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Watch: Students Discuss Summer Science Research Projects

August 9, 2019

Over three dozen student projects were on display at the Monmouth University School of Science’s 2019 Summer Research Program Symposium, held Aug. 8 at the University’s Erlanger Gardens. The poster session has become an annual tradition, providing students an opportunity to share the work they completed over the preceding 12 weeks with friends, family, faculty members and the public.

The UCI supports several summer research projects each year through its UCI Scholars Program. Scroll down to hear some of the students discuss their work. Abstracts for all of the research projects presented at the symposium can be found here.


Turtles of Lake Takanassee: How Does this Assemblage Persist?

Christiana Popo and Travis Kirk


Characterizing Deoxygenation and Harmful Algal Blooms in Branchport Creek, New Jersey

Skyler Post and Erin Conlon


Can Rainfall Predict Fecal Indicator Bacteria Levels at Monmouth County Surfing Beaches Near Stormwater Outfalls?

Kelly Hanna and Victoria Lohnes


Nutrient Pollution and Harmful Algal Blooms Take a Toll on Monmouth County Coastal Lakes

Ariel Zavala


Using Environmental DNA (eDNA) to Track Black Sea Bass and Winter Flounder in a Controlled Tank Environment

Karolina Szenkiel


The UCI Scholars Program is supported through the generosity of 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.


‘This Is Jersey’ Focuses on Monmouth Efforts to Monitor Water Quality in Local Lakes, Beaches

August 7, 2019

Verizon FiOS 1’s “This Is Jersey with Gary Gellman” recently visited Monmouth University for this interview with Jason Adolf, endowed associate professor of marine science. The segment highlights work by Adolf and his students to monitor water quality at coastal lakes and beaches, study how the closure of Oyster Creek nuclear plant has impacted the ecosystem, sample local waters for marine environmental DNA (eDNA), and much more.


New Jersey Has Been Lucky (So Far) with its Freshwater Algal Blooms. It Probably Won’t Last.

August 5, 2019

By Jason E. Adolf, PhD

Environmentalists from around the state have rightly voiced their alarm over the spike in harmful algal blooms (HAB) plaguing freshwater bodies like Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake this summer and called for more aggressive watershed management-based solutions. My 22 years of experience as a scientist working with HABs has given me a perspective on the urgency of what is happening and why solutions need to be enacted now. New Jersey is actually lucky right at the moment ― cyanotoxin levels remain low even though the lakes are filled with high levels of HAB organisms. However, research into the factors that amplify toxin levels in blooms like these suggests that it is only a matter of time before our luck runs out.

The expansion of freshwater cyanobacteria (often called blue-green algae) blooms has been noted for years among researchers. While many recent media reports have focused on the link between nutrients, climate and HAB formation, none have clearly articulated the threat posed by the potent toxins these HABs can produce if and when they start to produce them in excess. The latest measurements by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) show that HABs are occurring without high toxin levels. However, this can change and it is worth noting that the public health crisis presented by a lake full of toxin-producing HABs is far greater than what we are currently seeing, as evidenced by the highly toxic HABs that occurred in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee in the summer of 2018.

The microorganisms that cause these HABs can, under certain conditions, start producing high levels of potent toxins. Think of the HABs as collections of cells – not just different species but also different “strains,” or genetic variants, of the same species. Some strains make cyanotoxins, and others don’t.

For instance, the species Microcytis can produce the toxin microcystin. A lake full of the species Microcystis will include some strains that do not make cyanotoxin and some strains that do. Of course, bigger blooms potentially make more cyanotoxin, but an increase in the ratio of toxic to non-toxic strains can also change overall toxicity. When a lake is dominated by non-toxic strains of Microcystis, then overall cyanotoxin levels (microcystin) are low. When toxic strains dominate, then overall cyanotoxin levels are high.

To date, according to the July 25 NJDEP Lake Hopatcong sampling update, cyanotoxin levels remain below the 3 parts per billion (ppb) New Jersey health advisory level, even though cyanobacterial cell levels are high. By comparison, microcystin cyanotoxin levels in the 2018 Florida blooms exceeded 100 ppb and many people were hospitalized following contact.

