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Monmouth University Students Conduct Superstorm Sandy Research

Monmouth University students conducted Superstorm Sandy research this year during the School of Science Summer Research Program (SRP) with a grant provided by the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute.

The SRP enables students to work on collaborative research projects under the supervision of School of Science faculty and staff. Several students received grants to conduct research through the Urban Coast Institute’s funding of the “Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Summer Student Research Grants.”

Funds for the grants are supported, in part, by contributions to the Urban Coast Institute in memory of Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe. Sculthorpe, a Monmouth County shore area resident her whole life, loved to surf and spend time at the beach with her family and friends. Sculthorpe’s father, Mr. Robert B. Sculthorpe, is a graduate of Monmouth University and chair of the University Board of Trustees.

Three students who received support were able to conduct research related to Superstorm Sandy:

Rezwan Ahmed (Tinton Falls, NJ), political science major, examined home rule in New Jersey and its impact on the protection of the New Jersey shore. Ahmed compared beach revenue data collected from Asbury Park and Manasquan, two shore communities that gain a good deal of revenue from their beaches. Ahmed indicated that current law states that all funds derived from beach revenue must go toward the maintenance of the beaches. However, after maintenance expenses are paid, some towns use the surplus revenue toward other expenses. Ahmed determined that the state would like to have more regulatory control over the towns to better protect New Jersey, but the towns fight to keep their individual home rule.

Lael Phillips (Belmar, NJ), biology major with a concentration in marine and environmental biology, utilized a data set collected in 2011 to determine the health status of Lake Takanassee in Long Branch, New Jersey, to determine the impacts of Superstorm Sandy. The original data set included measures of plant species identity, abundance, diversity, and native/exotic status. By repeating the methods used in 2011 in 2013 and comparing the data, the research showed that disturbance thriving exotic plant species were tolerant of the impacts of Superstorm Sandy, and Superstorm-associated changes in water quality may have impacted the aquatic species.

Melissa Sedlacik (West Milford, NJ), anthropology graduate student, offered an anthropological approach using methodological and theoretical intersections into the study of disaster as a long-term process. Sedlacik aimed to better understand vulnerability (how well local communities are able to protect against an event) and resiliency (the community’s ability to react and recover after an event), as they relate to Jersey Shore communities following Superstorm Sandy. She found that there is a general consensus among tourists and residents that New Jersey was not as prepared as it should have been for Superstorm Sandy. In addition, residents gave high marks to volunteers who helped after Superstorm Sandy in rebuilding homes and beach clean-up.