Research Team

The Lower St. Johns River Basin (LSJRB)
The Lower St. Johns River Basin (LSJRB) Image: Robert Richardson, AWIS Lab, UNF

The Lower St Johns River report has been put together over the last seven years by a team of experts on various different aspects of the river. Use the links on the far right to get details about those that made the report happen.


Gerard F. Pinto, Ph.D.

 Gerard F. Pinto, Ph.D.
Phone: (904) 256-7338
Manatee Hotline: (904) 256-7575

Gerard F. Pinto, Ph.D. is an Associate Research Scientist at the Marine Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University. In addition to managing of the project, Dr. Pinto gathered and evaluate data, and author the sections on biological impacts of salinity, fisheries, submerged aquatic vegetation and federally endangered & threatened species (manatees, bald eagles, wood storks, shortnose sturgeon). Dr. Pinto assists efforts to increasing the use of local data, from the SJR Report, in STEM education in the Duval County School System. In addition, he is responsible for project administration and managed the grant also; with his co-PI Dr. Pyati (formally Chair of the Department of Chemistry at UNF) since 2016. Over the last 23 years he helped to develop and implement approved State and Federal Manatee Protection Plans for Duval and Clay Counties.  He is a consultant to the City of Jacksonville Waterways Commission and conducts research to monitor manatee populations in northeast Florida. Dr. Pinto has extensive experience giving presentations to the public regarding manatee ecology and behavior, and the health of the St. Johns River watershed. He has worked to raise public awareness about manatee issues through the Manatee Research Center Online (MARCO) web site, safe boating and speed zone advisory guides, educational seminars, TV and print media.  He is a board member of the Jacksonville Science Foundation. Dr. Pinto conducts aerial surveys and manages a manatee and dolphin Geographic Information System data base of aerial sightings. He has conducted research in habitat mapping for manatees, gopher tortoises, dolphins, water quality monitoring, ecosystem restoration, vessel traffic and compliance studies, near water surface acoustical studies, and manatee scar patterns. In addition, Dr. Pinto has a background in fisheries and aquaculture and has conducted research, teaching, and worked on commercial fish production systems and marketing in the Caribbean, Kenya and the U.S.  His research interests include fisheries sampling and the impact of freshwater withdrawals, sea level rise and harbor deepening activities on the flora and fauna of the Lower St. Johns River Basin.

Brian Zoellner, Ph.D.

Brian Zoellner, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 620-5852

Brian Zoellner, PhD. is an associate professor in the Department of Foundations and Secondary Education at the University of North Florida College of Education and Human Services.  He holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on science education.  Dr. Zoellner authored the highlights section on education and outreach that includes an evaluation of the use of water testing course materials for their utility in the K-12 classroom, and work with K-12 teachers and teachers-in-training on how to use these kits.  In his current role, he teaches secondary science methods and foundations courses, supervises student teaching interns, and oversees the science education curriculum.  His research interests include the use of technology to enhance educator professional development, STEM curriculum development and implementation, and state and federal education policy related to teachers and their practice.

Radha Pyati, Ph.D.

Radha Pyati, Ph.D. - Co-Principal InvestigatorEmail:
Phone: (610) 436-3521

Radha Pyati, Ph.D. is Dean of the College of the Sciences and Mathematics at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. . Dr. Radha Pyati authors the Executive Summary for the Lower St. Johns River Report. The Executive Summary describes overall conclusions of the Report, including changes in the river’s health and any special highlight sections in the Report. Dr. Pyati led the River Report team from 2008-2018 while at the University of North Florida. She wrote several sections, including Section 1 Background, Section 2.6 Fecal Coliform, and Section 2.7 Turbidity. She managed the overall grant also, with her co-PI Dr. Gerry Pinto of Jacksonville University. She served as Chair of UNF Chemistry (2013-2018) and Director of the UNF Environmental Center (2008-2013), earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Nisse Goldberg, Ph.D.

Nisse Goldberg, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 256-7322

Nisse Goldberg, Ph.D. is a Professor in Biology and Marine Science at Jacksonville University. She authors the Wetlands section and she explores wetland health as a function of environmental variables. She has also authored sections on macroinvertebrates, and nonnative.  Dr. Goldberg researches temporal and spatial changes of photosynthetic organisms living in terrestrial, intertidal, and marine habitats. At JU she teaches courses in Ecology, Marine Botany and Conservation Ecology, among others. She incorporates service-learning projects in many of her courses, collaborating with community partners such as the National Park Service, Tree Hill Nature Center, Arlington Community Garden, and the SJR Riverkeeper.

Gretchen Bielmyer-Fraser, Ph.D.

Gretchen Bielmyer, Ph.D.

