Landscape & Natural Resources

Systems Sustainability

Here you can look through the history of BSC4861L, which was created in 2008 by Alaina Bernard. All of the projects featured below were done by undergraduate students in Alaina’s class where they are placed in groups and given a unique research project to complete by the end of the semester.

2014 Projects

  • The Value of UCF’s Natural Lands: Is it possible to quantify the monetary value of our natural areas?
  • Urban Heat Island Effect: Data loggers were used to log temperatures in natural areas and urban areas. That data was analyzed to determine whether or not there was a heat island effect occurring in the urbanized part of campus.
  • Sustainability Assessment of College Undergraduates: This project was carried out in order to determine if a correlation exists between undergraduate students’ academic College at UCF and their understanding of “sustainability” as well as their environmental attitude.
  • UCF’s Urban Canopy Coverage: What is the economic, social and and environmental benefits to UCF’s urban canopy?

SURE for web

2013 Projects

  • Aquaponics: Testing the ability of two different aquatic invasive plant species and one invasive snail species to remove added elements from the water.
  • Sustainable Mushroom Cultivation: Four different recycled substrates were used to measure growth of Pleurotus djamor mycelium, more commonly known as the pink oyster mushroom.
  • Fertilizer Filtration in Conventional Ground-covers: This experiment measured the amount of fertilizer that passed through three different types of common turf grass to find the most sustainable turf option for fertilizer utilization.
  • Florida Friendly Landscapes and Biodiversity: Biodiversity was measured and compared at ponds that had Florida Friendly landscapes and at ponds that did not meet the Florida Friendly criteria.
  • Soil Conditions and Plant Health: An evaluation of abiotic conditions in plant beds randomly selected across campus to identify how conditions affect the plants in those beds.

Course instructor Alaina Bernard encourages students to submit their class projects into the annual showcase of undergraduate research. The showcase is a great opportunity for students to gain experience in presenting their work. Cash prizes are awarded to the winners of the showcase.

 Copper removal SURE LOGO Fertilizer

Fertilizer Filtration
Florida Friendly Mushrooms Soil Conditions
Florida Friendly Landscapes Sustainable Mushroom Cultivation Soil Conditions and Plant Health

2012 Projects

  • Amphibian Survey: A survey of amphibian species inhabiting three different cypress domes on campus
  • Herbicide: An experiment testing the effects of a synthetic man-made herbicide versus a natural herbicide on invasive species
  • Green Roof: An experiment that explored the possibility of growing Florida native species on our green roof
  • Solar or Forest Report: Research showing the cost benefit analysis of a functioning forest versus a solar farm

2011 Projects

  • Bat Houses: A study on the UCF bat population
  • Urban Tree Canopy: A deeper look into UCF’s urban canopy and how the density has changed

2010 Projects


Prior to 2010, Systems Sustainability paired student groups with local organizations to conduct research projects that interested them. This proved to be more difficult and time  than having students conduct their own study

2009 Projects

Effects of prescribed fire on saw palmetto populations

Partner: Florida Division of Forestry; Instructor assisting: Alaina
Project Description: This project will explore the effects of fire on saw palmetto, an extremely dense and volatile fuel

1.) Explore the effect(s) of saw palmetto, an extremely volatile fuel in Florida, on social, environmental, and economic systems. For example, if this fuel is not kept under control via prescribed burns, what effect could it have (i.e, wildfires) on nearby residences? How much does it cost to fight a fire vs. mitigating through prescribed burns? What role does saw palmetto play in the landscape/ecosystem? What is the Biology of this species– how does it respond to fire, where does it grow, etc.?
2.) Measure density (number of saw palmetto), percent cover, and fuel continuity (is the palmetto connected or discounted b/w individuals and/or populations) in two predetermined sites located on DOF and UCF property. Record results using GPS unit.
3.) Record changes in #2 post fire and communicate results.


