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UF scientists working to help preserve Florida's Nature Coast

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Posted at 3:45 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-28 18:18:06-04

HUDSON, Fla. — Morgan Edwards and Jamie Hammond spend most of their workdays on the water.

“I mean this is my office. So we have a pretty good deal here," said Edwards.

Both Edwards and Hammond are biological scientists from the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agriculture, and on Wednesday they were trying to beat bad weather to study the aquatic preserve off the coast of Pasco County.

“This area has some really nice seagrass meadows. Some really clear water. It’s really a beautiful area," said Edwards.

Florida’s aquatic preserves are essentially submerged state parks. Their massive seagrass fields are key to marine life, preventing storm surges, and eco-tourism.

“If this waterway wasn’t what it is, people wouldn’t flock here from everywhere all over the place to recreate in our areas," said Hammond.

To make sure the aquatic preserve is healthy Edwards measures how much light passes through the water while Hammond checks nutrient levels. Then it’s time to jump in the gulf and get a close look at the seagrass.

“Well, this is kind of all of our backyards right? So we all want to do our part to try and protect it and keep it beautiful for generations to come," said Edwards.

Scientists say you can do your part to protect the seagrass by lifting boat engines when traveling through shallow areas.

“I love that I can be a part of something that is helping to preserve our natural resources. Any small part I can play in that makes me feel good," said Edwards.

Florida has 42 aquatic preserves. The one off the coast of Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco Counties covers more than 400,000 acres.