Dr. Dennis Hanisak , FAU Harbor Branch Research Professor and Education Director and Integrative Biology PhD program faculty member, was recently named the recipient of this year’s Environmental Educator Award by the Pelican Island Audubon Society. In particular, the award specified his hosting the Ocean Science Lecture Series (now in its 20 th year), HBOI’s major forum for our scientists to share their research with the public and the Indian River Lagoon Symposium (in its seventh year) which engages both scientists and local citizens in better understanding the Indian River Lagoon. As Director of Harbor Branch's Education Program, Dr. Hanisak is dedicated to fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation by students and the public of the importance of the oceans and their impact on our lives. In addition to the activities mentioned above, he has led and developed programs for university students (including Semester By The Sea), the Harbor Branch Summer Intern program, innovative programs with St. Lucie County School District (including the Marine & Oceanographic Academy on the HBOI campus), and the Junior Scientist Program, in partnership with the Indian River Land Trust, in Indian River County. It is his belief that working scientists need to convey what they do, and why it is important, to students, resource managers, and the public, as well as to colleagues.
He has more than 30 years of experience in marine biology and ecology, with emphasis on marine plants, particularly macroalgae (seaweeds) and seagrasses. He has worked at Harbor Branch since 1977, conducting research on marine plants in the Indian River Lagoon and in other parts of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. Dr. Hanisak is the author of more than 70 scientific publications, a frequently invited participant at national and international meetings and workshops, a past President of the International Phycological Society and a past President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Phycological Society of America. He is a co-author of Submersed Plants of the Indian River Lagoon: A Floristic Inventory & Field Guide, a comprehensive floristic compendium for those who wish to increase their botanical or ecological knowledge of Florida’s remarkable Indian River Lagoon. Research in his lab currently focuses on determining the relationships of water quality with seagrass and with algal communities (both benthic seaweeds and phytoplankton) in the Indian River Lagoon and understanding and preventing losses in shallow and deep water coral communities that result from both natural and anthropogenic causes. Other interests include physiological ecology of marine plants (macroalgae and seagrasses), nutrient dynamics, coral reef ecology, biology of deep-water macroalgae, and aquaculture (particularly marine plant cultivation).