Meet the Team


Dr. Loraé T. Simpson is a mangrove ecologist whose research occurs at the intersection of ecosystem processes and the abiotic and biotic factors that influence them. She received a B.S. from California State University, Sacramento in 2002, and her M.S. degree from Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania in 2011. She obtained her Ph.D. in soil and water science at the University of Florida in 2016, where she studied how carbon dynamics were affected by spatial and temporal drivers in the salt marsh - mangrove ecotone. She has studied the ecology of mangroves around the world and her current research interests include understanding how wetland ecosystem structure affects function, especially in light of anthropogenic and climate changes.

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ResearchGate Profile 


Samantha Smith is a Research Associate who has assisted on several research projects at Florida Oceanographic, ranging in focuses from microplastics to oyster restoration to salt marsh and mangrove ecology. She has a background working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the stranding network for marine mammals and sea turtles. While with FWC she assisted in studies of south-eastern marine mammal ecology with specific attention to manatee age studies, photo identification, and mortality rates. Samantha is studying to receive her B.S. in Environmental Management, and additional minor in Biology with the University of Maryland. She plans to continue her education in pursuit of a M.S. in marine science, and eventual Ph.D. Her current research focuses on the success of oyster restoration in the south-eastern regions of the Indian River Lagoon. She is most passionate about the role of marine debris within marine ecosystems and would like to follow future research avenues on the subject.

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Dustin Gardner

Dustin Gardner is the part-time oyster shell recycling technician; he collects used oyster shells from local restaurants in Martin, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie counties, which are then used in the reconstruction of oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon and Saint Lucie Estuary, FL. As a long-time Florida local and prior restaurant server, his insights and assistance with shell recycling duties under Florida Oceanographic’s Oyster Restoration (FLOOR) program are invaluable.