Phone: (904) 210-5451

Gretchen K. Bielmyer-Fraser, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Chemistry department at Jacksonville University and authors sections on water quality trends for Nutrients, Dissolved Oxygen (DO) and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) in the basin, as well as contaminants in the basin and tributaries.  Dr. Bielmyer-Fraser’s primary research interests are in the field of Environmental Toxicology with a focus on aquatic systems. Specifically, her research investigates how organisms respond to contaminant (particularly metals) exposure and examines the complex interactions between metals and other chemical components in aquatic systems. Mechanisms of toxicity and subsequent effects may differ depending on contaminant exposure route (through ingestion or the water), duration of exposure, water chemistry and the physiology and sensitivity of the organism. Characterizing how these variables interact to influence toxicity at the organism (survival, growth, reproduction), physiological (ion transport, acid-base balance), and biochemical (enzyme activity) levels are central components of Dr. Bielmyer-Fraser’s current and future planned research.  Dr. Bielmyer-Fraser has been working in the field of Environmental Toxicology for almost 20 years. In that time, she has published three book chapters, 10 technical reports, and 33 journal articles in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, Dr. Bielmyer-Fraser and has given 58 research presentations at external conferences and serves as a reviewer for over 10 different journals, averaging one review per month. Dr. Bielmyer-Fraser has supervised over 50 undergraduate students and seven graduate students from both Chemistry and Biology departments.

Anthony J. A. Ouellette, Ph.D.

Anthony J. A. Ouellette, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 256-7299

Anthony “Andy” Ouellette, PhD. is a Professor of Biology and Chemistry at Jacksonville University. Dr. Ouellette gathered, evaluate data for, and authored the sections on algal blooms and fecal bacteria sections of the River Report. His research interests focus on using molecular, analytical, and microbiological techniques to understand bacteria in the environment.  He has taught a variety of classes that deal with microbiology, biotechnology, molecular biology, and biochemistry.  He also mentors research students in aquatic microbiology research projects investigating harmful algae blooms and Vibrio bacteria. Dr. Ouellette has earned research awards from two institutions, and has research published in a variety of scientific journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Microbial Ecology, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.  He has served on committees and panels for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, The National Science Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and has been a peer reviewer for a number of scientific journals.  Andy is also involved in a local video project The Science Of…, which highlights local science and nature.

An-Phong Le, Ph.D.

An-Phong Le, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (863) 680-4132

An-Phong Le, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. He authors the Tributaries and Nutrients sections of the St. Johns River Report. Dr. Le’s research interests focus on three major areas: 1) development of inexpensive sensors for environmental analyses using paper-based microfluidic devices, 2) characterization of the migration of flavor compounds and chemical contaminants in food during storage, preparation, and cooking, and 3) development of inexpensive instrumentation for the instructional laboratory using open-source microcontrollers. Dr. Le has collaborated with or mentored over 20 undergraduate students at Florida Southern in a wide range of projects in biology and chemistry.

Charles E. Closmann

Portrait of Charles Closmann

Phone: (904) 620-1864

Dr. Charles E. Closmann is an Associate Professor of History at the University of North Florida.  He joined UNF in 2004 after earning his PhD in History at the University of Houston.

Dr. Closmann specializes in the fields of Environmental History and the History of Modern Europe.  Since joining UNF, Dr. Closmann has researched and taught about the environmental history of the American South, the St. Johns River, the history of rivers in Europe, and the relationship between war and the environment.  Some of his publications include articles on the rivers of Germany and England, the impact of Germany’s 1920s inflation on river pollution, recycling in modern Europe, and the global environmental effect of warfare.  His current project explores the ecological footprint of large military bases.

Dr. Closmann updated the “Background” section of the 2018 River Report, adding some recently published data on impaired waterways, laws under consideration, and a few other issues.

Previous Contributors

Peter Bacopoulos, Ph.D.

Peter Bacopoulos, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 620-1846

Peter Bacopoulos, Ph.D. is a private civil engineer. He was born and raised in Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale and went got his education at the University of Central Florida-CHAMPS Lab in Orlando (1999-2012). His research interests are numerical modeling of coastal and estuarine systems to inform engineering, ecosystem management and social valuation of natural and built environments.

Stuart J. Chalk, Ph.D.

Stuart J. Chalk, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 620-1938

Stuart Chalk, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at UNF. His research focuses on development of remote instrumentation for analysis of enviromentally important chemicals, new stable color reagents, and development of web-based data analysis software. He is also working on a number of projects in the area of Chemical Informatics.

Stuart gathered and evaluated data for, and authored the water quality section on the Lower St. Johns River Tributaries. He also co-ordinated the data collection/analysis of the water quality section, document formatting, and reference collection and organization. Dr. Chalk is also the author/designer of the River Report Digital Archive and the interactive tributaries pages.

Lucinda B. Sonnenberg, Ph.D.

Lucinda B. SonnenbergEmail:
Phone: (904) 256-7332

Lucy Sonnenberg, Ph.D., is a research professor of chemistry and the research director of the Millar Wilson Laboratory for Chemical Research (MWL) at Jacksonville University. Under her directorship, the multifaceted mission of the MWL is to conduct novel research in environmental chemistry, provide rigorous and meaningful environmental research experiences to undergraduate students, and to serve as an environmental chemistry resource to area agencies and institutions. Sonnenberg and her students have conducted research on organochlorine contaminants in water and sediment, bioavailability and bioaccumulation of contaminants, carbon and nitrogen cycling in natural and wastewater systems, and the effects of natural organic matter on pollutant fates and effects. In addition, the laboratory has performed numerous assessments of stormwater management technologies. She is a member of the national American Chemical Society and Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry and she interacts regularly with local environmental scientists and engineers, in large part by participation in the Lower St. Johns River Technical Advisory Committee.

