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MKEI completes coastal dune lakes study

Special to Gannett

NICEVILLE — Nearly two decades of work paid off for the Mattie Kelly Environmental Institute (MKEI) at Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) culminating in the publication of a comprehensive study on the composition of the area’s multiple coastal dune lakes and their effect on local ecosystems.

Coastal dune lakes of Northwest Florida are waterbodies that periodically connect to the Gulf of Mexico, an ecological phenomenon unique to our area.

Mattie Kelly Environmental Institute at NWFSC publishes study on local coastal dune lakes.

“MKEI is thrilled to share the outcome of numerous years of citizen scientist data collection,” said Dr. Dana Stephens, Mattie Kelly Environmental Institute director. “Their efforts led to inform a better understanding of how the unique function of the coastal dune lakes of Northwest Florida impact the ecosystems services provided.”

Made possible by a partnership with another of NWFSC’s environmental organizations the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), the study consisted of CBA and Florida LAKEWATCH trained citizen scientists collecting monthly water samples from 16 coastal dune lakes from January 2003 through December 2019. The study further focused on the diverse biological and ecological habitats that these coastal dune lakes provide as each lake had a unique amount of change to their salinity and overall nutritional composition.  

“The long-lasting commitment to environmental stewardship displayed by the citizen scientists is a value we share at Northwest Florida State College,” said NWFSC President Dr. Devin Stephenson. “It’s collaborative partnerships such as these that serve as the model for creating sustainable change to enhance our region for generations to come.”

For more information about the Mattie Kelly Environmental Institute at Northwest Florida State College, call 850-729-4915 or email mkei@nwfsc.edu. To read the entire article, visit https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027277142030665X.