of the workshop’s technical discussions and recommendation, in accordance with the requirements of DEP Agreement S0770, is posted here

The Site Selection Plan for this project, in accordance with the requirements of DEP Agreement S0770, is posted here



For more information

Click here to learn about the variety of research FAU Harbor Branch conducts in the Indian River Lagoon

Click here for a fact sheet on the Indian River Lagoon

Click here for media release: FAU Harbor Branch launches public website with real-time water quality data from the Indian River Lagoon

Click here if you want to know "how to love your lagoon"

Donate to Indian River Lagoon research



Last Modified 2/9/16