Monmouth University students and researchers recently returned to Crosswicks Creek in Bordentown, New Jersey, where two ships destroyed in the Revolutionary War were found over the winter (read story in Monmouth magazine). The team is now gathering aerial drone footage as part of a project to create 3D models of the remains. Learn more in this video featuring interviews with Monmouth GIS Program Program Director Geoff Fouad, student researcher Bre DiRenzi, and Urban Coast Institute Field Operations Assistant Mitch Mickley.
With grant support from the UCI’s Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Program, Monmouth University students London Jones and Aidan Bodeo-Lomicky conducted research on two timely topics: Discriminatory barriers to beach access in New Jersey and threats to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. We caught up with London and Aidan recently to ask a few questions about their research. Read what they had to say and download copies of their papers below.
Student Researcher: London Jones
Year and Major: Senior, Communication
Q: Your research focused on Asbury Park, Belmar and Cape May as case studies. What was your reasoning for selecting those three towns?
My reasoning behind the selection of Asbury Park, Belmar, and Cape May was that I aimed for difference in coastal location, town history, population, and racial composition so that my case studies could encapsulate all types of New Jersey beach towns. I want my proposal to be adopted statewide, so it was pertinent for me not to only focus on towns in a certain category, like those in South Jersey or those with only wealthy residents. Rather, I selected a diverse mix of towns to highlight the common flaw they share despite their differences: the beach tag.
Q: While Jersey Shore visitors generally regard the beach tag as a hassle, it is seldom discussed from the standpoint of imposing racially discriminatory burdens. How does the practice of requiring them impose an unfair burden on Black beachgoers?
As described in my paper, the practice of requiring beach tags imposes a disproportionate burden on Black beachgoers in cost, access, and how beach tag revenues are spent. Historically, beach tags were imposed as a way of keeping nonresidents off the beaches of certain towns, which had populations majorly consisting of white communities. Although rights for public access along New Jersey beaches have been secured, the constant increases in beach tag prices and caps on numbers of tags sold restricts access for low income communities and those who do not reside in the beach towns, which is primarily the Black community. Additionally, beach tag revenues are then spent on frivolous beach amenities rather than necessary spending to make those shorelines safer and more accessible to those who either visit after hours or forego attending the beach all together to avoid the need for beach tags.
Q: Do you believe there were discriminatory motives behind the beach access barriers discussed in your paper or are they policies that carry that unintended consequence?
As underscored by the Black Lives Matter movement, many majority communities do not always have the best interests of the Black community in mind. While many past instances of discrimination on the Jersey shore, as described in my paper, have been motivated by discriminatory intent, I do not believe that the current beach access barriers have been imposed due to discriminatory motives. Rather, these barriers cause unintended consequences to the Black communities, placing unfortunate burdens on their lives when attending their favorite shore towns. Nonetheless, any impact to the Black community, purposeful or not, should be addressed with urgency and sensitivity.
Student Researcher: Aidan Bodeo-Lomicky
Year and Major: Junior; Major: Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy; Minor: Political Science
Q: Scientists estimate there are only about 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the wild. What are some of the ways that climate change is exacerbating the threat to them?
Climate change is warming the waters off New England faster than any other region on the planet, which is having severe impacts on this aquatic ecosystem. The primary food source for the North Atlantic right whale is a subarctic zooplankton called Calanus finmarchicus, and these copepods must migrate to colder, deeper waters to survive this warming. Naturally, the whales must follow their food, and as they do so, they enter new regions without the same protections against ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. Since 2017, 10% of the entire North Atlantic right whale population has been killed or severely injured, with most of these incidents occurring in new habitats that have not historically warranted conservation measures for this species but now do as a result of climate change. Furthermore, as the whales must travel greater distances to feed, they expend valuable energy and time, which lowers their overall health and reproductive success. Climate change has rapidly thrown this entire region out of balance, and now it is up to managers to quickly adapt in an effective way.
Q: The issues of right whales suffering from ship strikes and entanglements with fishing gear have attracted a lot of attention from scientists and the public. Did you find that the threats from climate change have been adequately studied to date?
It certainly never hurts to learn more about the threats to a critically endangered species, especially when they involve an issue as dynamic and far-reaching as climate change. However, the science is already quite clear and the North Atlantic right whale simply does not have any time to waste. Immediate actions must be taken to protect this incredible species, or it will be lost forever. Once these actions are taken, more time and money can be put towards gaining further insight into how climate change is affecting the region so that future adaptation methods can be more effective.