Thus, the attention and crisis surrounding New Jersey’s 2019 lake HABs, while very much warranted, is due to the presence of cells without significant levels of cyanotoxin present. What if we had to deal with high cell and cyanotoxin levels in places like Lake Hopatcong and Spruce Run Reservoir?

What turns a less-toxic HAB into a highly toxic HAB? A few highlights from contemporary research conclude that excess nitrogen loading (even in the face of phosphorus controls) appears to favor toxic strains over non-toxic strains of Microcystis. Other experiments in North American lakes found that elevated water temperature, in combination with elevated nutrients, favors accumulation of toxic Microcystis strains over non-toxic strains. Elevated temperature and CO2 levels are likely to favor accumulations of cyanobacteria in lakes over other types of algae. This area of research is continuing and needs investment in New Jersey because understanding the specific conditions that turn our HABs into highly toxic events will inform management and predictive modelling of these events. This research, along with informed citizens anxious to play a role in the science associated with monitoring and prediction, will help us get ahead of this problem instead of repeatedly reacting to events after they occur ”out of nowhere.”

The impacts of humans, including excess nutrient loading to lakes, elevated CO2 levels and rising water temperatures due to climate change, will not only ensure the reoccurrence of these blooms but stack the odds in favor of them becoming toxic and a far more menacing public health threat than what we currently see in New Jersey. Research into these linkages must play an important role in directing actions for solutions.

Jason Adolf is an endowed associate professor of marine science with Monmouth University’s Biology Department and Urban Coast Institute. He runs the Phytoplankton and Harmful Algal Bloom research lab (PHABLab) at Monmouth University, where undergraduate students learn phytoplankton research including HABs in various New Jersey environments. Instagram: monmouth_phab_lab.


UCI and Monmouth Students Pitch in to Restore Barnegat Bay Oysters

July 26, 2019

You can throw these babies out with their bath water. At the end of the Wildwood Avenue Pier in Ocean Gate sat a tank full of young oysters (called “spat”) clinging to recycled shells donated by restaurants. A crowd of volunteers would soon escort them to a more spacious new home – an artificial reef a few hundred yards off Good Luck Point in the Barnegat Bay.

The American Littoral Society’s (ALS) July 25 Parade of Boats was the culmination of a season-long effort to raise oysters in a nursery before placing them in the wild. The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has participated in the event each summer since its inception in 2015. In the first year, UCI Marine Scientist Nickels mapped the zone where the reef now sits using a remote operating underwater vehicle (ROV) and side-scan SONAR in an effort to identify an area where the oysters stood the best chance of survival.

After several summers of depositing the shells at the site, ALS Habitat Restoration Program Director Capt. Al Modjeski said the organization’s testing indicates the oysters are thriving there on their own. He estimated that around 200,000 now populate the reef zone.

Nickels, Monmouth University students Lauren Kelly and Hannah Craft and other volunteers on the scene loaded Monmouth’s R/V Seahawk with sacks full of shells and dumped them overboard at the reef. According to Modjeski, the baby oysters have about a 10% survival rate.

The goal of the reef project is to help wild oyster populations rebound in the bay, where they can make important impacts for both the economy and the ecosystem. Oysters are a natural water purification system, with one adult capable of filtering up to 50 gallons of water in 24 hours. They can also create habitats for marine organisms, stabilize the grounds around them and blunt the force of wave action during storms.

See our post on Facebook for more photos from the event. For more information on the program, visit the American Littoral Society blog.



Symposium Examines Economic, Environmental Implications of Offshore Wind

July 23, 2019

New Jersey made history in June by granting an award for the production of 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind energy in an area off the coast of Atlantic City – a national record that would last less than one month. That distinction would soon belong to New York, which in July executed an offshore wind agreement to produce nearly 1,700 megawatts, enough energy to power an estimated 1 million homes.

