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Oct. 12 Online Lecture: Ocean Alkalinization Enhancement in Combating Climate Change


The Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) and Urban Coast Institute will kick off their 2020 Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series on Oct. 12 at noon with with Dr. Wil Burns, co-executive director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University. Burns will deliver a free online lecture titled, “Antacids for the Sea: The Potential Role of Ocean Alkalinization Enhancement in Combating Climate Change.”

Lecture Abstract

It is becoming increasingly clear that achievement of the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets will require both aggressive policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and large-scale deployment of so-called “carbon dioxide removal” options, i.e. processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere to reduce radiative forcing. While much of the early research in this context focused on terrestrial options, scalability and sustainability issues have led to increasing interest in ocean-based approaches. This presentation focuses on one of the more promising options: ocean alkalinization enhancement, which seeks to enhance storage of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans through the addition of limestone or other substances. The presentation will examine the potential effectiveness of this approach, potential risks to ocean ecosystems, and avenues for international governance.


For more information, email IGU Director Randall Abate at

Watch: Stormwater Pollution and Local Watersheds Webinar

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.

  • Sophie Glovier, municipal policy specialist, the Watershed Institute – Slides (29 MB)
  • Jason Adolf, endowed associate professor in marine science, Monmouth University – Slides (15 MB)

Gaffney Named to National Academies Committee Tasked with Advancing Defense Research at HBCUs and MSIs

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).

Watch: Abate Joins International Science in Climate Litigation Panel

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.

Sept. 14 Panel to Focus on Stormwater Pollution and Local Watersheds



Members of the public are invited to join a free expert panel discussion on how stormwater pollution and flooding affects the health of local water bodies. The event is being hosted by the Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association in partnership with Clean Ocean Action, the Long Branch Green Team, the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute, and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Sophie Glovier, municipal policy specialist for the Watershed Institute, will discuss steps residents can take to combat stormwater runoff pollution in their towns.

Dr. Jason Adolf, Monmouth University endowed associate professor in marine science, will share observations from current research on the linkages between rainfall and microbial pollution at surfing beaches near outflow pipes and storm drains in Asbury Park, Deal and Long Branch. He will also share findings from the Coastal Lakes Observing Network (CLONet) project, in which Adolf and Monmouth students are working with citizen scientists to study water quality in Lake Takanassee, Deal Lake, Sunset Lake, Wesley Lake, Sylvan Lake, Lake Como and Spring Lake.

For more information or questions, contact Faith Teitelbaum at Attendees will be provided a link to the webinar upon registering.

Monmouth Hosts Expert Panel on Climate Change Harms, Accountability

Monmouth University, the Center for Climate Integrity and the Union of Concerned Scientists hosted an Aug. 19 online panel on whether fossil fuel industry and corporate polluters could be held legally accountable for harms caused by climate change. Over 300 registered for the event, which was moderated by Monmouth University Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate.

Panelists included Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science with the Union of Concerned Scientists Climate & Energy Program; Nathaly Agosto Filión, chief sustainability officer, City of Newark; and Marco Simons, general counsel, EarthRights International. Opening remarks were delivered by New Jersey State Sen. Joseph Cryan.

Click here to read a recap of the discussions from the Center for Climate Integrity blog and here for biographies of the speakers (PDF).

Who Lives in the Lower Hudson-Raritan Estuary? Comparing Net Results, Genetics

Professors Jason Adolf, Keith Dunton, and John Tiedemann are taking the Census. Clipboards in hand, they and a crew of student researchers stop by some of the Monmouth County Bayshore’s most diverse neighborhoods, collecting information that will help build a clearer picture of who lives there. On this day, we learn the area has high populations of Northern pufferfish, squid, butterfish, sea robins and spider crabs.

The team also has a way to learn about those who weren’t seen at the time of the visit. Water samples taken at the scene will be lab tested for trace genetic material, known as environmental DNA (eDNA), that can identify marine organisms which may or may not have been caught in their nets.

“You ask the question, do the fish that I saw in the trawl match the fish that the DNA sequence turns up?” said Adolf, endowed associate professor of marine science at Monmouth University. “Do the phytoplankton that I saw in the microscope match the phytoplankton that the DNA sequences turn up? Do the benthic invertebrates that we caught in the grab sampler match what we saw in the DNA?”

