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NOAA Digital Coast Highlights Monmouth University Class

July 2, 2018

NOAA Digital Coast recently profiled Monmouth University’s GIS Applications in Marine Science and Policy class in its Stories from the Field section. The piece centers on how students used its data and tools in the creation of a series of story maps. You can read it here.


Employment Opportunity: Post-doctoral Researcher

July 2, 2018

Monmouth University is seeking applications for a Post-doctoral Researcher in Assessment of Marine Habitats in Support of Fisheries Management and Habitat Conversation. The post-doctoral associate will conduct research with the Urban Coast Institute and scientists at Monmouth University and the NOAA Fisheries Habitat Ecology Branch of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Sandy Hook, N.J. The research will support the development of a Northeast Regional Marine Habitat Assessment (NRHA). Click here to apply or learn more about the position.


Monmouth University Unveils 49-Foot Research Vessel Nauvoo

June 28, 2018

Monmouth University leaders, faculty and students were joined by state and federal officials June 27 to unveil the newest and largest member of the university’s research vessel fleet – the 49-foot Nauvoo.

The acquisition of the Nauvoo will enable the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) to conduct research, educational and contract work at a larger scale than ever before. It will also substantially enhance in-house research and monitoring capabilities to meet increasing faculty and student demand within the School of Science’s Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program.

The vessel will make it possible to take full classes and large groups on the water and work on the open ocean up to 20 nautical miles offshore. Overnight research trips on the water are now possible, as the vessel has a head and the capacity to berth seven.

“Few universities throughout the East Coast have a research vessel of this class,” Monmouth University President Grey Dimenna said. “The Nauvoo will advance our growth as a premier marine research and policy center in the region. For students interested in marine science, this is yet another great reason to come study at our beautiful coastal campus.”

The Nauvoo is outfitted with state-of-the-art technologies including a side-scan sonar system that provides highly detailed views of underwater terrains. The vessel will provide critical support for in-house scientists and students, and additional capacity to work collaboratively with government agencies, academic institutions and NGOs on areas of critical concern such as oyster restoration, shore erosion and channel shoaling.

Originally built as a U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender, the Nauvoo was later transferred to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provided it to the University in 2017 at no cost. The vessel has since undergone extensive maintenance and improvement work. It joins two smaller UCI-maintained vessels that have long served the university’s primary marine field operations and research needs – the 18-foot Little Hawk and 27-foot Seahawk.

“We thank NOAA for this valuable contribution to the marine science and education work taking place at Monmouth University,” UCI Director Tony MacDonald said. “The Nauvoo will provide students with a truly transformational learning experience, and further advance the UCI’s mission to develop the best available science to support healthy and productive coastal ecosystems and sustainable communities.”

“We are thrilled to help support Monmouth University’s developing marine research program with the donation of our 49-foot research vessel, R/V Nauvoo,” said Jon Hare, director of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which includes the NOAA Sandy Hook Laboratory.

The Nauvoo will provide the university with a platform for expanding collaborative research with NOAA and other universities and regional partners. “We are very pleased that the vessel will continue to play an important role in our strong and growing cooperation with Monmouth University in pursuit of our shared vision to responsibly manage our marine resources,” Hare said.

Among the current university projects the vessel will aid are a probe of sediment contamination in New York Harbor; ongoing research on distributions and behaviors of the endangered Atlantic sturgeon and sharks off the New Jersey and New York coasts; collaboration with Rockefeller University on testing regional waters for environmental DNA (eDNA) fragments that can confirm the presence of fish and other marine organisms; studies of harmful algae blooms in coastal waters; water quality monitoring and testing; and fisheries surveys for state and federal agencies.

New Jersey State Sen. Vin Gopal and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, who represent the coastal district that includes Monmouth’s West Long Branch campus, presented a resolution honoring the critical research work performed by the university.

“The first step in addressing the challenges that face the New Jersey’s marine environments is understanding them,” Gopal said. “The research that will be conducted on the Nauvoo will help inform important coastal policy decisions, while at the same time training a new generation of marine scientists.”