After several years of deliberation, the construction of green energy-producing wind farms off the Mid-Atlantic coast is now imminent, with operational turbines expected in the water within the next two years. To explore the many implications for the economy, ecosystems and marine life, the New Jersey Environmental Lobby (NJEL) hosted a Symposium on Offshore Wind Energy Development and the Environment on July 17 at Monmouth University. The event was organized in collaboration with the Urban Coast Institute.

Former New Jersey Gov. and Congressman James Florio said offshore wind will not only be a win for the environment, but a boon for the economy, with thousands of jobs in construction, manufacturing, engineering and other sectors on the way. He said the “missionary work” of ordinary residents will be needed to see ensure that New Jersey transitions from fossil fuel-based energy sources to renewables in this century.

“We need disciples to go out and get people engaged and informed, because that’s how we create change,” Florio said. “You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know the problem.”

Keynote speaker Tammy Murphy, the first lady of New Jersey, said the state has served as a national model for environmental policy in the past and is trying to once again. She said steps Gov. Phil Murphy has taken to incentivize wind energy, such as creating an offshore wind supply chain registry and setting a goal for 3,500 megawatts of capacity by 2030, “will revolutionize the offshore wind industry here in New Jersey and across the East Coast.”

The event included presentations and a Q&A with representatives of wind developers Ørsted, Equinor and Atlantic Shores, which all hold wind energy area leases off the coasts of New Jersey and New York. Other topics included the basics of turbine, grid and transmission infrastructure; siting and permitting processes; environmental and wildlife issues; and a demonstration by UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba showing how the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal is being used to inform discussions on siting and development.

View an album of photos from the event on the NJEL Facebook page.

Jersey Matters Highlights Efforts to Monitor Health of Coastal Lakes

July 22, 2019

Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf sat down with Larry Mendte on the July 20 episode of Jersey Matters to discuss the Monmouth University-led Coastal Lakes Observing Network (CLONet). Jason and students are training residents to conduct water quality sampling in local coastal lakes, with the goal of understanding and helping prevent problems such as harmful algal blooms.


Track the R/V Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Online

July 18, 2019

Follow the voyages of Monmouth University’s newest and largest research vessel, the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe, in real time with an interactive map on the UCI website. Captained by UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels, the Heidi Lynn can regularly be seen cruising New Jersey-New York area waters conducting research trips and carrying classes. An Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder periodically signals the position of the Heidi Lynn and other large vessels, which are aggregated and mapped by


Welcome John Holler!

July 18, 2019

The UCI welcomes John Holler as its new administrative assistant. A Monmouth graduate who received his MBA in 2018, John has specialized team-building and financial management. For the past three years, John served as a scenic designer with the University’s Music and Theatre Arts Department, leading teams of students and faculty to construct and paint theatrical set pieces. John has also been a treasurer for the Oceanaires, a nonprofit musical organization whose chorus sings to communities throughout Ocean County. John is very excited to bring his diverse talents to the UCI team!


Offshore Wind Energy Symposium July 17 at Monmouth

July 3, 2019


New Jersey recently granted its first award for 1,100 MW of offshore wind in federal waters. What’s next for offshore wind in the New Jersey-New York area? What are the implications for the economy, environment and marine life? Explore these issues and more at the Symposium on Offshore Wind Energy Development and the Environment, hosted by the New Jersey Environmental Lobby in collaboration with the UCI.

Speakers will include former New Jersey Gov. James Florio; representatives of state and federal agencies, environmental NGOs, and wind developers Ørsted, Equinor and Atlantic Shores; and many more. Among the discussion topics will be:

  • The basics of turbine, grid and transmission infrastructure
  • Wind industry panel and audience Q&A
  • Siting and permitting processes
  • Environmental and wildlife issues
  • Update on New Jersey’s Offshore Wind Strategic Plan
  • Using spatial data for siting and development

Visit the New Jersey Environmental Lobby website for a draft agenda and registration form. The symposium will be held in the Bey Hall auditorium from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Continental breakfast will be available before the event and a cocktail hour/networking reception will follow from 5-6:30 p.m. For more information, email


Monmouth Magazine Story and Infographic Highlights Marine eDNA Research

July 3, 2019

“Thanks to advances in environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis,” the University magazine Monmouth reports, “researchers like Assistant Professor of Biology Keith Dunton and his students can easily determine the presence, absence, and migration patterns of any native, invasive, endangered, or hard-to-find species in and around New Jersey’s coastal water bodies, just by dipping a cup into water.” In its summer issue, the magazine profiles pioneering research being conducted by Monmouth and Rockefeller universities on marine life in the New Jersey-New York area with eDNA. Read the article.