The answers will not only yield important information about marine life in Sandy Hook and Raritan bays, but for Monmouth University’s continuing exploration on the utility of eDNA as a tool for taking inventories of ecosystem fisheries and wildlife.

On Aug. 11, Adolf, students Skyler Post and Bryce McCall, Tiedemann, Dunton and UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels sampled six sites from the tip of Sandy Hook to the mouth of the Raritan River. Although only a few miles apart, the habitats at these stations can vary widely. The Lower Hudson-Raritan Estuary (to which Sandy Hook and Raritan bays belong) experiences a constant intermixing of saltwater, suburban rivers like the Navesink and Shrewsbury, industrially developed bodies such as the Arthur Kill and Hudson River, and numerous other New York-New Jersey tributaries. The floor at some stations are sandy, while others are muddy or rocky.

Thalassiosira phytoplankton from Sandy Hook Bay

In addition to marine life data, the team records oceanographic parameters such as salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, clarity, and phytoplankton biomass. Each can be indicators of the general health of the waters. Through the day’s sampling, the group learned of a large phytoplankton bloom centered along the transect between Raritan Bay and the tip of Sandy Hook, and hypoxic bottom waters (waters without sufficient oxygen to support most marine life) toward the western portion of the transect.

The water samples for eDNA analysis are run through filters, frozen and handed over to UCI Marine Genetics Faculty Fellow Megan Phifer-Rixey for analysis. This semester, she and students Cameron Gaines and Lilia Crew will extract the DNA and compare it to a database of genetic barcodes for other organisms, looking for matches.

“There’s usually quite a bit of DNA in the water samples we get from the trawls,” Phifer-Rixey said. “There’s a lot of life out there.”

With grant funding from the Achelis & Bodman Foundation, the project’s principal investigators, Adolf, Dunton and Phifer-Rixey, will conduct a half-dozen research cruises through the fall of 2021 at the same locations, building a foundation of data that can be used to detect important trends over time. Adolf said he’d like to continue the work well beyond the grant period so Monmouth will one day have decades of this data to draw upon.

“A time series is like a garden. You start small, you hope for something, and over time you watch it produce more and more results,” Adolf said. “I’d like to do six cruises per year for the rest of my career at Monmouth. This generates the kind of data needed to understand the effects of climate and anthropogenic change on marine systems, and provides ongoing opportunities for Monmouth students to become involved in established research projects.”

Click here to view an album of photos from the cruise. For more on eDNA, see the proceedings of the National Conference on Marine Environmental DNA hosted by Rockefeller University Program for the Human Environment and the UCI. 

Expert Panel to Discuss Legal Accountability for N.J. Climate Damages Aug. 19


Register now for the free online panel event “Accountability for Climate Change Harms in New Jersey: Scientific, Legal and Policy Perspectives,” to be held from 3-4:15 p.m. on Aug. 19. The expert panel discussion is being organized by the Climate Integrity Project, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Monmouth University.

This event is intended to educate the state’s legal and policy communities and the public on local climate impacts and associated costs now facing communities and taxpayers, and to initiate a dialogue on the growing trend of climate damages litigation in the U.S. Panelists will discuss the extent of climate harms in New Jersey as well as the scientific basis for holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for them. Panelists will also offer legal and community perspectives on damages litigation as a means to shift some of the burden from taxpayers to polluters.

The discussion will be moderated by Monmouth University Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate. Panel members will include Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science with the Union of Concerned Scientists Climate & Energy Program; Nathaly Agosto Filión, chief sustainability officer, City of Newark; and Marco Simons, general counsel, EarthRights International. Opening remarks will be delivered by New Jersey State Sen. Joseph Cryan.

The event was originally scheduled to be held on the Monmouth campus in March, but was postponed due to COVID-19.

Attendees will be provided a link to the webinar after registering. For more information, contact Alyssa Johl at

UCI Marine Scientist Assists with Humpback Whale Rescue

UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels responded to an emergency call aboard Monmouth University’s research vessel Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe on July 30 to help free a humpback whale entangled in a commercial trawl net off Long Island.

