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UCI Grants to Support Love Blue Monmouth Beach Cleanups, Humpback Whale Research

The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has awarded grants to the Love Blue Monmouth student club to purchase equipment for beach cleanups and to student Brooke van de Sande to conduct research on the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) for monitoring humpback whale abundance in Jersey Shore waters.  

The UCI offers Faculty Enrichment Grants and Mini-Grants on a competitive basis through its Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program to support faculty and student researchers of all disciplines whose work advances the UCI’s mission and core elements of Monmouth’s Strategic Plan. The following proposals were approved for the spring 2024 round. 

Love Blue Monmouth Litter Cleanup Kits

Several students cleaning litter from a beach.
Students remove litter from a Long Branch Beach during a Love Blue Monmouth cleanup.

Student Applicant & Major: Katie Marshall (Love Blue Monmouth President), Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

Love Blue Monmouth received a Mini-Grant to purchase 12 Garbo Grabber litter cleanup kits for use by its volunteer members on area beaches. The tool consists of a wide mouth ring (the Trash Bagger) which holds open a net bag that filters out sand when garbage is dropped in. The reusable net also eliminates the need for plastic trash bags.

The club is the Monmouth chapter of Love Blue Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the ocean through community outreach and beach cleanups. Now in its sixth semester on campus, the group has removed 1,000 pounds of trash from local beaches to date. For more information on upcoming cleanups, visit the club’s Instagram at @lovebluemonmouth.

Identifying Relationships Between Visual Sightings and eDNA Detection of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) Along the Coast of New Jersey

Student Applicant & Major: Brooke van de Sande, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

Faculty Mentors: Endowed Professor Marine Science Jason Adolf and Environmental DNA/Marine Fisheries Senior Scientist Sam Chin

Last summer, van de Sande worked aboard the Jersey Shore Whale Watch tour vessel, based at Belmar Marina. Each time there was a humpback sighting nearby, she collected a water sample and filtered it for eDNA – genetic materials that are shed in the ocean by marine organisms. This Faculty Enrichment grant will now allow van de Sande to sequence and analyze the eDNA she collected.

The project will compare the levels of humpback eDNA detected in samples that were taken both when whales were visible and when none were present to help build a better understanding of the method’s potential as a monitoring tool for marine mammal conservation and management. Watch van de Sande discuss her project at last year’s School of Science Summer Research Symposium below. 

Apply Now for Funding

The UCI is currently accepting proposals for Faculty Enrichment Grants and Mini-Grants for the summer and fall 2024 terms, as well as 2024 Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Summer Research grants (due March 29). Click here to learn more (Monmouth University sign-in credentials required).

These opportunities have been made possible through the generous support of many private and corporate donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the Urban Coast Institute, please visit our online contribution form.