Prof. Abate Delivers Climate Justice Presentations on European Tour, Launches New Blog

July 3, 2019

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 lectures related to his forthcoming book, “Climate Change and the Voiceless: Protecting Future Generations, Wildlife, and Natural Resources” (Cambridge University Press) in Turkey, the Netherlands, Serbia, and Spain last month. Abate’s book, which focuses on how the law can evolve to protect the interests of future generations, wildlife, and natural resources (“the voiceless”), will be published in the fall and is now available for pre-order.

Abate has also launched a new blog, Climate Change(d): Reflections on Climate Change Law and Justice. The first entry describes the recent European lecture tour in detail. Abate’s blog will serve as a resource for future book tour presentations, publications, reflections, and resources on climate change law and justice.


Story Map Tells a Tale of Two Shores: Sandy Hook and Eleuthera

June 21, 2019

Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and Eleuthera, Bahamas, are over 1,000 miles apart, but Monmouth University GIS Program Director Geoff Fouad and communication graduate student Erin Fleming found the two coastal communities have plenty in common. While both enjoy deep cultural and economic ties to the ocean, they also share some daunting challenges – among them, the impacts of plastic pollution and overfishing.

With the support of a UCI grant, Fleming and Fouad recently completed an Arc GIS story map that compares the communities through the voices of those who live, work and play there. The project contains video interviews with experts including Monmouth University School of Science Assistant Dean John Tiedemann, scientists from NOAA’s James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory at Sandy Hook, and Bahamian researchers and locals. The story map is intended as a classroom tool for elementary to high school students.

Fleming is also the director of Monmouth University Production Services, where she guides a team of students as they create video and television content for other departments on campus and external non-profit organizations. The project matched Fleming’s video production expertise with Fouad’s GIS mapping skills, and the result was a product more rich in multimedia content than what you typically find in academic story maps.

“The video content is the center and the maps complement the video content,” Fouad said. “A lot of times, geographers develop story maps and they let the maps tell the story and link it to footage that someone else created. But when you do this kind of interdisciplinary work with somebody with expertise like Erin’s, you really want to leverage that.”

Fleming said she found working with the medium to be a fun and inspiring experience.

“I could have posted these videos on YouTube but they would have just stood alone as, here’s this place and here’s this person talking about it,” she said. “But because you’re giving kids the power to click on something, to choose what they want to watch and then see a map and a place, it takes so many different disciplines and ideas and plugs them into one spot.”

The Bahamas was chosen as Sandy Hook’s sister site in the story due to the longstanding research partnership between Monmouth University and the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Eleuthera is a long (110 miles), thin (1-mile wide in parts) island that is known for its sandy beaches, coral reefs, scenic bluffs and diverse marine life. Fleming and student Dylan McGilloway traveled to the island in the spring to conduct interviews and research the area. Monmouth students Kel Grant and Jared Garcia worked with Fleming on the Sandy Hook shoots.

As part of her thesis project, Fleming will produce an online children’s video series with the footage that would serve as a companion to the story map. She said she’s interested to see which product is more effective and embraced among students. The project has left her interested in creating story maps on new topics and collaborating with other faculty experts at Monmouth.

“We have so many talented people on this campus with different skill sets and there’s ways to combine them and make these incredible new projects. I’d love to see more of that,” she said.


UCI Holds World Oceans Day Plastic Panel

June 21, 2019

By Hanan Al Asadi, UCI Communications Assistant


The UCI hosted a panel discussion on June 8 – celebrated internationally as World Oceans Day – exploring ways people can spread awareness about plastic pollution in the oceans and approaches they can take to reduce the magnitude of the problem.

