With the 2020 hurricane season officially underway, the UCI partnered with a team of federal agencies and research institutions to deploy a pair of Navy research gliders that will shed new light on the interactions between the ocean and powerful storms that pass through the New York Bight.
The gliders were launched from Monmouth University’s research vessel Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe at locations between the shipping lanes that approach New York Harbor. The crew included (seen above from l-r) Monmouth student Bryce McCall, Rutgers University scientists Scott Glenn and Travis Miles, UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels, and (not pictured) UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba.
The gliders will cruise the waters between the continental shelf and the coast from now through late October, collecting data on water conditions and transmitting it to scientists on the shore. Of particular interest is the influence that cooler waters at the bottom of the ocean have on storms once they “upwell,” or rise to mix with warmer surface waters as the ocean churns. Warm waters are known to fuel hurricanes, but the full degree with which colder waters slow and dissipate the storms is still under study. The gliders enable the researchers to safely measure those dynamics directly from the violent, roiling waters beneath a hurricane, and ultimately improve storm modeling. Scroll below to learn more with our photographic trip diary.
Above, Miles gets set to deploy the first glider roughly 20 miles east of Asbury Park, New Jersey. He’ll wheel the equipment to the edge of the vessel using a special hand truck with rails, angle it downward, and release the torpedo-shaped glider to plunge into the sea. It will quickly float back to the surface.
With eyes on the glider, the team will use a satellite phone to call the Naval Oceanographic Office at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. From that site over 1,000 miles away, researchers can command the drone to carry out a battery of tests, including dives, timed cruises and data collection.
In the meantime, the team will take some readings in the water with their own equipment to make sure the glider’s data is matching up accurately. Once all of the tests were passed, the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe headed to its next stop an hour north.
McCall launched the second glider about 15 miles south of Jones Beach, Long Island. From this point, the New York skyline and the high rises of Long Branch and Asbury Park were no longer in view. But over the next few years, these waters will be home to an installation of massive wind turbines that could produce enough renewable energy to power 1 million homes. While sailing, the crew came upon one deep-water buoy (above right) owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, used to gather scientific data.
As the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe embarked on its 3-hour trip back to Atlantic Highlands, the waters suddenly grew rough and Capt. Nickels’ radio buzzed with warnings to mariners. The 100-degree, ultra-humid air was about to burst open with thunderstorms and 40 knot winds. Nearing Sandy Hook, the crew was treated to a dazzling show of fork lighting and ominous cloud formations over New York City.
The glider deployment was carried out under the auspices of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS). Several other gliders were launched at other locations along the Atlantic Coast as part of the multi-year project. Additional partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and several other academic institutions.
Watch our video below chronicling last year’s glider deployment aboard the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe.
The UCI checked in with Monmouth University Assistant Professor Sean Sterrett and students Angel Ireland and Sara Grouleff as they conducted research on turtle populations in Long Branch’s Takanassee Lake. Among the team’s findings, a common pet species that is not native to New Jersey is now perhaps the most widespread in the system. The group’s research is being supported through the UCI’s Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Summer Research Program.
In light of the continuing crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and concern about systemic racism, the Urban Coast Institute has issued a special call for proposals to support faculty and student research and community-based projects focused on bold ideas for sustainably rebuilding our coastal communities and economies while addressing disproportional impacts to and needs of our most vulnerable populations. Research points to systemic under-investment in certain communities and populations based on factors including race and income that increase their vulnerability to natural hazards and changing climate conditions. Socially vulnerable populations are already living under highly stressed conditions that are exacerbated when a natural disaster impacts the community.
The COVID-19 pandemic amplifies the impacts of climate change stressors including increasing temperatures, rising sea level, storm intensity, floods and drought that impact local air and water quality, food security, and community vulnerability to natural hazards. Climate change-driven impacts and the COVID-19 pandemic interact with underlying community health, demographic, and socioeconomic factors. Environmental justice (EJ) communities, including those of low income, communities of color, immigrant groups, and Indigenous peoples are disproportionately vulnerable to the environmental and health impacts of climate change and COVID-19.
The UCI will award four to six seed grants of up to $5,000 each for research and community-based projects that advance just and sustainable community recovery and the development of a new equilibrium in social, economic, and natural resilience among all coastal communities. Preference will be given to multi-disciplinary faculty collaborations that include student research opportunities. The UCI is committed to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion and strongly encourages faculty and students of color and marginalized populations to consider submitting a grant application. Research outcomes should be aimed at developing an academic or professional publication, community-based analysis/recommendations, and/or a plan to secure additional external funding support to continue the research or project.
