Sarasota Environmental Aquatics Team - Seagrass Survey Program

The Sarasota Environmental Aquatics (SEA) Team is a group of Sarasota County volunteers whose work has made positive impacts on our bays. Whether they are seeding scallops or surveying seagrass, this team of energetic volunteers provides scientists with valuable information. Seagrass survey volunteers boat or kayak Sarasota's bays and document the types of seagrass they see. Seagrass is vital to maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems, stabilizing shorelines and providing food and shelter for a variety of wildlife, including scallops, manatees and sea turtles. The information gathered by seagrass survey volunteers allows scientists to better understand and manage these important ecosystems. Many volunteers find surveying seagrass fun, easy and rewarding.

2015 Seagrass Survey a Success!

by Administrator Friday, 22 May 2015 12:55 PM

Great job, volunteer seagrass surveyors!

In this video about the 2015 Seagrass Survey, Sarasota County Environmental Specialist Ashley Melton and Environmental Manager John Ryan explain why the sea grass is so important to our water ecology. Seagrass is where the spawning and feeding area for many species of fish and shellfish, if the seagrass dies... so does the Bay. The health of Sarasota Bay is everyone's responsibility if you live here!



Volunteer Sea Grass Monitors Needed April 25th

by Administrator Thursday, 12 March 2015 12:12 PM

Register to Volunteer:

Welcome, Seagrass Stewards!

Below, you will find all of the information you need to participate as a SEA Team volunteer in the 2015 Sarasota County Seagrass Survey. 

The theme for this year's event is: Seagrass: The Lawn that Doesn't Need Fertilizer, focusing on how stormwater runoff and pollution affect seagrass species. Residual fertilizer that’s used on lawns can enter our bays and waterbodies as stormwater runoff. The increase in nutrients, such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus, can result in algae blooms. Algae can attach to seagrass blades and drift in clumps, blocking necessary sunlight from reaching seagrasses. 

The Sarasota County Seagrass Survey is a citizen science event that celebrates Sarasota County’s commitment to its water resources and focuses on increasing awareness of the economic and environmental value of seagrass habitat. Volunteers and staff will take to the waters around Sarasota Bay to count and identify seagrass species, in an effort to collect data for the County’s Seagrass Monitoring Program.  

This fun, family-friendly, hands-on event will include on-site training for all participants and data collectors, followed by a free volunteer appreciation luncheon

We need the help of our local community members, including: snorkelers, waders, kayakers, boaters, and paddle boarders.

Need more information? Feel free to contact the event coordinator: 941-650-1089 or

All of the event information can also be found at:, keyword search: Seagrass

Event-Related Resources (*Liability Form and Field Book will be provided to Volunteers at event sign-in station)

Event Flyer  •  Event Site Map  •  Liability Form*  •  Seagrass Survey Field Book*

Volunteer Assignments: click here

Overall Map of Survey Area: click here

Section Maps:

Study confirms importance of abundant sunlight to seagrass

by Administrator Tuesday, 22 April 2014 02:02 PM

GAINESVILLE – Seagrass beds represent critical and threatened coastal habitats around the world, and a new University of Florida study shows how much sunlight seagrass needs to stay healthy.

Loss of seagrass means fish, crabs and other animals lose their homes and manatees and sea turtles lose a source of food. Nutrients, such as phosphorous, may prevent seagrass from getting the sunlight it needs to thrive. Nutrients may come from many sources, among them fertilizers used in agriculture, golf courses and suburban lawns, pet waste and septic tank waste.

Scientists often use seagrass to judge coastal ecosystems’ vitality, said Chuck Jacoby, a courtesy associate professor in the Department of Soil and Water Science and co-author of a new UF study that examines light and seagrass health.

“By protecting seagrass, we protect organisms that use seagrass and other photosynthetic organisms that need less light,” said Jacoby, a faculty member in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

When nutrient levels are too high, microorganisms in the water, called phytoplankton, use these nutrients and light to grow and reproduce until they become so abundant that they block sunlight seagrass needs to survive, said Zanethia Choice, a former UF graduate student who led the investigation.

“Seagrass can cope with short-term light reductions, but if those conditions last too long or occur too frequently, seagrass will deteriorate and ultimately die,” Choice said. “Good water clarity is vital for healthy coastal systems.”

Choice studied seagrass beds in a 700,000-acre swath off the coast of Florida’s Big Bend.

Choice, now a natural resource specialist with the U.S. Forest Service in Mississippi, conducted the study as part of her master’s thesis, under the supervision of Jacoby and Tom Frazer, a professor of aquatic ecology and director of the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Choice combined 13 years of light and water quality data and two years of seagrass samples from habitats near the mouths of eight rivers that empty into the Gulf of Mexico.

Seagrass off the Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Waccasassa, Withlacoochee, Crystal, Homosassa, Chassahowitzka and Weeki Wachee rivers constitutes part of the second largest seagrass bed in Florida. The largest bed is in Florida Bay, between the Everglades and the Florida Keys, Jacoby said.

Choice wanted to see how much light was needed to keep the seagrass in this region healthy. She found different seagrass species needed varying amounts of light, ranging from 8 to 27 percent of the sunlight at the water’s surface.

The UF/IFAS study will give water resource managers, such as the state Department of Environmental Protection, water-clarity targets they can use to set proper nutrient levels for water bodies, Jacoby said.