Held in conjunction with Monmouth University Reunion Weekend, the panel included two alumni who are leaders on the ocean plastics issue in New Jersey: Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed Director Sandra Meola (’12 ’15M) and Clean Ocean Action D.W. Bennett Fellow for Coastal Advocacy Zack Karvelas (’17). The session was moderated by UCI Director Tony MacDonald.

Some of the topics discussed include the consequences of inaction, the power of everyday citizens to make a difference and the UCI’s work related to plastic pollution. The speakers stressed that everyone can and should have a role in making a change, because if the trend continues unabated, the ocean will contain more pounds of plastic than fish by 2050.

Meola introduced steps that community members can take to protect the ocean. Among them were reducing reliance on single-use plastics, contacting elected officials to urge support for policies that protect the environment, and using social media hashtags such as #NoStrawPlease and #BYObag to raise awareness.

Meola’s presentation recalled the previous century when plastic was less of a problem. Pictures were shown from the 40’s and 50’s when glass and stainless steel were alternatives to the cheap plastic abundant on today’s grocery store shelves. Although glass containers were heavy to carry around for products like shampoo bottles, she said their use helped in sustaining a clean ocean.

Karvelas pointed to the need for greater public education on recycling. Most people are unclear on which household plastics are recyclable so they put items in their bins that will not be accepted, such as plastic bags and bottle caps. This raises the risk that a waste management company will throw away the whole batch rather than spend time sorting it out. Karvelas recommended that if you’re unsure about whether something can be recycled, it is better to throw it in the trash.

Karvelas also cited beach smoking bans as an example of how a combination of good policy, public awareness and citizen mobilization can turn the tide against ocean plastics. As more and more municipalities enacted smoking ordinances in recent years, Clean Ocean Action’s beach sweeps recovered far fewer cigarette butts, he said. The state also eventually followed the towns’ lead by passing a ban that took effect this year.

MacDonald stressed that most of the plastic in the ocean comes from land. Although that means we are the cause of the problem, it also means we have the opportunity to control it and develop solutions for a plastic-free ocean.


Associated Press Coverage of Monmouth U. Surf Beach Water Quality Study

June 17, 2019

The Associated Press recently observed Monmouth University professors Jason Adolf and Jeff Weisburg and student researchers as they gathered water samples from a surfing beach in Long Branch and examined them in the lab. Their work was part of a yearlong study on the linkage between rainfall and microbial pollution at New Jersey surfing beaches where municipal storm drains and outflow pipes discharge directly into the surf zone. Read the story.


In Memoriam: Dennis Suszkowski

June 17, 2019

We are deeply saddened to share the news of the June 8 loss of our longtime Advisory Committee member, Hudson River Foundation Science Director Dennis Suszkowski. Dennis was a model of personal and professional commitment deserving of our emulation and aspiration. The UCI extends its deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Read his obituary  in The New York Times.


Callas and Phifer-Rixey Join UCI as Faculty Fellows

June 13, 2019

The UCI welcomes Monmouth University Assistant Professor Kimberly Callas as its artist in residence faculty fellow and Assistant Professor Megan Phifer-Rixey as its marine genetics faculty fellow.

The Provost’s Office recently named Callas and Phifer-Rixey as the University’s inaugural faculty fellows, which will now be competitively selected on an annual basis. Through the program, faculty members were invited to develop proposals to partner with the University’s Centers of Distinction and make use of their resources to pursue a project with a significant scholarly, artistic, pedagogical, business or policy outcome that connects the academic department with the Center. Successful candidates will receive financial support for their projects, one course release per semester and the necessary staff and resources from the host Center through the duration their two-year terms.

Callas and Phifer-Rixey’s proposals were chosen from a pool of 13 applicants. Their work with the UCI will begin in the fall semester.

Kimberly Callas

CallasCallas joined the Department of Art and Design in 2016 and teaches courses in drawing, sculpture, and 3D design, incorporating social practice and emerging digital processes, including 3D printing, CNC milling and laser cutting. Her work has an ecological focus incorporating interdisciplinary issues including psychology, ecology and poetry.