“It has been a pleasure to watch Monmouth University’s growth as a leader on coastal issues that continue to grow in importance for our communities, from dealing with sea level rise to understanding how pollution is impacting wildlife in our waters,” Houghtaling said. “The student body and faculty are taking full advantage of their access to the greatest laboratory in the world – the New Jersey Shore.”

Click here view an album of photos from the press conference.


Gaffney: For science and security, Trump should prioritize our oceans

June 28, 2018

Monmouth University President Emeritus and UCI Ocean Policy Fellow Paul G. Gaffney II co-wrote an op-ed in The Hill with Ocean Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones on where President Trump’s new executive order on the National Ocean Policy should take us next. Read it here.


What’s New and What’s Not: President Trump’s Executive Order on Ocean Policy

By Tony MacDonald, Urban Coast Institute Director

June 20, 2018

President Trump has issued a new Executive Order on Ocean Policy “to advance the economic, security, and environmental interests” of present and future generations. The E.O. revokes the Obama Administration’s 2010 National Ocean Policy E.O., which is hardly surprising given that this administration has moved out aggressively on many fronts to undo virtually anything “Obama.”

In the partisan vortex of Washington, D.C., the blogosphere is already abuzz with E.O. spin ranging from assertions of disaster and retreat to welcome relief from previous bureaucratic overreach. The environmental community is justifiably concerned as the administration opens new areas, including the Mid-Atlantic, to offshore oil and gas drilling, threatens to reduce commitments to marine conservation, and almost daily announces rollbacks of environmental regulations. However, the ocean community is well advised not to get too caught up in semantic battles and to listen to the advice of parents taking their kids to the baseball diamonds this spring: “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Neither the current nor the previous E.O. creates new laws or regulations; they rely on existing laws as the foundation for interagency collaboration and ocean management. It is important to stay vigilant and focused on enforcing those laws that support conservation and protection of healthy ocean ecosystems, as well as sustainable ocean uses ― what is increasingly being referred to as the new Blue Economy. It is correct to point out that the new E.O. eliminates much of the language from the previous order that encouraged advancing marine conservation, and marine spatial planning, and focuses on enabling economic growth.

This shift in language should not be used to justify tipping the scales against the “environmental benefits” cited in the order and actions necessary to protect and restore the marine environment, and to hold ocean users accountable to limit their impacts. My experience working with various ocean stakeholders over the past 30 years ranging from ports to state managers to fishermen to nongovernmental organizations is that, despite their differences, they have a shared interest in stewardship of ocean resources.

Under the previous E.O., a first-ever Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan was certified by the White House in December 2016. A similar plan was approved in the Northeast region. For the past six years, the Urban Coast Institute has been a partner with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) and the federal-state Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB) in developing a regional Ocean Data Portal ― a comprehensive online data and information resource that supports regional ocean planning and management. The biggest changes in the new order in addition to its focus on the ocean economy are the elimination of a National Ocean Council, the requirement for RPBs and the development of these regional ocean plans. This framework has been replaced with a trimmed-down federal Interagency Ocean Council with Subcommittees for Science and Technology and Resource Management, and support for federal agency participation in state-led regional ocean partnerships (ROP) such as MARCO or the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, among others. It is unclear what shape this will take and how it will impact current commitments.

Ocean stakeholders need to be diligent in working with administration and federal agencies as they move to develop guidance and implement the E.O. What, for example, is meant by language in the order indicating that it is U.S. policy to “ensure that Federal regulations and management decisions do not prevent productive and sustainable use of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters”?  The order directs federal agencies within 90 days, to review their regulations, guidance, and policies for consistency with the order.

These changes leave the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Action Plan in a bit of Limbo. It would be very regrettable if the many years of hard work and extensive stakeholder involvement that led to the adoption of the Plan were to be undone. Rather, we should find a way to build on the interagency and intergovernmental coordination efforts, substantial progress that has been made in building relationships, and the consensus actions identified. The actions in the Plan can and should be recommitted to under the framework of the new E.O. and a new process for federal-tribal-state coordination and collaboration with the ROP’s be established so that progress can continue, and new opportunities identified.