Eligibility and Requirements
Proposal may be submitted by full-time Monmouth University faculty of any rank.
Proposal must be a maximum of five pages, double-spaced 12 point font, and include:
Cover page listing the title of the proposal and investigators;
statement of the problem and significance;
description of the research, including student engagement;
Proposals must be submitted by email to UCI Administrative Assistant Aliya Satku (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
It is anticipated that funding is available for four to six research proposals.
Award announcements will be made by Sept. 1, 2020.
Funding during the academic year is limited to direct costs (no salary) associated with the research and student support. Student support is limited to $11/hr. and $12/hr. over a 20-hour work week in the fall and spring semester, respectively.
Funds must be expended the end of the spring 2021 semester.
Proposals will be evaluated by a three- to five-member panel comprised of MU faculty with relevant expertise and UCI staff.
Relevance to the research topic 20% – Proposals should focus on socially vulnerable environmental justice coastal communities and develop research questions or community-based projects that, when answered or implemented, advance community response and or recovery, equity and inclusion for all coastal communities.
Expected Outcomes 25% – Proposed research and community-based projects should have clearly defined outcomes that will lead to a publication, tool, informational product, exhibit, and/or future research plan.
Research Merit 20% – Proposal demonstrates credible research methods or approaches to meet the research objectives
Research Team 15% – Research team demonstrates relevant expertise and experience that can advance project objectives.
Student Engagement 15% – Proposed research directly includes students in the research and/or provides experiential education experiences related to the research.
Monmouth University researchers, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), recently completed a report that offers guidance for determining the appropriate type and location of green infrastructure projects designed to improve the resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems. The report, Framework for a Coastal Ecological Adaptation Prioritization Support Tool: Methodology, was authored by Urban Coast Institute (UCI) Director Thomas Herrington and History and Anthropology Department Associate Professor Geoff Fouad.
The research stemmed from a 2015 NJDEP effort to create a guidebook for communities implementing natural and nature-based adaptations in coastal areas. Natural adaptations focus on conserving and restoring existing features (for example, planting grasses on beach dunes) while nature-based adaptations are hybrid, engineered approaches that seek to mimic the risk reduction functions of natural systems (such as depositing dredged sediments in a bay to create an artificial island). The NJDEP developed 10 successful pilot projects in coastal communities based on its guidebook, but recognized that the projects may not have targeted areas most in need of ecological restoration.
“They wanted to know how to prioritize projects so they can identify the best possible adaptations for specific locations in the state,” Herrington said. “We worked with the NJDEP to determine what types of natural and nature-based solutions work best in a given environment, considering factors like the project’s distance from a community, its consistency with the landscapes around it, and whether it would restore what’s there rather than building something new.”
The report notes that in contrast to hard or traditional “gray” engineered structures like seawalls and bulkheads, natural systems can offer equal or better hazard protection, avoid negative impacts to the environment and naturally adapt to changing conditions over time. However, these natural defenses have degraded significantly in New Jersey over the last century due to development, climate change and other trends.
Working with input from coastal experts and stakeholders, the NJDEP and Monmouth researchers set out to develop a project prioritization framework that places green adaptations on par with gray ones for protecting communities and ecosystems. The framework provides a high-level, landscape-scale screening of possible coastal ecological adaptations using geographical information system (GIS) data housed and managed by the NJDEP. The objective is to prioritize those adaptations that address a particular coastal issue of concern, such as coastal inundation, and are aligned with existing and/or future land use and management goals.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution presented the webinar “The Underwater United States,” which provided a rare glimpse of life in the many undersea canyons located just 100 miles off our coast. Dr. Timothy Shank, who explored eight of the region’s lesser-studied canyons with towed camera technology, provided a tour of the insides of these ancient formations and their coral colonies. UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba recently highlighted Shank’s work in a Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal ‘Ocean Stories’ feature and photo gallery that are educational companions to the webinar.
Randall Abate, professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy, and director of the Institute for Global Understanding, was interviewed on two podcasts and one TV program this summer in connection with his two recently published books: “Climate Change and the Voiceless: Protecting Future Generations, Wildlife, and Natural Resources” and “What Can Animal Law Learn From Environmental Law?”
In May, he was interviewed on the “Little Brains, Big Topics” podcast (posted above), hosted by students at the University of Leeds, U.K. The topic of the interview was “Climate Change, Animal Rights, Future Generations, and Factory Farming,” which addressed topics from both of recently published books.