Population survey and current status assessment of the Gopher Tortoise

Partner: Seminole County; Instructor assisting: Jen
Project Description: Keystone species are widely valued for their contributions to conservation efforts because of the high levels of biodiversity they promote (Mills et al. 1993). The presence of a keystone species in an ecosystem can elevate biodiversity levels far beyond levels observed when the species is absent from that same ecosystem (Jones et al. 1994). In Florida, a prime example of a keystone species is the Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus (McCoy et al. 2006)Due to their importance to the ecosystems in which they occur, loss of habitat, fragmentation and other factors (McCoy et. al. 2006), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission listed the gopher tortoise as a threatened species in 2007. In order to be good land stewards, a population survey and current status assessment is a necessity where gopher tortoises occur on protected lands. The class will learn about gopher tortoise biology and field techniques for surveying and monitoring.

1.) To be able to identify gopher tortoise habitat and determine the successional stage of the plant community.
2.) To become familiar with field assessment techniques used to determine gopher tortoise population status.


County Government Water Conservation Plan

Partner: Orange County; Instructor assisting: Jen
Project Description/Goals: Create a county wide plan to reduce water consumption through both technological change and behavioral change. The plan should address office water uses such as hand wash faucets and toilets as well as irrigation and car washing. Other related topics of concern may be reclaimed water and stormwater. The plan should seek to quantify existing county water use and potential savings in gallons and dollars given the implementation of certain conservation practices. Financial resources and key staff members necessary to implement the plan must be described. Create a time line for development of the plan. The program should be documented and designed to be easily transferrable to other municipalities.
Requirements: Basic math skills, ability to take initiative in gathering data from others.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Water by Alexandra Fix

Water: Use Less-Save More: 100 Water-Saving Tips for the Home by Jon Clift Jon Clift (Author)

› Visit Amazon’s Jon Clift Page

Find all the books, read about the author, and more.

See search results for this author

Are you an author? Learn about Author Central

(Author), Amanda Cuthbert (Author)


County Government Social Marketing Campaign

Partner: Orange County; Instructor assisting: Jen
Project Description/Goals: Choose one or more behavior changes desired by EPD and create a survey to determine what benefits the public wants and what barriers to change concern them. Create a social marketing program utilizing Constant Contact or similar service to maximize EPD communication with the community. Consider synchronizing or integrating EPD website, Orange To Green website, EPD Myspace/Facebook/Twitter, email marketing service, Orange TV, PSAs, print ads, or other medias. Consider developing new modes to reach latent change makers or new audiences. Consider creating ‘street teams’ or other outreach strategies. Create a time line for development of the plan. The program should be documented and designed to be easily transferrable to other municipalities.
Requirements: Strong familiarity with media to be utilized, Strong marketing or technology skills

Social Marketing Environmental Issues by Ben Tyson and D. Mercedes Hurd

Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere by J. Robert Cox


Effects of vegetation on cooling an urbanized area

Partner: University of Central Florida; Instructor assisting: Alaina
Project Description: The project will explore the potential benefits of vegetative cooling to reduce the UCF main campus urban heat island effect.

1.) Research UHIs (read last year’s service-learning project paper) and design experiment
2.) Complete building UHI recording stations.
3.) Using seven AVR 169 Butterfly chips, record light and temperature at certain time intervals, throughout campus – focus on areas that are similar with 3 having vegetation and 3 areas not having vegetation (but have the same conditions, plant material, etc.). This will allow students to research the urban heat fluctuations that occur, without having other variables affecting the data.
4.) Communicate results and display data on explicit graphs.


The effectiveness of controlled burns in mitigating wildfires

Partner: The Nature Conservancy; Instructor assisting: Alaina
Project Description: This project will focus on surveying various conservation agencies to collect documented examples of where prescribed fire or controlled burns have mitigated wildfires

1.) Answer, through literature reviews and documented examples: “Do Controlled Burns Change the Behavior of Wildfires?” Outcomes would be documented examples (pictures, testimonials, etc.) of where prescribed fires did indeed stop, slow down or change the intensity of wildfires.
2.) Collect GIS data, if possible, of documented occurrences. Record date burned or date of wildfire, acreage burned, habitat type, agency responsible, control methods (if any), and any additional notes.
3.) Communicate results: Written document, potential to be published in peer-reviewed journal and/or trade magazines (such as the International Association of Wildland Fire’s “Wildfire” magazine), Fire Council meetings, Coalition of Fire Councils.
4.) Agencies to start with: Florida Park Service, Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, The Nature Conservancy, US forest Service (Ocala National Forest) and the Florida Division of Forestry