The new E.O.’s commitment to the improved public access to marine data and information, and common information data systems such as the Marine Cadastre, reflects a clear endorsement of and continued support for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal. Continued collaboration among the federal agencies and the state regional partnerships on the development of data and information will enable us to identify and map ocean resources and uses that that can help us better understand potential conflicts and inform ocean management decisions. This is nowhere more important than the Mid-Atlantic, where proposals for extensive offshore wind development are gaining traction, marine transportation carries more cargo on ever bigger ships, whales are returning and ecotourism expanding, and fishermen are concerned about their livelihood and continued protection of critical fishing areas.

The E.O.’s specific focus on ocean science, dissemination and exchange of information to coordinate and inform the ocean policy-making process, and identifying priority ocean research and technology needs should be welcomed. This also reflects growing bi-partisan support in Congress for increased funding for ocean science, observations and exploration. The trend of increased investment in ocean science should be encouraged, but not at the expense of a sustainably balanced approach to ocean management.

Active engagement of ocean stakeholders and Congress in the coming months will be critical in the coming months to shaping implementation of the E.O. The Northeast RPB is scheduled to meet tomorrow, and the Mid-Atlantic RPB is scheduled to meet August 2 in Richmond, VA. Although the RPBs as an entity may be going away under the new E.O., I hope these meetings will be the first step for the Regional Ocean Partnerships, tribes, federal agencies and stakeholder groups to get together and chart a course to continue the progress that has already been made in these regions, and expand that across the country.


Video: Herrington Discusses Flooding Issues in Ocean City Area

June 11, 2018

UCI Associate Director Tom Herrington shared his thoughts on the past, present and future of barrier island flooding, as well as flood mitigation techniques and issues, with the public on June 6 at the Ocean City (N.J.) Library. Click the video above to watch his presentation, “Beyond Nuisance Flooding: Getting to Coastal Resilience in a Changing Climate.”


UCI Honored as Environmental Educators by EarthShare New Jersey

June 11, 2018

We couldn’t think of a better way to have spent World Oceans Day on June 8 than to have received EarthShare New Jersey’s Environmental Education Award at the legendary Bell Labs facility (now Bell Works). Above, UCI Director Tony MacDonald (right) is seen with the award and fellow honoree Russell Furnari, who accepted the Environmental Partnership Award on behalf of the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership. Furnari serves as a member of the UCI Advisory Committee.


How Tuesday: Communities at Sea & Fishing Data

June 4, 2018

UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba will co-host a June 12 instructional webinar on the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal’s extensive collection of commercial fishing maps. The UCI is a member of the project team developing the site under the guidance of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean. For more information, click here or email


Webinar: Beneficial Reuse of Sand Resources

June 4, 2018

UCI Associate Director Tom Herrington moderated a webinar on May 30 that discussed how federal and state agencies can work together to ensure the best use of the Mid-Atlantic’s limited offshore and nearshore sand resources. The webinar focused on agency roles and responsibilities, best practices, and opportunities and impediments to beneficial reuse of sand and sediment in the region. Click here to watch a recording of the session and browse informational materials related to the topic.

Six Summer Research Projects Receive UCI Support

May 18, 2018

Monmouth University student-faculty research teams will be searching high and low for information about the Jersey Shore’s unique environments this summer with the help of tools ranging from aerial drones to fishing longlines.

Six projects were recently selected to receive funding support through the UCI’s Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Summer Research Program and Marine Science & Policy Initiative. The work will be completed by 20 students, faculty and staff members representing a wide range of academic disciplines.

The programs emphasize hands-on research projects that provide real world experience for students while helping make a difference in the communities where they take place. The UCI makes competitive grant funding available for students to design and propose their own research ideas and see them through with guidance from Monmouth University faculty mentors, or for faculty to propose projects that employ student researchers. Below are this summer’s grant recipients.

Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Projects

Discovering the Ecological Self: As part of her thesis research, student Lia Stiles will extend the UCI-supported Discovering the Ecological Self project by interviewing participants and cataloging documents, images, and videos online for public viewing.

Student Researcher: Lia Stiles

Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Callas, Dept. of Art

Exploring Nest-Site Selection in Northern Diamondback Terrapins: The aim of this study is to determine how female terrapins’ nest site selection is influenced by vegetation. Field experiments will be conducted to determine if shifts in vegetative structure caused by climate change pose potential threats to the terrapin nesting process.

Student Researcher: Taylor Donovan

Faculty Mentor: Pedram Daneshgar, Dept. of Biology

The Impact of Environmental Factors on Government Stability in Guatemala: The team will investigate how climate change is contributing to government instability in Guatemala by disturbing traditional farming practices/the economy, and provide insight on the potential political impact of future coastal climate refugees on governments such as the U.S. and Mexico.

Student Researchers: Justin Dritschel and James Hawk

Faculty Mentor: Ken Mitchell, Dept. of Political Science and Sociology


Marine Science and Policy Initiative Projects

Classification and Measurement of Aerial Imagery with TensorFlow: A student-faculty research team will develop techniques and methodologies with TensorFlow software to analyze and classify aerial images taken by a drone. Aerial Applications will contribute image data and project management guidance to the team.

Student Researchers: Steven P. Cassidy, Mahmoud E. Shabana and Nianqi Tian

Faculty Mentors: Gil Eckert, Dept. of Computer Science/Software Engineering; Jim Nickels, UCI marine scientist

Conservation and Demographics of New Jersey Coastal Sharks and Sturgeon: Associate Professor Keith Dunton will continue his research into the demographics and habitats of sturgeon, sharks and rays along the New Jersey coast.

Student Researchers: Lauren Kelly, Troy Ohntrup and Charlie Vasas

Faculty Mentor: Keith Dunton, Dept. of Biology

Harmful Algal Blooms in Monmouth County Coastal Lakes, Estuaries, and Ocean: The researchers will examine the factors contributing to harmful algal blooms in the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers, Deal Lake, and the nearshore ocean off Monmouth County beaches in order to build a better understanding of their formation and help predict/manage them in the future.

Student Researchers: Erin Conlon, Skyler Post and Katelyn Saldutti

Faculty Mentor: Jason Adolf, Dept. of Biology

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 use our Give a Gift Now contribution form.


NY Bight Wind Energy Meeting Held at Monmouth U.

May 17, 2018

The federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) will accept public comments through May 29 concerning a cluster of potential offshore wind areas located off the coasts of New Jersey and New York.

BOEM recently published a Call for Information and Nominations from companies interested in obtaining commercial wind energy leases within four areas within the New York Bight that cover roughly 2,000 square nautical miles along the continental shelf. The agency is seeking public input on any conditions or information that should be considered as it determines whether or not the areas, or specific portions of them, would be suitable for wind farms.

BOEM held a meeting at Monmouth University May 8 to discuss the matter with representatives of New Jersey fisheries. The session sought to gather information on important fishing areas and traditional transit routes, inform attendees on the process/next steps, and promote a dialogue on other offshore wind and marine mineral activities.

UCI staff participated in the meeting as well as one held the following day in Newark which assembled officials from both states, several federal agencies and interested stakeholder groups to share their views and information about offshore wind in the New York Bight. Those interested in submitting submitting comments or learning more can visit

An interactive map of the NY Bight Call Areas can be found on the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal, which is maintained by a team that includes the UCI. Portal users can explore how the zones overlap with thousands of other map layers showing fishing activities, shipping concentrations, marine bird migration routes and more, and include those maps with their comments to BOEM. Those who have questions or need assistance with using the Portal may contact the UCI’s Karl Vilacoba at

The UCI will continue to monitor the NY Bight Call process and share information as it becomes available.


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