Disney Conservation Fund Award to Help UCF Protect Indian River Lagoon

By  //  October 5, 2018

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work on oysters and threatened and endangered birds

A team of UCF researchers is the latest recipient of the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF), which will allow it to continue its work on oysters and threatened and endangered birds to the Indian River Lagoon.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A team of UCF researchers is the latest recipient of the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF), which will allow it to continue its work on oysters and threatened and endangered birds to the Indian River Lagoon.

Biologist Linda Walters and STEM Education Assistant Professor Megan Nickels have been awarded a grant for $41,800 to study the positive impacts of oyster reef restoration on threatened and endangered wading and aquatic bird species in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida.

The program will help train community members as citizen scientists to gather data and images from oyster reefs.

The team is also partnering with Nickels to engage hospitalized children in bird identification from photographs, data analysis and, through this, inspire conservation passion.

The Disney fund has been supporting local efforts around the world aimed at saving wildlife, inspiring action and protecting the planet with more than $75 million distributed to nonprofit organizations since 1995.

This is the fifth award Walters has received from Disney since 2006. She was also named a Disney Hero of Conservation in 2013.

Biologist Linda Walters and STEM Education Assistant Professor Megan Nickels have been awarded a grant for $41,800 to study the positive impacts of oyster reef restoration on threatened and endangered wading and aquatic bird species in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida.

“I am thrilled to be able to work with Dr. Nickels to broaden our reach and engage more children in our efforts,” Walters said.

“This grant builds on what we started with the Burnett Honors College last year with Advanced Marine Biology undergraduate students wowing hospitalized children with content they developed as part of their service-learning curriculum.”

Walters has been working in the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon along the east coast of Florida for more than two decades helping to preserve the waterways through oyster restoration and shoreline restoration projects.

Walters is also a strong advocate of educating the next generation of Floridians and has developed eight children’s books on marine conservation topics and other classroom materials such as oyster storytelling yoga. She teamed up with Nickels to help teach children data analysis and inspire conservation efforts.

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Nickels is a cutting-edge educator who has developed unique programs aimed at getting children engaged actively in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Her work has been recognized by various institutions and she has active projects with NASA and medical groups in the community.

“We are so excited to begin this project. This works presents a unique opportunity for the children to engage as citizen scientists, learning important science content and being able to contribute to a body of knowledge that informs conservation efforts in their communities and state,” Nickels said.

Recent DCF grant recipients were selected based on their efforts to implement comprehensive community wildlife conservation programs, stabilize and increase populations of at-risk animals and engage communities in conservation in critical ecosystems around the world.

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