Mangrove Watching in Tampa Bay Florida

Tampa Bay, located on the southwest Florida coast, has experienced considerable change. it is one of the ten largest ports in the nation. Over the past 100 years, Tampa Bay has lost over 44 percent of its coastal wetlands acreage; this includes both mangroves and salt marshes.” Florida Department of Environmental Protection

“Florida's largest open-water estuary (Tampa Bay) harbors a rich and diverse assemblage of plants and animals, along with a rapidly growing human population that has made the region the second largest metropolitan area in the state.” Tampa Bay Estuary Program

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Tampa Bay MangroveWatch

MangroveWatch Tampa Bay’s overarching goal is to foster greater understanding and appreciation of our mangrove forests, which will lead to wiser stewardship of this important habitat. The program is both a citizen science project and an invaluable introduction to the process of ecological research for the students of Saint Leo University.

Tampa Bay Mangrove watchers at work

Our team, made up of students, faculty, staff, and alumni from Saint Leo University, is monitoring over 300 km of shoreline in Tampa Bay. Just like our many MangroveWatch partners in the southwest Pacific, we are creating GPS-linked video recordings of our mangrove forests and other shoreline habitats. Scientists and trained student assistants at Saint Leo University review the footage and evaluate the condition of the shoreline habitat. We are excited to provide such a uniquely detailed characterization of shoreline health in an area seeking to balance urbanization with nature.

MangroveWatch Tampa Bay has already had enormous benefits for the students at Saint Leo University. The most fundamental result has been a change in the perception of mangroves. As one student recently said to a reporter from the Tampa Tribune, “Before I got involved, it was just, ‘Oh, the stinky trees.’ But doing this project has really helped me understand the importance of them”. The students’ peaked interest has led to several ancillary studies that aid their growth as scientists and responsible citizens. For example, a third-year student is currently comparing bird counts generated from MangroveWatch video to traditional transect methods.

Tampa Bay MangroveWatch crew

Another group of students are studying factors which may influence the distribution of galls (tumor-like growths) in the mangrove forests of Tampa Bay. Yet another student is interested in using MangroveWatch video as a tool to evaluate oyster health in mangrove systems. With each study our understanding of Florida’s mangroves grows. These works are just the beginning. We want to expand MangroveWatch in Florida! If you and your organization’s members enjoy spending time on the water and want to do something to preserve Florida’s beautiful mangrove forests, contact us to start a MangroveWatch group in your area. Your local knowledge, energy, and commitment to protect our coastal systems are just what we need.

Contact Dr. William Ellis at MangroveWatch Tampa Bay to learn more:

William L. Ellis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology

Saint Leo University

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Community Volunteers

A key feature of MangroveWatch is its close partnership between community volunteers and scientists from the James Cook University’s Mangrove Hub. Together they are systematically recording basic data as video and still imagery for assessments of estuarine habitat health.

Armed with expert support, training and advice, MangroveWatch volunteers in key regions are actively contributing to the monitoring of local estuaries and shorelines. An important goal in this phase of the program is to develop a network of like minded groups with the aim of producing public documents that describe important issues affecting local estuaries and mangroves, and their overall health.

Mangrove Watch Brochure

You can download our fact and information sheet (see link below) to get more information about the MangroveWatch programs.

Mangrove Watch Brochure