Reducing nutrient levels can promote the health of seagrass and coastal waters. For example, concerted efforts to reduce nutrients flowing into Tampa Bay over the past 20-plus years resulted in a 50 percent reduction in nitrogen, a 50 percent increase in water clarity and a return of lost seagrass, according to a study conducted by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Unlike Tampa Bay, there is no evidence that elevated nutrient levels in Choice’s study area have led to loss of seagrass. UF researchers are trying to make sure nutrients do not pollute the seagrass beds off the coast of the Big Bend, and they hope their results will guide managers as they strive to prevent any damage.

The study of seagrass light requirements is published in this month’s issue of the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.



Video: Karen Fraley on how "Being Floridian" helps our seagrass beds

by Administrator Wednesday, 14 August 2013 10:36 AM



Good News: Sarasota's Seagrass Acreage is Increasing

by Administrator Friday, 02 August 2013 09:40 AM

In an assessment released on July 31, Sarasota County's Public Utilities Department reports that seagrass acreage in the county is generally increasing, indicating that successful watershed management is having a positive effect on bay health.

Seagrasses are flowering plants that form underwater meadows that cover about 35% of the bays in Sarasota County. In Florida the habitat and forage provided support an estimated $5.7 billion-dollar recreational fishery because more than 70% of the major recreational fish species depend on seagrass for some portion of their life cycle. Seagrasses provide food for manatees and turtles, increase water clarity by capturing and stabilizing sediments, and they sequester twice as much carbon as a rain forest. Globally, seagrasses are declining.

Seagrass prevalence is a commonly-used indicator of watershed management. Excess nutrients can cause algal blooms that block sunlight from reaching the seagrasses on the bottom of the bay. Without sufficient sunlight, seagrass photosynthesis is inhibited and the overall acreage of seagrass can decline.

Seagrass targets were developed by the National Estuary Programs in Southwest Florida and became the foundation of nutrient water quality standards. The seagrass targets are not regulatory standards. Because each bay is different, unique targets were set for each bay and were either based on historic conditions or a recent healthy time period. Seagrass is part of the monitoring program for Sarasota County's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System stormwater permit.

Seagrass acreage is mapped by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) every two years using aerial photography. The quality of the maps has improved over time, in part because Sarasota County conducts ground-level field surveys to support the accuracy of the maps.

Register now for Aug. 10th Seagrass Survey Volunteer Training

by Administrator Friday, 02 August 2013 09:21 AM

Become a Sarasota County Seagrass Survey Volunteer and Protect this Valuable Natural Resource...
Have some FUN and make a DIFFERENCE in your community!

Saturday, Aug. 10 (Rain Date: Sunday, Aug. 11) 10 a.m. – noon
Turtle Beach Community Center: 8918 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, 34242

Dress for hands-on water training. Participants should have their own GPS and watercraft, or will need to be paired with someone who has this equipment.

Directions to Turtle Beach Community Center MAP :
• Interstate 75 to Exit 205 (Clark Road)
• go west on Clark Road for 3.8 miles
• take left onto Stickney Point Road for 1.7 miles
• take left onto Midnight Pass Road for about 3 miles

Want to know more? Check out these FAQs!

Event flyer with full information

Seagrass Monitoring and Manatees

by Administrator Wednesday, 26 June 2013 01:50 PM

Understanding the relationship between manatees and seagrasses is difficult, especially in turbid environments and in developing countries and remote regions. These articles demonstrate how tracking manatees using satellite and GPS technology can be used to map seagrass communities, just as aerial surveys for dugongs have been used to locate seagrass meadows in tropical Australia.

In this issue of Seagrass-Watch, you can also read about how stable isotope techniques are being used to unravel the relationship between manatees and seagrasses in West Africa and Brazil, as well as the challenges of conserving manatees and their habitats in the face of rapid coastal development in Florida.

2012 Seagrass Maps now available

by Administrator Monday, 17 June 2013 03:51 PM

In January 2012, the Southwest Florida Water Management District performed aerial surveying of seagrass habitat within St. Joseph Sound and Clearwater Harbor, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Lemon Bay and Charlotte Harbor. Seagrass beds were photographed, and the data were photointerpreted, using 1:24,000 scale natural color aerial photography and classified using the SWFWMD modified FLUCCS classification system.

You can review the 2012 maps using the Advanced Mapping tool. Or, you can the seagrass section of the Habitats & Ecology page for each of Sarasota's Bays, where you can see the 2012 data and compare it to previous years, as shown below for Dona Bay. Here are links for some of Sarasota County's larger bays.

Ancient Seagrass

by Administrator Wednesday, 08 February 2012 11:49 AM

How long does seagrass live? Some species may live many thousands of years, according to newly-released research.

Seagrass "Tens of Thousands of Years Old" -- Story in BBC Nature

Read the research report in the Public Library of Science (PLoS)

Charting seagrass growth in the bay

by Administrator Thursday, 05 May 2011 11:34 AM
Bob Clousson, a retired biology teacher from Cincinnati, Ohio, enjoys refreshing his seagrass survey skills at a recent Sarasota County training session at Turtle Beach Community Center. He takes a long look underwater with a viewfinder, called an Aqua-Scope II, provided to survey volunteers in February and August. CORRESPONDENT PHOTOS / ERICA NEWPORT