As an artist living in Jersey City on 9/11, Callas witnessed the Twin Towers fall from across the river and she and her husband were moved to find ways to live that were not dependent on foreign oil. They soon relocated to Maine and built and in-ground, stone house and co-founded a sustainability institute called Newforest. Callas observed that people weren’t responding to science and research presentations on sustainability the way she expected.

“I found that it was really people’s emotional connections to nature that were helping communities and individuals move more into sustainable action,” she said. “If an individual fished in a stream as a child, they would spend their evenings and weekends protecting that stream, no matter what their political leanings were.”

Building on this idea, she started Discovering the Ecological Self, a project which encourages students to explore and build connections with natural environments and create works of art inspired by them. The UCI recently provided a faculty enrichment grant to Callas to conduct the project with at-risk youth in Monmouth County, and she continued to develop the idea through an arts residency at Joya: arte + ecología in Spain.

Through her residency with the UCI, Callas plans to immerse herself in the scientific research taking place in coastal environments at Monmouth University and share it with communities through art. She will host Discovering the Ecological Self workshops, develop her own artwork and organize a symposium with the UCI that features research on sustainability topics being conducted by University faculty.

Megan Phifer-Rixey

Dr. Phifer-Rixey is a member of the Biology Department, where she teaches Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology, Introduction to Biodiversity and Evolution, and Evolution. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and then pursued postdoctoral training at the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley. With a focus on evolutionary and population genetics, her research seeks to answer the question, “How do organisms adapt to their environment?” She also trains Monmouth students as scholars through her research courses and is active in the community, running a grant-funded genetics workshop in local schools.

Phifer-Rixey said the fellowship will provide her the opportunity to apply her skills to marine and coastal environments. She looks forward to creating opportunities for students to engage in authentic genetic research and expanding Monmouth’s work with marine environmental DNA (eDNA).

Sampling for eDNA is an approach that allows scientists to confirm the presence of fish and other organisms by testing for trace amounts of genetic material that they shed into the water. The technique holds the promise of being less expensive, more humane and more revealing than other longstanding scientific methods that rely on physically catching or observing animals. Monmouth has been collaborating with Rockefeller University on eDNA research in New York-New Jersey area coastal waters since 2016 and co-hosted the National Conference on Marine Environmental DNA in New York City last year.

“I’m already working on eDNA projects and I think we have a bit of a gap here in that we have the capacity to collect and filter the samples, but we haven’t had the capacity to do the genetic benchwork and handle the data,” she said. “There’s a real opportunity for me to help build that capacity here at Monmouth.”

The UCI previously awarded grant funding to Phifer-Rixey to study the genetics of sturgeon and striped bass in coastal New Jersey waters. DNA collected from the fish were analyzed to provide estimates of population size, help identify distinct fish population segments relevant for conservation, and provide other information regarding diversity within and among populations.


Professor Soaks Up Superstorm Sandy Data, Reimagines it as Beach Towel Designs

May 17, 2019

By Hanan Al Asadi, UCI Communications Assistant

Monmouth University Professor Karen Bright has embarked on a creative journey centered on interpreting scientific data related to Superstorm Sandy as abstract artwork. Since early 2017, Bright has been researching statistical information for natural phenomena such as tides, currents, water levels and weather reports and reinterpreting her findings into a uniquely coastal artifact – the beach towel.

The aim of this project is to study and promote preparedness for future storm events and help the Jersey Shore community view Sandy in a more coherent way. With the support of a UCI grant, Professor Bright, of the University’s Department of Art and Design, has set up a studio with special supplies that include six Roland HOTboxes – heated aluminum plates that artists can use to apply encaustic paint and medium.

So far, Bright has collected and analyzed data from sources such as the U.S. Naval Observatory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Tides and Currents, and many others. In addition, as an artist in residence at Weir Farm National Historic Site last summer, Bright worked on eight panels related to Sandy with intriguing titles such as “The Shape of Water,” “Four High Tides, Three Counties, 1 Landfall, 1 Full Moon,” and “New Jersey Wind.”

