Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. held a press conference at Monmouth University’s Thomas Edison A. Edison Science Hall on Jan. 17 to discuss the framework of the CLEAN Future Act, a federal proposal to achieve a 100 percent clean economy by 2050. Pallone was joined at the podium by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe, and several other public officials and environmental advocates.
Monmouth University President Patrick Leahy and Urban Coast Institute Director Tony MacDonald delivered introductory remarks.
“I saw a t-shirt the other day that said, ‘The greatest threat of global climate change is thinking that somebody else will do something about it,’” Leahy said. “That really struck me, and I’m really pleased to have everyone who is assembled here this morning, tackling this important issue not just for our country but for our planet.”
The CLEAN Future Act outlines a sector-by-sector plan for America to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 30 years. Among its components, the draft legislation calls for electricity suppliers to increase their supplies of clean energy beginning in 2020 and reach 100% green levels by 2050.
Pallone is the chair of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, which announced the legislative framework last week.
“I need to thank [Congressman Pallone] on behalf of the ocean because people are increasingly recognizing the climate-ocean nexus,” MacDonald said. This is a real issue. Twenty-five percent of carbon that is emitted goes into the ocean. Ninety percent of the excess heat that comes from greenhouse gases goes into the ocean, and we can’t handle much more of it.”
Visit the links below for multimedia and news coverage of the event and the CLEAN Future Act.
Take a state-by-state tour of active federal offshore wind energy leases from New York through Virginia in this story map on the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal. The “Ocean Stories” feature provides a primer on the areas where wind farms could be operational in the coming decade and how the Portal is helping inform decisions on where they can be constructed while posing the least amount of conflict with other ocean users, wildlife and ecosystems.
The feature was developed by UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba, who serves as Portal project manager, and Avalon Bristow of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO).
A poster co-led by Monmouth University students Erin Conlon and Skyler Post earned the top prize for work presented by undergraduates at the 10th U.S. Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Symposium, held in November in Orange Beach, Alabama. The poster highlighted the students’ ongoing research on low-oxygen conditions and toxic organisms in Branchport Creek, a Shrewsbury River tributary located in Oceanport and Long Branch, New Jersey.
Post and Conlon attended the symposium with fellow Monmouth University Phytoplankton and Harmful Algal Bloom Lab (PHAB Lab) student researchers Maria Riley and Ariel Zavala, and Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf. All four students presented at the poster session and Post (seen in photo at the conference), who represented the Branchport Creek project, won Best Undergraduate Poster for her presentation of the work at the meeting. The trip and research was supported with grants through the UCI Scholars Program.
According to Adolf, the symposium’s focus has shifted over the years from a near total focus on saltwater environments to a now 50/50 split between saltwater and freshwater HABs.
“In 2014 in the U.S., more than 400,000 people living around Lake Erie had toxic water coming out of their tap as a result of a harmful algal bloom,” Adolf said. “The fact that many drinking water plants were not built to remove algal toxins speaks to the recent emergence of the problem.”
New Jersey recently experienced what may be remembered as a summer of HABs, with blooms causing use restrictions and closures in the summer tourist destinations of Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, and the Manasquan Reservoir, a drinking water source for several Jersey Shore towns. This year the PHAB Lab has focused on monitoring water quality issues in Monmouth County coastal lakes, surfing beaches and local river systems and estuaries.
“Last year over the summer we were researching Sandy Hook Bay, the Navesink River and the Shrewsbury River, and every time we went out there was a hot spot of chlorophyll in Branchport Creek,” said Conlon (seen in photo sampling the creek). “We didn’t really have any stations set up there and we wanted to look at that more.”
What they found were phytoplankton biomass levels 10 to 100 times higher than anywhere else in the system. Adolf also said that they observed phytoplankton stratified in a “super-concentrated layer” at the top of the water, while the layer below was had little or no plankton or oxygen at all.
Warning signs were posted around the creek over a decade ago when it was determined that stormwater runoff from the Monmouth Park horse racing track had caused high fecal coliform levels. The problem was later addressed as part of a settlement between the Department of Environmental Protection and the track’s former operators.
