Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Current Research Projects

Abundance and Variety of Microplastics in Surface Waters, Sediments, and Oysters: Relationship to Point-Sources and Land Use Practices

Principal Investigator: 

Lance Yonkos

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Carys Mitchelmore, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Johan Schijf, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, has historically been a species of tremendous importance to the Chesapeake Bay economically and ecologically and provides numerous ecosystem services, including water filtration, habitat and food for many other Bay species. Significant hatchery and aquaculture efforts are currently underway to recapture the economic and ecological benefits of a robust oyster population within Chesapeake waters, whether for human consumption or to promote improvements in water quality and benthic habitat.

Assessing the Effectiveness of the Anacostia River Tunnel in Reduction of Eutrophication

Principal Investigator: 

Caroline Solomon

Institution: 

Gallaudet University

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Patricia Glibert, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

The Anacostia River is among the most polluted tributaries in Chesapeake Bay. With substantial algal blooms and bacterial contamination, it has placed those who recreate on the water at considerable health risk. The first phase of a recently completed, multi-billion dollar infrastructure project, the Anacostia River Tunnel, which will retain and divert sewage and storm water effluent is due to be operational by March 2018. The tunnel project is award-winning from the perspective of the engineering community, but the environmental outcome is yet to be determined.

Continuous Mapping of Channel Features for Monitoring Aquatic Habitat and Sediment Flux in Coastal Systems

Principal Investigator: 

Matthew Baker

Institution: 

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Alex Rittle, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Summary: 

Traditional mapping of riverbed features is performed through cross-sectional surveys at limited locations within a river segment. Such methodology leads to an incomplete picture of riverine processes, including aquatic habitat variability and sediment fluxes. Recently work has shown that cameras mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can be used to continuously map fluvial features at a relatively low cost. UAVs can significantly increase efficiency of data collection, while also providing continuous data, which is not feasible with cross-sectional methods.

Determining the Resiliency of Juvenile Oysters to Estuarine Stressors and Climate Change: Implications for Restoration and Aquaculture Programs

Principal Investigator: 

Denise L. Breitburg

Institution: 

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Matthew Ogburn and Seth Miller, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Summary: 

Researchers will examine how Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) respond to acidification of Chesapeake Bay waters caused by climate change and to low-oxygen (hypoxic) conditions. Understanding these responses is important to ensure success in efforts to restore the Bay’s wild oyster population and expand oyster aquaculture.

Developing a technology to induce sterility in an emerging marine aquaculture species, sablefish, by disrupting primordial germ cell development

Principal Investigator: 

Ten-Tsao Wong

Institution: 

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Yonathan Zohar, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Adam Luckenbach and William Fairgrieve, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Summary: 

We have developed a technology to efficiently produce infertile fish by disrupting primordial germ cell development in fish embryos. The technology uses a bath immersion to administer a Morpholino oligomer (MO) against Deadend (Dnd), an essential protein for early germ cell development in fish. This approach has been successfully used in the zebrafish, trout and salmon. The goal of this proposal is to examine the feasibility of applying this technology to sablefish.

Development of a Bayesian Approach for Estimating Ecosystem-based Reference Points for Atlantic Menhaden

Principal Investigator: 

Genevieve Nesslage

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Michael J. Wilberg, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) play a vital role in Chesapeake Bay and Mid-Atlantic marine ecosystems by providing forage for recreationally important piscivorous fishes while also supporting the largest commercial fishery by volume on the US Atlantic Coast. Recognizing the importance of forage fish such as menhaden to marine ecosystems, fisheries managers have set a goal of adopting ecosystem-based reference points for menhaden that account for the forage services menhaden provide.

Effects of Oyster Biodeposit Resuspension on Nutrient Release and Ecosystem Dynamics in Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Elka Porter

Institution: 

University of Baltimore

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Lawrence Sanford, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

While existing research addresses many of the important issues of oysters in Chesapeake Bay (CB), the fate and effects of resuspended oyster biodeposits in aquaculture areas on the nutrient, light, zooplankton and phytoplankton dynamics have not been taken into account when the use of oysters in mitigation of eutrophication in CB is examined. Currently, models do not include the effects of biodeposit resuspension on the ecosystem, nutrient dynamics and light and experimental data are not available.

Exploring the Connectivity of Sediment Transport in Upper Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Cindy Palinkas

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Emily Russ, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

This research looks to improve the the sediment-transport model between the lower Susquehanna River to the upper Chesapeake Bay through the development of sediment budgets and exploring techniques to differentiate sediment sources. Results from this project are expected to inform water quality and coastal resilience issues in the Chesapeake Bay region for local governments and the general public.

Improving Prediction and Visualization of Coastal Inundation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Principal Investigator: 

Ming Li

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Xiaohong Wang, Salisbury University

Summary: 

Researchers will develop computer models to simulate the impacts of long-term sea level rise and episodic storm surges on the low-lying lands of Maryland's Eastern Shore in 2050 and 2100. The project will utilize web-based graphics to help communities to better understand risks of coastal flooding to people and property at street-level detail.

Managing for Biodiversity and Blue Carbon in the Face of Sea-level Rise and Barrier Island Migration

Principal Investigator: 

Keryn Gedan

Institution: 

George Washington University

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Chris Hein, Virginia Institute of Marine Science; Sunny Jardine, University of Delaware, School of Marine Science and Policy; Jorge Lorenzo Trueba, Montclair State University, Earth and Environmental Studies

Summary: 

This regional project funded by the Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia Sea Grant programs will provide insight into best practices for stabilizing barrier islands and conserving tidal marshes behind them in ways that preserve biodiversity and beach width as well as stores of carbon that are naturally sequestered in marshes. Areas to be studied include Parramore and Assawoman islands in Virginia; Fenwick/Assateague Island in Maryland and Delaware; and Long Beach Island in New Jersey.