Q: You propose a series of short- and long-term measures to protect right whales, including expanded speed restrictions in their habitat areas and mandates for the use of ropeless gear for some fisheries. If enacted, what kind of difference would you expect to see in their populations?
Removing the fast-moving vessels and dangerous fishing ropes from the areas where right whales are (or will soon be) found will have immediate positive impacts on the population. Just this summer, a 1-year-old right whale was killed by a ship strike in Elberon, New Jersey, a few minutes away from Monmouth University’s campus. If vessel speed reductions had been extended later into the summer here, this calf would still be swimming alongside his mother. Similarly, fishing gear presents both lethal and sublethal threats to whales, including the reproductive success of mature females, so removing the ropes will create benefits that go even beyond this generation of whales. Ropeless fishing gear is already being developed and implemented in other regions, so it is simply a matter of having the political and economic will to implement it in New England.
Monmouth University Professor Randall Abate will deliver a pair of online guest lectures on Oct. 2 and 5 titled “Anthropocene Accountability Litigation Against the Fossil Fuel and Animal Agriculture Industries: Confronting Common Enemies to Promote a Just Transition.” The talks are free and open to the public.
The Oct. 2 session will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. and is being hosted by the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law. The Oct. 5 talk will run from 2:15-3:15 p.m. (EST) and is being hosted by the Environmental Law Society at Arizona State University.
Professor Abate offers a new perspective in the quest for climate justice. He addresses creative common law and statutory law theories that seek to hold fossil fuel companies and concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs” or “factory farms”) accountable for their role as “common enemies” in harming humans, the environment, and animals by exacerbating climate change while profiting from their operations. Myriad cutting-edge lawsuits against these industries are underway in the U.S. in the past few years, but there has been no scholarly inquiry that unites the theories from the environmental law (fossil fuel companies) and animal law (CAFOs) domains into one analysis. This presentation will evaluate these efforts in a broader context to explore how the environmental and animal law movements can collaborate more effectively around the issue of climate change to secure mutual gains in protecting humans, animals, and the environment. He explores how the two movements need to leverage public and private governance mechanisms to promote transitions away from reliance on carbon-intensive fossil fuel use and methane-intensive factory farms as significant drivers of the U.S. economy at the expense of the environment, animals, and public health in the Anthropocene era.
Video (above) and slides (below) are now available for the Sept. 14 “Stormwater Pollution and Local Watersheds” webinar. The session focused on steps residents and municipalities can take to combat runoff pollution and flooding, as well as current research on the links between stormwater and problems such as harmful algal blooms and high bacteria counts in Monmouth County’s coastal lakes and surfing beaches.
The event was hosted by the Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association, Clean Ocean Action, the Long Branch Green Team, the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute, and the Jersey Shore Group – New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. The discussion was moderated by Mary Reilly of the Jersey Shore Group – New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. Panelists and slides are below.
Monmouth University President Emeritus and Urban Coast Institute Ocean Policy Fellow Paul G. Gaffney II has been appointed as a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Committee on Defense Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI).
The committee was formed to examine the status of defense research at HBCUs and MSIs and the methods and means necessary to advance research capacity at those institutions to address national security and defense needs. Gaffney’s term will extend through March of 2022.
“I am honored to have been selected to participate in this important and timely study,” said Gaffney, who served as Monmouth University’s president for a decade.
Gaffney is a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and a former president of the National Defense University. While in the Navy he also served as chief of naval research and commander of naval meteorology and oceanography. He was appointed as a commissioner with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and served during its full term. The National Academy of Engineering selected him as a member in 2010.
The new committee will examine:
- The degree to which MSIs and other covered institutions are successful in competing for and executing Department of Defense (DOD) contracts and grants for research.
- Promising practices for advancing the capacity of covered institutions to compete for and conduct research programs related to national security and defense, including incentives to attract, recruit and retain leading research faculty.
- The effectiveness of DOD in attracting and retaining students specializing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields from covered institutions for its programs on emerging capabilities and technologies.
The committee will produce a final report that includes its findings and recommendations. The body will serve under the oversight of the National Academies Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW).
Professor Randall Abate joined experts from Colombia, Australia, Norway and the U.S. as a panelist in the Aug. 21 webinar “Science in Climate Litigation – Epistemic Communities at Work,” hosted by the University of Bergen (Norway). The event explored the roles and influence of knowledge-based experts in having their ideas on climate justice institutionalized through government policies and practices, international treaties, and the courts. Click here to learn more about the event.