Megan Witt

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Megan Witt

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Biography

Megan was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. She knew from a young age that she wanted to receive a college degree. On top of that, everything revolving around science always fascinated her. Originally,she believed she was made to become a science education major. After participating in two internships, she realized she was better at exploring science than she was teaching it. She decided to switch into a STEM major where she began research that she is passionate about.

Faculty Mentor

Linda Walters Ph.D., Pegasus Professor

Undergraduate Major

Biology

Future Plans

M.S

Research

Title: Full Mangrove Takeover: Exploring Ecosystem Shifts within the Indian River Lagoon

Advisor: Dr. Linda Walters, Dr. Giovanna McClenachan

Institution: University of Central Florida

Abstract: Ecosystem shifts are extensive changes in the functions, structures and composition of a system. Shifts are caused by natural or anthropogenic forces, and may or may not be reversible. This research explored: 1) if an ecosystem shift has occurred in the Mosquito Lagoon between oyster reefs and mangrove islands, and 2) the sources of any shifts. GIS imagery from 1943-2017 was used to select 23 sites in various transitions. Data was collected on mangrove recruitment and success, live oyster density, and landscape effect. On each reef, three red and three black mangroves in each class (height: 0-50cm, 51-100cm, 101-150cm) were tagged and the height and diameter were measured for each tree. Oyster data was collected through non-destructive live oyster counts with haphazardly tossed 0.5m2 quadrats, 30 per reef. Satellite imagery was digitized to analyze effect of geographic location on the transition. Data was gathered on newly recruited propagules after the 2018 high water season. New propagules established on the reef were tagged and the height was measured. Propagules not established were counted. Data collection will continue through Summer 2019. The data gathered from this research is essential to understanding the balance between two critical estuarine resources- oysters and mangroves.

Title: Adventures of Seagrass Wrack: How Wrack Effects Growth & Survival of Mangroves Along Living Shoreline Restoration

Advisor: Dr. Linda Walters, Dr. Melinda Donnelly

Institution: University of Central Florida

Abstract: Mangroves are currently declining in population and are essential for preventing shoreline erosion. Ongoing efforts of restoration have had mixed success and seagrass wrack is being studied to determine if it has an overall negative, positive or neutral effect on magroves.Three studies were conducted on how wrack accumulation within Mosquito Lagoon affects the growth and survival of Laguncularia racemosa (white mangroves), Avicennia germinans (black mangroves), and Rhizophora mangle (red mangroves). The first goal was to determine seasonal wrack abundance and diversity in Mosquito Lagoon. We found that wrack varies throughout the year with the highest amount of wrack accumulation in the fall. Experiments focused on the impact of wrack on mangrove propagule and juvenile plant survival and growth. Each pot contained one A. germinans, L. racemose, or R. mangle propagule or seedling plant either in a blank pot or covered with wrack or mimic wrack. Wrack positively influenced all three species of mangrove propagules and juvenile plants. This study offers insight for restoration efforts in areas with high seasonal wrack.

Keywords

Marine Biology

Megan Witt

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