Maryland Climate Resilience Indicators (MCRI): Participatory Indicators to Assess, Plan, and Evaluate Climate Adaptation Actions

Principal Investigator: 

Melissa Kenney

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Michael Gerst, University of Maryland, College Park

Summary: 

This research aims to aid communities in addressing the question, “are our climate adaptation investments increasing our community’s resilience?” The state of Maryland and its communities are acutely interested in this question because they are being, and will continue to be, impacted by a range of climate impacts. As a result, Maryland has been aggressively setting reduction targets to mitigate greenhouse gases emissions and developing adaptation strategies to increase its resilience to the human health, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change.

Mixotrophic Dinoflagellates: Elucidating the Relative Importance of Grazing and Photosynthesis in Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Greg Silsbe

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Sairah Malkin, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Microbial communities govern the transformation of energy, carbon, and nutrients in aquatic ecosystems. In Chesapeake Bay (CB), microbes drives seasonal hypoxia and and forms the base of the foodweb that sustains important commercial and cultural fisheries including oysters, crabs, and striped bass. The efficacy of virtually any management plan that seeks to improve the health and resilience of CB intrinsically requires a fundamental understanding of these tiny but mighty organisms. 

New Measures of Aquatic Habitat for Assessing Restoration Resilience

Principal Investigator: 

Matthew Baker

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Hayley Oakland

Summary: 

Most stream restoration is predicated on the assumption that modifications to local physical habitat can positively influence stream biota and ecosystem integrity. However, conventional field surveys rely on coarse scale summary of aquatic habitat as well as fine scale measures of channel hydraulics at intermittent locations within a sampling reach. Thus, contributions of habitat modification in the restoration process remain poorly understood.

Novel Genomic Tools to Assess Fish Diet and Prey Quality and in the Choptank River

Principal Investigator: 

Louis Plough

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Jamie Pierson, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Zooplankton are critical food sources for marine fish, and climate-driven changes in their abundance, diversity, and quality can have profound effects on larval recruitment and fisheries productivity in coastal oceans and estuaries. Despite the importance of prey for understanding variation in fisheries recruitment, accurate identification of zooplankton species remains challenging and a lack of information on prey quality and prey selectivity by fish may hinder the discovery of relationships between zooplankton and fish productivity.

Potential Pollution Trade-Offs for Sustainable Coastal Agricultural Management

Principal Investigator: 

Eric Davidson

Institution: 

Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Jake Hagedorn, Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

To ensure that Maryland's coastal resources are resilient and sustainable, the agriculture that is vital to the state economy must find ways to reduce nutrient runoff into precious water resources. One such way is a best management practice (BMP) that uses control structures to manage drainage water levels in farm fields. The goal is to increase the amount of denitrification by elevating the water table.

Quantifying Changes to Nutrient Cycling and Nitrogen Removal in an Estuary as a Consequence of Aeration

Principal Investigator: 

Lora A. Harris

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Jeremy Testa, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Researchers will investigate the effects of low oxygen (hypoxic) conditions on natural processes that remove excess nitrogen from the Chesapeake Bay.  The researchers will use a large-scale, engineered aeration system in Rock Creek to experimentally reduce dissolved oxygen in bottom waters by turning off the aeration. This research may inform estimates of how quickly water quality in the Chesapeake will improve as nutrient loads are reduced.

Quantifying Nutrient Sequestration in Chesapeake Bay Submersed Aquatic Vegetation Beds

Principal Investigator: 

Cassie Gurbisz

Institution: 

St. Mary's College of Maryland

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Cindy Palinkas, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Although external nutrient load reductions have been a primary management strategy for Chesapeake Bay restoration, internal ecological processes, such as seasonal nutrient retention in submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, may also play an important, complementary role. However, we lack sufficient details about the factors controlling the magnitude of an important mechanism of SAV-mediated nutrient sequestration--particulate nutrient trapping--to make inferences about its importance relative to total loads to the system.

Resilience of Vallisneria americana in the Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Katharina A. M. Engelhardt

Institution: 

Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Maile C. Neel, University of Maryland, College Park, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture

Summary: 

In the Chesapeake Bay, many beds of underwater grasses are small and transient, which makes it difficult for them to recover from environmental stress and disturbances. This study will examine the species Vallisneria americana (commonly called wild celery) to learn how the extent and proximity of these grass beds are related to the genetic and functional characteristics of the plants living there and in turn how these traits affect the beds’ long-term growth and survival. The study is intended to help natural resource managers restore submerged aquatic vegetation in the Bay. 

Salt Water Intrusion and Legacy Nutrient Release Across Coastal Farmland

Principal Investigator: 

Katherine Tully

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Danielle Weissman

Summary: 

As the world’s climate changes, rural coastlines are becoming more vulnerable to sea level rise. Consequently, these ecosystems are undergoing major disruptions in nutrient cycling. Tidal salt marshes, riparian forests, and farmland converge on coastlines, forming ecotones, or unique transitional ecosystems. With centuries of farming and fertilizer additions, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in excess of plant demand can accumulate in soils (known as legacy nutrients).

Tracking Septic System Performance by Using Innovative Mass Spectrometric Approaches and Traditional Nutrient Measurements

Principal Investigator: 

Michael Gonsior

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Lora A. Harris, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Andrew Heyes, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Scientists will examine whether technology used in newer septic systems is more effective than older septic systems are at reducing nitrogen loads and improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The project will seek to identify unique organic tracers that are specific to septic-system effluent and use them to track the effluent as it travels far from septic systems and into streams and groundwater. It is anticipated this project will improve understanding of septic system contribution to excess nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay. This information could help municipalities understand how best to achieve their Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) targets for water quality in the estuary.

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