Living Shorelines and Community Support By Lauren boyett

Living shorelines are an integral part of introducing ecosystems into communities, increasing protection and support for waterfront communities in Cedar Key, Florida. These ecosystems are a protected and stabilized shoreline made of natural materials. They are a way to use a natural coastal ecosystem to protect from property damage.

The Nature Coast Biological Station (NCBS) is an extension of the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The NCBS continues to develop the UF/IFAS mission of research teaching, and extension in the Nature Coast region. The Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key hopes to find community support for creating and maintaining the living shorelines.

Many people who live in waterfront communities understand the importance of protecting their homes and properties from damage and flooding that can come from the waters. In the past, the solution to protecting properties were with seawalls or hardened infrastructures made from concrete that protected homes from flooding and the impacts that occur by being a waterfront property.

According to Dr. Savanna Barry, the NCBS Regional Specialized Extension Agent, seawalls can be expensive and with increased impact overtime, may need to be replaced. Living shorelines, however, absorb the pressure and impact that waves cause when coming into contact with them, instead of deflecting it to surrounding properties. Living shorelines are cheaper to install and last a lifetime.

Living Shoreline. (Photo/Florida Sea Grant)
“The day you build it is going to be the weakest it ever is, and they are only going to get stronger over time. Exactly the opposite is true of hardened infrastructure like a seawall – it’s actually going to be the strongest it will ever be on the first day and will continue to slowly degrade over time and eventually have to be replaced,” said Savanna Barry, the NCBS Regional Specialized Extension Agent.

Nature Coast Biological Station works to implement living shorelines in waterfront communities. Currently, the NCBS has three different living shoreline projects that members of the community can go to and learn more by taking a tour in person or self-guided through an app-based experience. These are located in Cedar Key at the NCBS, on Airport Road, and at Joe Raines Beach.

The living shoreline projects give the Cedar Key and surrounding communities’ members the opportunity to get involved in research and science, where data gaps are common because of the rural landscape. At NCBS, Barry works closely with the community to help fill those gaps. Barry’s programs focus on creating opportunities for citizen science, which enhances the quality and management of habitats and species within the Nature Coast Region.

Living shoreline implementation, (Photo/Florida Sea Grant)

“Another way is getting people involved in actually collecting scientific data and giving them respect for the scientific process, while also filling data gaps. Where I’m based in Florida is pretty rural. A lot of data collection programs around the state have data gaps where we are. So it serves a dual purpose in getting people involved in science through citizen science initiatives and water quality monitoring and things like horseshoe crab populations,” said Barry.

Barry directs the extension and outreach programs at NCBS. She focuses on enhancing best practices for sustainable tourism as well as creating opportunities for volunteerism and citizen science programs. She also focuses on providing leadership and mentorship for county extension faculty in the region.

Savanna Barry talking with community members, (Photo/Florida Sea Grant)

Barry is the Regional Specialized Extension Agent at the NCBS. According to the UF/IFAS website, Extension is a partnership between state, federal, and county governments to provide scientific knowledge and expertise to the public. UF/IFAS has a long history of research, teaching and extension programs in the Nature Coast region. The overall mission of extension is that this partnership is dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences and to make that knowledge accessible to sustain and enhance the quality of human life.

Unlike other extension agents, Barry is the sole agent at NCBS. She collaborates with other agents in the area and those at the NCBS.

“I’m sort of off on my own, but that’s okay. I’ve formed lots of good relationships with folks and collaborate a lot with other agents,” said Barry.

Barry, who is from originally Virginia, found her passion for marine sciences from her trips to the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, as a child. Barry fell in love with the Chesapeake Bay, but as she got older, she realized the truth behind the place she loved.

“I started to learn that the Chesapeake Bay was actually a shell of its former self, and it had been degraded by human activity. I sort of felt this huge sense of loss based around that because I had really hung my identity on that the Chesapeake Bay being the greatest place in the world and found out it really wasn’t,” said Barry.

After this, Barry set out on a personal mission to help save the Chesapeake Bay. This mission continued through college, where she studied biology at the University of Virginia and ultimately studying under Dr. Tom Frazer at the University of Florida. Through her studies, she gained knowledge and insight into different areas of marine sciences and working with different communities.

“There’s another piece of advice I would give people if you think you’re interested in natural resources: Try to do a general environmental science or biology degree or something like that when you’re in undergrad because that will help you keep your options open and get a really solid basis,” said Barry.

To hear more advice from Dr. Barry, check out the video below.

Barry’s has continued to share her knowledge with the public and strives to increase public involvement with science and at the NCBS.

Lauren Boyett, who created this project, is a student at the University of Florida studying Agricultural Communications.


Florida Sea Grant