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Monmouth University Student Receives Polgar Fellowship to Study Oyster Population in Hudson River

Monmouth University senior biology major Erik Bugenhagen (West Orange, NJ) has received a $3,800 Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship grant from the Hudson River Foundation. Erik’s research is being undertaken as part of Monmouth University’s School of Science Summer Research Program (SRP). Additional research support is provided by the University’s Urban Coast Institute (UCI).

The Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship program is a research program of the Hudson River Foundation conducted in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The objectives of the program are to gather important information on all aspects of the River and to train students in conducting scientific studies and public policy research.

Bugenhagen is working with Monmouth University faculty member Dr. Tiffany Medley on identifying potential sub-tidal oyster populations in portions of the Hackensack River, Arthur Kill and Raritan Bay. The survey is being conducted with the assistance of UCI marine scientist Jim Nickels, using acoustic sonar technology, sediment grab sample collection, and utilizing a VideoRay Pro 4 remote operated vehicle purchased with support from the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Foundation. In addition to the sub-tidal survey, the researchers on the project will document the extent of wild intertidal oyster populations found throughout the Hudson River Estuary and assess the health of wild oyster samples. Monmouth University junior biology majors Emily Caputo (Robbinsville, NJ) and Megan O’Donnell (South Amboy, NJ) are also on the research team as part of the SRP.

The Eastern oyster is a species that has been nearly eradicated from the Hudson River Estuary due to past poor water quality. Local groups have begun oyster restoration projects to help reestablish the species but have recently been restricted due to regulatory obstacles of developing projects in contaminated New Jersey and New York waters with concerns in public consumption and the costs of policing efforts in monitoring these oyster restoration sites. Instead of focusing efforts in introducing oysters in oyster restoration, Monmouth University researchers are looking at a potential solution to identify and increase available habitat for existing wild oyster populations. There is currently no estimate on the range and number of wild oysters living in the estuary.

Monmouth University’s School of Science Summer Research Program (SRP), now in its sixth year, enables students to work on collaborative research projects under the supervision of School of Science faculty and staff. Student researchers are carrying out exciting original research in a range of disciplines including biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, nanotechnology, software engineering, homeland defense and emergency preparedness, and watershed management. The Urban Coast Institute also provides funding to support student summer research grants. Funding is provided in memory of Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe. Ms. Sculthorpe’s father, Robert B. Sculthorpe ’63, is a graduate of Monmouth University and a member of the University Board of Trustees.