Bright’s initial inspiration occurred as she was introducing a project on information mapping in one of her undergraduate classes. She began thinking about the potential for depicting data in new ways using unconventional material. Bright also mentioned that her motivation occurred as she noticed the media giving attention and covering current hurricanes happening all over the country and comparing them to past storms, while forgetting about Sandy, a storm that had a devastating impact on New Jersey. Afterward, Bright said she started sketching potential ideas in a book and ultimately developed the beach towel project.

In addition to gathering information that helps the community understand how and why Sandy occurred, another major goal for Bright is to create a community event where members can share their stories and relate to each other. As a way to help the healing and recovery process, Bright is planning to create an installation for Monmouth’s Rechnitz Hall DiMattio Gallery. Opening this September, the installation will include: the beach towel display; a public, participatory wall for Sandy stories; a 15-foot-high sculpture that will focus on lost housing units; and a collaboration with a newly hired Assistant Professor/Communications Amanda Stojanov. Bright’s plan is to create a beach hut-themed structure that will house an interactive display of wave forms and sound by Stojanov. The hut, which will be designed to appear distressed and made of found, repurposed material, will be in production in the DiMattio Gallery this summer.

Ultimately, Bright’s project aims to present the data in a recognizable and impactful way. She plans to continue gathering data and investigating Sandy, and hopes she can extend her research into more locations by mapping and creating new artistic approaches to the visualization of global warming and environmental issues. Below is a sample of Bright’s work to date.

This piece charts the tides at Sandy Hook from 1932 to 2012. The red represents maximum high tides and the gold maximum lows. The piece shows the change over time, with the highest point taking place during Sandy.

This piece charts the tides at Sandy Hook from 1932 to 2012. The red represents maximum high tides and the gold maximum lows. The piece shows the change over time, with the highest point taking place during Sandy.


This piece presents maximum wave heights by feet for each year dating back to when measuring began at Sandy Hook in 1933. The color shift ranging from light blue sections starting on the bottom left to gold and red sections on the far right represents the increase of waves measured in feet mapped over 86 years.

This piece presents maximum wave heights by feet for each year dating back to when measuring began at Sandy Hook in 1933. The color shift ranging from light blue sections starting on the bottom left to gold and red sections on the far right represents the increase of waves measured in feet mapped over 86 years.


This design, created with a different visual approach also shows the maximum wave height in feet over the last 86 years at Sandy Hook. This design represents the growing conflict between left and right with a rising pink (the wave heights) against a dark green.

This design, created with a different visual approach also shows the maximum wave height in feet over the last 86 years at Sandy Hook. This design represents the growing conflict between left and right with a rising pink (the wave heights) against a dark green.

UCI Scholars Program to Support Six Summer Research Projects

May 15, 2019

This summer, UCI Scholars will take on research topics ranging from the Jersey Shore’s microscopic plant life to its apex predators.

The UCI Scholars Program offers competitive grant opportunities to students and faculty of all disciplines whose work would advance core elements of Monmouth’s Strategic Plan and support the UCI’s mission. The latest round of grants will support six projects conducted by 13 students beginning this month. Below are snapshots of the projects.

Chesapeake Bay Archaeological Mapping

Student: Chris Menke

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Geoffrey Fouad, Dept. of History and Anthropology

The project will map probable prehistoric archaeological sites in a coastal reach of Chesapeake Bay by identifying environmental characteristics associated with oyster shell heaps – a sign of past habitation.

Conservation and Demographics of New Jersey Coastal Sharks and Sturgeon

Students: Hannah Craft, Lauren Kelly, Michael Nguyen and Charlie Vasas (Provost Scholar)

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Keith Dunton, Dept. of Biology

Associate Professor Keith Dunton will continue his research into the demographics and habitats of sharks and the endangered Atlantic sturgeon along the New Jersey coast.

