Georgia Tech Researchers Receive EPA South FL Initiative Award

March 2, 2020

Via EPA Region 4: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized two organizations in Florida as recipients of South Florida Geographic Initiative (SFGI) Program grants. The grants are for projects that support protection and restoration of water quality, corals and seagrass in South Florida. 

One of the grant recipients is Neha Garg, an assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the Garg Lab

“We are excited to use metabolomics approaches to decipher the contribution of the coral microbiome to the devastating stony coral tissue loss disease and the changing health of coral reefs in Florida," said Garg.

“EPA is proud to support projects that will help address environmental needs and challenges in South Florida waters,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “EPA is proud to fund local projects that will restore habitats and foster environmental awareness.”

The SFGI grants include:

  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga. - $160,000 will be used to characterizing biomarkers of coral disease to develop early detection strategies and assess the role of microbial pathogens and metabolism in coral disease.
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Fla. - $171,365 will be used to increase knowledge of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) by characterizing the effect of the disease on the microbiomes of corals; analyzing water and sediment samples to determine how SCTLD may persist in the environment and lead to disease progression; determining if the microbial signature of SCTLD is consistent through the reef tract; and determining how corals surviving in the SCTLD zone respond with antimicrobial properties that aid their survival.
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Fla. - $99,246 will be used to continue surveillance of the progression of SCTLD westward along the Florida Reef Tract to include targeted assessments of the Marquesas and Dry Tortugas region.  This is a critical need as the disease progresses towards the Dry Tortugas National Park 

SFGI grants are used to fund South Florida Program projects for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Water Quality Protection Program, Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, Caloosahatchee Estuary, Indian River Lagoon, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. The South Florida marine environment features world-class beaches, fishing and diving; highly-productive estuaries, extensive seagrass meadows, deep-water ports and the only coral barrier reef in the continental United States. These valuable natural resources provide for recreational and commercial fisheries, the multi-billion-dollar tourism economy, major shipping ports, and the millions of people residing along the coast.

For more information on the SFGI RFA and directions to apply for a grant, visit

Related Links:

EPA Region 4 Press Release

Garg Lab

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

For More Information Contact

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Dawn Harris-Young (
(404) 562-8421 (Direct), (404) 562-8400 (Main)

College of Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology
Grace Pietkiewicz
Communications Assistant
College of Sciences