Projects and Research

We use science and innovative technology to drive our management and conservation of aquatic resources. And we work collaboratively with partners to effectively meet today’s complex conservation challenges.

Indian River and Everglades Ecosystem Habitat Restoration

The Peninsular Florida FWCO is part of a multi-federal and state agency effort to improve the habitat in the Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades ecosystem. Restoring the oyster reef footprint and increasing available oyster habitat through the deployment of biodegradable material in the Lagoon will have a positive effect on water quality, support the eastern oyster, and benefit a multitude of commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish species that utilize the oyster reefs as essential habitats. Coordinating and implementing actions of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan helps to improve hydrology and aquatic habitat, improve fish passage fish passage
Fish passage is the ability of fish or other aquatic species to move freely throughout their life to find food, reproduce, and complete their natural migration cycles. Millions of barriers to fish passage across the country are fragmenting habitat and leading to species declines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passage Program is working to reconnect watersheds to benefit both wildlife and people.

Learn more about fish passage
, and control invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
in the Everglades.   

Invasive Species Management

The Peninsular Florida FWCO collaborates with other federal agencies, state agencies, Tribal, and other partners to protect the resource from biodiversity loss and prevent environmental and socioeconomic damage from aquatic invasive species. The office assists with outreach events to educate the public concerning the identification and impact of invasive species such as African jewelfish, Mayan cichlid, bullseye snakehead, flathead catfish, lionfish and others. The FWCO serves on the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area steering committees, and provides assistance with early detection efforts through electrofishing surveys. These surveys are conducted twice annually with multi-agency teams to cover designated areas. Non-native fish species that have not been previously collected are vouchered with the Florida Museum of Natural History and reported to the U.S. Geological Survey's Nuisance Aquatic Species database and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Sturgeon Restoration

The Peninsular Florida FWCO is involved with population assessment and recovery of endangered and threatened species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The office assists the University of Georgia faculty and graduate students regarding habitat and population assessments of the endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon in the St Marys (FL/GA), Satilla (GA), and Altamaha (GA) Rivers.  Overharvest and alterations in natural habitat contributed to the decline of the sturgeons that supported an economically important fishery along the U.S. eastern coast. Side-scanning sonar equipment and water quality instruments are used to assess the habitat and record data. Sturgeon are collected in the rivers by deploying gill nets and information is collected before they are released. 

Assisting Aquatic Invasive Species Management in Puerto Rico

The Peninsular Florida FWCO is coordinating with Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources biologists and other partners and supporting the Puerto Rico State Wildlife Action Plan (PRSWAP, 2015) by helping to address the priority elements in the plan regarding aquatic invasive species. Recently, several individual African walking catfish were encountered in a canal system. Targeted sampling through electrofishing and the collection of environmental DNA (eDNA) primers will be used to determine the distribution. The invasion is in the early stages and the FWCO will be coordinating with researchers to prevent expansion. The office will also collaborate with partners to raise aquatic conservation awareness and minimize habitat damage and impact on imperiled fish species.  

Population Monitoring

The Peninsular Florida FWCO is coordinating and assisting researchers with population assessments of freshwater tropical fish that only tolerate a narrow temperature range (stenothermic) in the warm rivers of Florida. There are eight permanent reproducing populations of stenothermic species in southeastern Florida that have been impacted negatively by human activities. Presently, these fish inhabit areas within the St. Lucie, St. Sebastian, and Loxahatchee rivers. Water quality has declined in these habitats over the last 30 years and has threatened the survival of these fish species. Bigmouth sleeper and opossum pipefish are two species of concern, and the office will be assisting researchers to determine their status.

Manatee Conservation

The Peninsular Florida FWCO is assisting Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Ocala National Forest, and other partners in issues related to threatened Florida manatees. The manatees overwinter in springs and spring runs of the St Johns River Basin. Non-native blue tilapia and sailfin catfish utilize this area during the winter and spring for spawning and thermal refuge. Consequently, they build numerous spawning burrows or nests along shallow shorelines that destroy eelgrass used by manatees as a food source. The FWCO is assisting partners to find ways to control aquatic invasive species and prevent further manatee habitat degradation.

Tribal Partnerships 

The Peninsular Florida FWCO is coordinating with the Fish and Wildlife Department of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and Welaka National Fish Hatchery (NFH) for habitat restoration and fish stocking to improve recreational fishing opportunities within the Miccosukee Reserve Area. The office is assisting with the renovation of the Old Tamiami Canal that was invaded by non-native fishes and aquatic vegetation. Welaka NFH is providing stockings of largemouth bass, bluegill, Florida gar, and bowfin in the canal. These fish species are culturally significant to the tribe. A Letter of agreement was signed with the Miccosukee Tribe to assist in aquatic habitat restoration and fish stocking projects.

Public Outreach

Providing the public with information about the programs and missions of the Fish and Wildlife Service is essential to ensuring success in our undertakings. The Peninsular Florida FWCO attends fish and wildlife oriented events and festivals to present the importance of recovering species, preserving and restoring critical habitat, identifying invasive and native species, and applying appropriate sampling techniques. The office is involved with education and outreach in the following events:  ICAST (a premier showcase of the sport-fishing industry), Indian River County STEAM Festival (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math), Everglades Day at A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR, A Day in the Life of the Indian River Lagoon, and Pelican Island Wildlife Festival.