Photo by Jim Nickels

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Army Corps of Engineers, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, U.S. Coast Guard, Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) and Turtles Fly Too all collaborated to free the animal. The effort began on July 27, when the Coast Guard received a report of a distressed whale in the Ambrose Channel of New York. Nickels was joined aboard the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe on Thursday by Monmouth University graduate Peter Plantamura of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s (NEFSC) Sandy Hook lab.

The humpback was essentially anchored in place by what NOAA estimated to be 4,000 pounds of netting, ropes and steel cables wrapped around its tail. Nickels said by the time he arrived, the whale appeared in mortal danger.

“It was a massive commercial net and the whale was in a nasty tangle,” Nickels said. “It was to the point where it was having trouble breathing.”

The Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe’s net reel was used to lift up the gear enough to relieve the pressure on the whale and allow it to move and breathe easier. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Drift Collection Vessel HAYWARD’s crain then pulled the gear out of the water and the CCS team cut through it until the whale could swim free.

A press release recounting the full four-day rescue was issued by NOAA on behalf of all of the rescue partners. The whale has since been spotted swimming safely off the coast of Long Island.

Additional Coverage

Whale freed from 4,000 pounds of fishing gear by team including N.J. university,

Whale tangled in fishing gear off Jones Beach freed after 4-day effort, Newsday

Distressed, entangled humpback whale off New York set free, WPIX 11

Entangled humpback whale rescued from New York channel, National Fisherman






Trip Diary: Hurricane Research Gliders Launched from Monmouth Vessel

With the 2020 hurricane season officially underway, the UCI partnered with a team of federal agencies and research institutions to deploy a pair of Navy research gliders that will shed new light on the interactions between the ocean and powerful storms that pass through the New York Bight.

The gliders were launched from Monmouth University’s research vessel Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe at locations between the shipping lanes that approach New York Harbor. The crew included (seen above from l-r) Monmouth student Bryce McCall, Rutgers University scientists Scott Glenn and Travis Miles, UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels, and (not pictured) UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba.

The gliders will cruise the waters between the continental shelf and the coast from now through late October, collecting data on water conditions and transmitting it to scientists on the shore. Of particular interest is the influence that cooler waters at the bottom of the ocean have on storms once they “upwell,” or rise to mix with warmer surface waters as the ocean churns. Warm waters are known to fuel hurricanes, but the full degree with which colder waters slow and dissipate the storms is still under study. The gliders enable the researchers to safely measure those dynamics directly from the violent, roiling waters beneath a hurricane, and ultimately improve storm modeling. Scroll below to learn more with our photographic trip diary.

Above, Miles gets set to deploy the first glider roughly 20 miles east of Asbury Park, New Jersey. He’ll wheel the equipment to the edge of the vessel using a special hand truck with rails, angle it downward, and release the torpedo-shaped glider to plunge into the sea. It will quickly float back to the surface.

With eyes on the glider, the team will use a satellite phone to call the Naval Oceanographic Office at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. From that site over 1,000 miles away, researchers can command the drone to carry out a battery of tests, including dives, timed cruises and data collection.

In the meantime, the team will take some readings in the water with their own equipment to make sure the glider’s data is matching up accurately. Once all of the tests were passed, the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe headed to its next stop an hour north.

McCall launched the second glider about 15 miles south of Jones Beach, Long Island. From this point, the New York skyline and the high rises of Long Branch and Asbury Park were no longer in view. But over the next few years, these waters will be home to an installation of massive wind turbines that could produce enough renewable energy to power 1 million homes. While sailing, the crew came upon one deep-water buoy (above right) owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, used to gather scientific data.

As the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe embarked on its 3-hour trip back to Atlantic Highlands, the waters suddenly grew rough and Capt. Nickels’ radio buzzed with warnings to mariners. The 100-degree, ultra-humid air was about to burst open with thunderstorms and 40 knot winds. Nearing Sandy Hook, the crew was treated to a dazzling show of fork lighting and ominous cloud formations over New York City.

The glider deployment was carried out under the auspices of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS). Several other gliders were launched at other locations along the Atlantic Coast as part of the multi-year project. Additional partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and several other academic institutions.

Watch our video below chronicling last year’s glider deployment aboard the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe.


Eyes on the Storm