Dr. Sonnenberg is the River Report team member responsible for evaluating contamination of the St. Johns River sediments with toxic chemicals and lead author on the contaminants section.  She also authored the water quality sections on nutrients and algal blooms, and provided information on local actions to improve the LSJR ecosystem and various management activities.

Dan McCarthy, Ph.D.

Dan McCarthy, Ph.D. Email:
Phone: (904) 256-7369

Daniel McCarthy, Ph.D., is the Co-Principal Investigator of the project and has, in conjunction with UNF investigators, overseen all research activities associated with the project. Dr. McCarthy is an Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Science at JU. He is the Director of the JU Marine Science Program and a Research Associate with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. His research interests lie in the areas of marine benthic ecology, nearshore reef ecology, and the reproduction and life-history ecology of marine invertebrates. He has investigated a number of seasonal ecological interactions involving invertebrate, fish, and algal species found within estuarine and marine habitats throughout Florida. He has conducted marine research abroad in the Bahamas and Caribbean Islands, Pacific Ocean, and a number of locations in Europe.

Dr. McCarthy, along with three Investigators and two JU Undergraduate Research Assistants, co-ordinated obtaining, compiling, and reviewing data related to biotic assemblages found in the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River. Dr. McCarthy (along with Dr. Pyati) co-ordinated the overall activities of the River Report project, and authored the Fisheries and Macrobenthic Invertebrates sections.

Dr. McCarthy’s research interestes are marine benthic ecology; nearshore reef ecology; reproduction and life-history ecology of marine invertebrates; biology of sabellariid polychaetes, poriferans and echinoderms.

Heather McCarthy, M.E.M.

Heather McCarthy, M.E.M.Email:
Phone: (904) 635-3766

Heather McCarthy has a broad background in coastal zone management, marine and estuarine science, and environmental policy.  Her technical experience includes habitat conservation planning, environmental assessments, benthic invertebrate and barrier island vegetation surveys, water quality monitoring, management of exotic species, and web design. She focuses on coastal environmental management with concentrations on marine conservation biology and invasion ecology. She specializes in environmental communication, facilitating public meetings, building consensus among diverse stakeholders, and scientific writing.

Heather also gathered, evaluated data for, and authored the sections on Wetlands and Nonindigenous Aquatic Species. She researched and wrote the introductory and background sections for the report, and supplied the conceptual and graphic design for the brochure, which summarizes the full report for the public. She also provided logistical, organizational, and editorial support to the team during the implementation of the River Report project.

April Moore, B.S.

April Moore, B.S.Former Program Manager

April Moore was the program manager for the Environmental Center at UNF (2006-2011).

April provided administrative support for the report team.

Patrick Welsh, Ph.D.

Patrick Welsh, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 620-2756

Patrick Welsh, Ph.D. is a retired Navy oceanographer and NOAA meteorologist with broad interest in the coastal ocean and atmosphere, particularly the physical flow fields and their physics. He is currently Executive Director of the Advanced Weather Information Systems Laboratory where he works with realtime environmental data systems and geophysical computer models. He has long term interests in mesoscale severe storm structure, Doppler radar signatures from tropical cyclone induced tornadoes, influences of river and sea breezes, Florida tornadoes, and coastal impact of hurricanes and hurricane storm surge.

Pat gathered/evaluated data for and authored the water quality section on Ground Water.

Ray Bowman, Ph.D.

Ray Bowman, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 210-1918

Ray Bowman, Ph.D. just retired from UNF after 30 years as a faculty member. He was a founding faculty member of the department of Natural Sciences and served in many roles (including department chair) at the university. His research interests fcoused on environment chemistry as applied to St. Johns River. Most recently Dr. Bowman founded the UNF Environment Center bringing faculty from UNF and local enviromental groups together to focus attention on environmental issues.

Dr. Bowman served as an advisor to the River Report Team concerning content and procedures, and was the driving force for making the river report project come to fruition.

A. Quinton White, Ph.D.

A. Quinton White, Ph.D.Email:
Phone: (904) 256-7766

A. Quinton White, Ph.D. has been active in research concerning the St. Johns River and the impact of man on marine ecosystems. His marine science research has taken him to China, South America, the Galapagos Islands, the Bahamas and Australia. While most of his research is done on the surface of the sea, he has been down to 1,500 feet in the Johnson-Sea Link submersible to do research on deep-sea crabs. Dr. White has written numerous research and technical papers or reports and received grants and contracts to support marine research at JU. Currently he is conducting research on manatees and king mackerel. Dr. White serves as a consultant with the City of Jacksonville Waterways Commission on manatee issues and the Manatee Protection Plan. He also worked with Clay County on their manatee protection plan. In 2006-07 he chaired the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. study on Energy, Environment and Economy: Sustaining Jacksonville’s Air Quality for the Future

Dr. White served as an advisor to the River Report Team concerning content and procedures.