“Even though there are signs up saying things like ‘Polluted: Don’t Touch,’ we saw people there who were fishing and crabbing in that water. They definitely should not be,” Post said. “You can almost always count on seeing dead fish or fish hopping out of the water there.”
Adolf said the students’ work could offer new insight on fish kills that have occurred in the creek in recent years. A decade ago, the UCI and School of Science conducted real-time monitoring of water conditions in the creek to study the impact of low-oxygen conditions on menhaden kills. The PHAB Lab work is focused both on water conditions and the microscopic plankton and bacteria living in the water. Organisms they found are known to make toxins that can irritate or kill wildlife.
“What [Conlon and Post] did was elucidate the fact that there’s also a toxic dinoflagellate bloom – a massive bloom, with very high levels of biomass in that creek at the same time,” Adolf said. “It fills out the story of the fish kills in the creek.”
Randall S. Abate, professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology and Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy, delivered a keynote presentation at the second annual Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Environmental Law Scholars’ Conference in Casablanca, Morocco held Nov. 4-5. The theme for this year’s conference was “Climate Change Law in the Middle East and North Africa.”
Abate, the only invited speaker from the U.S., delivered his presentation, “Climate Change and the Voiceless: Protecting Future Generations, Wildlife, and Natural Resources,” to an audience of more than 75 attendees, which included climate change law and policy scholars from the MENA region and Moroccan law students.
Co-sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme, Hamad Bin Khalifa University Law School, and Hassan First University-Settat in Morocco, the conference featured two days of presentations from climate change law and policy scholars from 13 countries (Algeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and the U.S.).
The Kislak Real Estate Institute and Department of Economics, Finance and Real Estate at Monmouth University are seeking applications for an open rank Professor in Economics. This position is for the 2020-2021 academic year and is tenure-track.
The candidate will be expected to teach courses in econometrics, forecasting and/or statistical modeling while maintaining an active research and policy agenda. Applicants should demonstrate an interest in and will be expected to work closely with the Kislak Real Estate Institute, Monmouth University Polling Institute, and Urban Coast Institute in fulfilling their missions of serving Monmouth University and the public interest by providing research-based policies for the sustainable resources and development of Monmouth County and New Jersey.
The UCI welcomes Christopher Haak as a postdoctoral researcher focused on fisheries science. In this role, Haak will split time working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) James J. Howard Laboratory in Sandy Hook and the Monmouth University campus.
Working with a team of NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service researchers, Haak will develop habitat use models for a diverse group of commercially and ecologically important fish species across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic continental shelf. The goal of the team’s work is to predict future shifts in species distributions due to environmental change.
After an Emmy-winning career in film and television, Haak shifted gears to follow his lifelong passion for the oceans, pursuing his Ph.D. in marine science at UMass Amherst. There, his research focused on bonefish and other species occupying shallow nearshore habitats in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, which he used as a model for examining a diverse range of ecological questions.
Among these, Haak’s principal research interests comprise two areas of study: the often-overlooked effects of hydrodynamic factors, such as wave and tide-driven water movement, on the habitat use patterns and distributions of fishes; and the similarly under-appreciated role of species interactions, in particular sociality and interspecific information use, in structuring fish communities. In studying these phenomena, Haak hopes to better understand and/or predict the ways that different species and assemblages thereof will respond to a changing world.
Citizen scientists, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) representatives, and Monmouth University researchers who’ve been participating in the Coastal Lakes Observing Network (CLONet) gathered at a UCI-hosted workshop Nov. 1 to discuss their initial findings and experiences. From June through September, the community volunteers collected more than 150 water samples from Deal Lake, Lake Como, Lake Takanassee, Spring Lake, Sunset Lake, Sylvan Lake and Wesley Lake, recording information such as water temperatures, dissolved oxygen levels, pH and weather conditions at the time of their sampling.