Dominican Civil Society: A Democratic Response to Climate Change

Students: Matthew Gruhler and Alexis Vasquez

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

The group will examine the question of whether the challenges associated with climate change require the production of social capital (connections among individuals) to solve. They will use the problem of plastic pollution in the Dominican Republic as a proxy for the viability of social capital creation to solve environmental problems.

Harmful Algal Blooms in Monmouth County Coastal Lakes, Estuaries, and Ocean

Students: Skye Post and Ariel Zavala

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jason Adolf, Dept. of Biology

The researchers will examine the factors contributing to harmful algal blooms, deoxygenation, and fish kills in local waters in order to build a better understanding of their formation and help predict/manage them in the future.

Marine Biology Careers App Design

Students: Gianna Rossi and Stephanie Brown

Faculty Mentor: Prof. Linh Dao, Dept. of Art and Design

The team will collaborate on the design and user interface development of a mobile app dedicated to the exploration of career paths in marine biology for high school students and college freshmen.

Reptile and Amphibian Surveys in Urbanized Ecosystems

Students: Travis Kirk and Christiana Popo

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sean Sterrett, Dept. of Biology

UCI grant funding will be used to purchase “frog logger” devices which can deployed near breeding sites and programmed to record breeding frog vocalizations. The work is part of a larger project intended to study vertebrate diversity in Monmouth County’s coastal lakes.

Apply Now for Funding

Monmouth University students and faculty are invited to apply now for fall UCI Scholars funding opportunities. Fall grants available include:

  • Faculty Enrichment Grants for the enhancement of existing curriculum, new curriculum development, research and scholarship, and team-teaching opportunities. The deadline is June 30.
  • Mini-Grants are also available to faculty and students for conference fees, symposia, guest speaker honoraria, equipment and supplies, and other needs to be determined on a case-by-case-basis. Applications can be submitted at any time and are reviewed on a rolling basis. Awards range from $250 to $500 depending on the availability of funds.

Those interested may apply via the UCI Funding Opportunities page on the MyMU Portal (Monmouth University sign-in credentials required). For more information, contact UCI Associate Director Dr. Thomas Herrington at (732) 261-5588 or


Monmouth University to Study Water Pollution at Surfing Beaches

May 13, 2019

Monmouth University scientists and students have begun a yearlong study on the linkage between rainfall and microbial pollution at surfing beaches in New Jersey including Asbury Park, Deal and Long Branch. The work will be conducted through a $30,000 contract with the Surfers’ Environmental Alliance (SEA).

Microbial pollution, the contamination of water with pathogens that can make people sick, is a problem in densely populated coastal areas around the world. At some of Monmouth County’s most popular surfing beaches, municipal storm drains and outflow pipes discharge directly into the surf zone.

“We’ve heard stories from surfers about how the water sometimes smells and looks different at these beaches after heavy rainstorms,” said Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf of Monmouth University’s School of Science and Urban Coast Institute. “However, no data have been gathered to back up the anecdotal evidence about the magnitude of the problem.”

Monmouth University Specialist Professor Jeff Weisburg, the project co-lead, added that there is a significant gap in the state’s sampling program because it is primarily focused on the busiest bathing beaches in the summer tourism season.

“Surfing is a year-round passion at the Jersey Shore, but the state doesn’t test its waters as frequently during some of the best wave months, including the fall hurricane season,” Weisburg said. “This project will help show what kind of health risks, if any, that surfers might be exposed to during the colder months.”

Testing will focus on five locations: the Asbury Park Casino beach in Asbury Park; the Neptune Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue beaches in Deal; and the Ocean Place and S. Bath Avenue beaches in Long Branch.

Each location will be sampled before and after at least 10 storm events over the course of the year. The researchers will record atmospheric conditions and measurements of the ocean’s temperature, dissolved salt levels and clarity before taking water samples near and far from the storm drain pipes at each site. The samples will be analyzed for bacterial abundance and compared with rainfall and water quality data to look for statistical relationships.

“SEA is proud to partner with Monmouth University to implement a long-needed water quality study at local surf spots after rain events,” said the Richard Lee, the organization’s executive director. “We’re hoping this is the start of a long-term collaboration that will benefit the surf community and Monmouth University.”


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