The goal of CLONet is to help solve environmental problems facing these lakes, such as harmful algal blooms (HABs), by building a better understanding of their root causes. Monmouth University staff and students trained the community members to use sampling kits and file their results through an online database, where each lake’s data could be analyzed and compared.
If four months of placing the lakes under a microscope has taught Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf one thing, it’s this: “A coastal lake is not a coastal lake is not a coastal lake.” Although they’re all small water bodies next to Monmouth County beaches, Adolf found their physical makeups and dynamics to be surprisingly different.
The following are a handful of results from the first season of sampling that were revealed at the workshop.
Water colors varied widely from lake to lake. Colors can be influenced by a wide range of factors, including plankton living in the waters and the sediments found on the bottom. Adolf said they can also be indicators of HAB presence.
There were significant differences in lake temperatures, too. Overall, the waters were found to be warm, a favorable condition for HABs. Adolf found Deal Lake’s temperatures were 5-10 degrees Celsius higher than data recorded in the summer of 1978. He said climate change could not account for a gulf that wide, and speculated that a change in depth over the decades could be responsible.
The waters were murky. A lake’s clarity (turbidity) can be measured using a piece of equipment called a Secchi disk. The black and white disc is slowly lowered into the water, and when it is no longer visible, the CLONet participants recorded the depth. Sunset Lake, Deal Lake and portions of Lake Como and Spring Lake were among those found to have mean Secchi depths in the range of 1 foot or lower. Low Secchi depth during sampling was found to be a strong indicator of HAB abundance.
pH levels varied widely among lakes. A lake’s pH range can determine its suitability as a habitat for wildlife species. For example, those with low pH (high acidity) are not favorable for animals such as turtles, which can struggle to grow and maintain healthy shells, while frogs and fish such as trout and pike prefer such environments. The testing indicated Spring Lake, Wesley Lake and Lake Takanassee had low pH while Sunset Lake and Sylvan Lake were on the higher end of the spectrum.
Sampling will continue in the fall and winter months and through next year. Adolf said the data gathered over the last few months can serve as a baseline that the impacts of specific management and restoration projects can be measured against – for example, lake dredging, the installation of green infrastructure, or housing developments under construction along a lake’s tributaries.
The work is being conducted with grant funding provided by the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation and through a collaboration between Monmouth University and the NJDEP Marine Monitoring Lab at Leeds Point. For more information on CLONet, visit monmouth.edu/clonet.
Monmouth University was among nine businesses, organizations, and individuals recognized at the 39th Annual Association of New Jersey Recyclers symposium held Oct. 10 at the Jumping Brook Country Club in Neptune, New Jersey. The university was recognized as an institutional leader for its broad-based program that resulted in recycling 46% of the waste generated on campus in 2018. UCI Associate Director Thomas Herrington, the co-chair of the university’s Sustainability Advisory Council, accepted the award on Monmouth’s behalf. Read the full story on Monmouth Now.
The Superstorm Sandy-inspired “Just Beachy/After Sandy” art exhibition at Monmouth University’s DiMattio Gallery received heavy media attention in the lead-up to the seventh anniversary of the storm’s landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29. To commemorate the occasion, Monmouth University Professor Karen Bright held a reading of Sandy stories posted to the exhibition’s “9 Feet High” wall.
“Just Beachy/After Sandy” will remain open for public viewing through Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Funding for the installation was provided in part by the UCI.
Below is a sample of the exhibition’s media coverage.
You can now watch videos from the UCI’s 15th Annual Future of the Ocean Symposium and Champion of the Ocean Awards Luncheon online on our event homepage. With a theme of “An Ocean for All: Ecosystems, Economies & People,” the Oct. 22 symposium gathered nationally recognized experts to share insights on the future use and conservation of our oceans, including how science and technology can inform our choices.
At the luncheon, the UCI presented its highest honor, the National Champion of the Ocean Award, to Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Regional Champion of the Ocean Award to Bradley Campbell, Conservation Law Foundation president; and the Coastal and Ocean Leadership Award to Scott Glenn, distinguished professor in the Rutgers University Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences and co-director of the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership.