Skip to main content
CloseSearch

Citizen Science Data Indicates Climate Threat to Monmouth Coastal Lakes

With nearly 450 water quality samples collected by citizen scientists over the last 18 months, the data has begun to tell some stories about the condition of Monmouth County’s coastal lakes.

Those patterns were revealed by Monmouth University Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf during the second annual Coastal Lakes Observing Network (CLONet) Workshop, held virtually on Nov. 17 (scroll below for video). The event also provided an opportunity for community volunteers who have sampled Deal Lake, Lake Como, Lake Takanassee, Sunset Lake, and Wesley Lake to share lessons learned and discuss next steps for the project heading into 2021.

According to Adolf, Secchi depth readings have been among the most telling indicators of the lakes’ overall health. These readings are taken by slowly lowering a black and white disc in the water and measuring the distance at which they are no longer visible. The deeper the visibility, the less turbid the lake.

Lake Takanassee in Long Branch has consistently shown the best depth – which lines up with other indicators showing its overall cleanliness – while Sunset Lake in Asbury Park has shown the poorest results to date. Adolf said that along a four-tier scale ranging from oligotrophic (best) to hypereutrophic (worst) conditions, the lakes on the whole fell in the latter category. Typical characteristics of hypereutrophic water bodies include an abundance of nutrients that fuel harmful algal blooms (HAB), low dissolved oxygen levels, occasional fish kill events, and the presence of thick scum and dense weeds.

“Even though Takanassee is relatively better than the other lakes, in general, we’re dealing with eutrophic to hypereutrophic systems,” Adolf said. “In terms of pollution and degradation, we’re at the bottom of the scale, which means we can only go up.”

Climate Threats Loom

HAB organisms thrive in warm waters, especially those over 25 degrees Celsius (about 77 degrees Fahrenheit). With two summers of temperature readings now in the books, the data shows the lakes are most susceptible to HABs from June through September.

“This is something we can look at year after year and monitor whether this window is going to expand or contract as temperatures change with climate change,” Adolf said.

The analysis found a strong correlation between HAB events and rainfall, with spikes in the lakes frequently following storms during the warm season. This owes to the fact that stormwater runoff in these heavily developed areas carries nutrients such as fertilizers and animal wastes directly into the lakes.

“The climate predictions for New Jersey include increased rainfall and increased larger rainfall events,” Adolf said. “Considering how our coastal lakes seem to be responding to rainfall, that’s something we all need to be thinking about.”

Residents who observe a HAB in their lake can now report it online to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Vic Poretti of the NJDEP Division of Water Monitoring and Standards provided a tutorial on the agency’s HAB Interactive Map Reporting and Communication System, which gathers information including the location of the sighting, details about the lake and photos. Poretti said that although the issue of HABs in New Jersey drew more attention in 2019 due to high-profile closures at the summer tourism destinations of Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake, there were actually more instances reported statewide in 2020.

Looking Ahead

CLONet’s capacity will expand in its third calendar year with the recent addition of Urban Coast Institute Citizen Science Coordinator Erin Conlon. A May 2020 graduate of Monmouth University’s Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program, Conlon has been working on the CLONet project since its inception and now leads citizen science trainings, checks data quality and provides equipment for volunteers. Conlon’s work and CLONet are made possible through a grant from the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation.

Conlon said her goals for 2021 are to increase communication between the community lake groups and build new research partnerships with outside organizations and other labs within Monmouth University. In one such partnership, CLONet will take the lead on the coastal lakes aspects of a NJDEP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study of HAB risks to New Jersey lakes. A phycocyanin meter donated by the Watershed Institute and NJDEP will allow CLONet to take direct measurements of the prevalence of HAB organisms in the lakes.

Conlon said she hopes to expand CLONet to cover five additional coastal lakes in Monmouth County that are not currently being tested by citizen scientists, but have been by Monmouth University Phytoplankton and Harmful Algal Bloom Lab (PHAB Lab) students: Fletcher Lake, Silver Lake, Spring Lake, Sylvan Lake and Wreck Pond. Any individuals, schools or community groups interested in volunteering as citizen scientists are encouraged to contact Conlon at econlon@monmouth.edu. Visit the CLONet website for more information.

Video: CLONet 2020 Workshop

UCI Awards Grants for Projects that Support and Research Socially Vulnerable Communities in Time of COVID-19 

The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has awarded Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Faculty Enrichment Grants for projects that will create Little Free Library installations in low-income coastal communities and study COVID-19’s impacts on the African American community in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

In light of the continuing crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and concern about systemic racism, the UCI issued a special call for proposals in August to support faculty and student research and community-based projects focused on sustainably rebuilding our coastal communities and economies while addressing disproportional impacts to and needs of our most vulnerable populations. The call noted that environmental justice communities, including those of low income, communities of color, immigrant groups, and Indigenous peoples are disproportionately vulnerable to the environmental and health impacts of climate change and COVID-19.

The following are summaries of the two grant-funded projects. Both are currently underway.

Nourishing Book Deserts: Providing Access to Authentic and Relevant Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Books for Coastal Communities

Faculty Researchers: Kenneth Kunz, Jason Fitzgerald and Michelle Schpakow, Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Kurt Wagner, Monmouth University librarian; and Lori Burns, Department of Educational Counseling and Leadership

This project aims to counter the limited availability of books in the home in low-income coastal communities, an issue which has been exacerbated by virtual schooling and children’s reduced access to school libraries. Faculty researchers and students from the School of Education will initiate a process for local school districts to apply for the installation of Little Free Libraries in their communities. The grant will cover the purchase of texts and the materials to build the physical libraries, which will be designed by Monmouth University artists. Reading materials in the libraries will be coastal-relevant, interdisciplinary and inclusive to tackle the complex challenges facing their locations.

Paradoxical Paradise: Asbury Park, an African American Oral History and Mapping Project

Faculty Researchers: Hettie V. Williams, Geoffrey Fouad and Melissa Ziobro, Department of History and Anthropology

“Paradoxical Paradise” is a multiyear and multidisciplinary research, oral history and digital mapping project that seeks to document and preserve the African American history of Asbury Park. The grant will fund a phase of the project focused on COVID-19 and the experience of African Americans in the city as it relates to health disparities. Activities will include archival research led by Williams (with an emphasis on drawing parallels between the 1918 influenza pandemic and COVID-19); student interviews with residents guided by Ziobro; and the creation of GIS map products by Fouad and students that visualize COVID-19 health statistics in the area and the pandemic’s impacts on African Americans.

About the Program

The Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program offers grant opportunities to students and faculty of all disciplines whose work advances core elements of Monmouth’s Strategic Plan and supports the UCI’s mission. The program is funded through the generosity of many corporate and private donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the UCI, please click here. For more information, contact UCI Associate Director Tom Herrington at therring@monmouth.edu.

 

 

 

UCI-IGU Talk Examines Significance of High Seas Biodiversity Treaty

The Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) and Urban Coast Institute (UCI) hosted a Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series talk on Nov. 5 titled “Connected, Dynamic, at Risk: Coastal Nation Interests in a Strong New High Seas Biodiversity Treaty.” Lecture speakers included Rutgers University Associate Professor Cymie Payne and Guillermo Ortuño Crespo, a postdoctoral researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and coordinator of early career professional engagement for the U.N. Decade of Ocean Science.

ABSTRACT

Human exploitation of the open ocean has increased rapidly over the past few decades. International agreements that manage individual commercial sectors have not kept pace with the rate of expansion of maritime industries or the effects of climate change that are already being experienced, resulting in poor management of high seas species and ecosystems. Coastal nations like the U.S., with large exclusive economic zones (EEZs), may be the first to experience the negative impacts of poor management beyond their national jurisdiction: ecological connectivity across maritime boundaries connects hundreds of ocean species to the high seas. Years of negotiation are coming to fruition with a new treaty to manage conservation and sustainable use of life in the connected, dynamic global ocean. The challenge for governments is to prioritize long-term health over short-term sectoral interests with an effective treaty for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). It will be pivotal for ensuring the health and well-being of U.S. ecosystems and coastal communities.

BIOGRAPHIES

Cymie R. Payne is an associate professor at Rutgers University. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Human Ecology and at Rutgers Law School. Professor Payne has appeared as counsel before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in its deep seabed mining and fisheries advisory opinion cases. Currently, she is legal advisor to International Union for Conservation of Nature’s delegation to the intergovernmental conference for a legally binding agreement on conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental, Ocean Coasts and Coral Reefs Specialist Group. She has also been a member of the Berkeley Law faculty and served as an attorney with the U.S. Department of the Interior, the law firm of Goodwin, Procter and the U.N. Security Council’s environmental war reparations program. Professor Payne holds a M.A. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Guillermo Ortuño Crespo is a marine ecologist with a master of science from the University of St. Andrews in ecosystem-based management of marine systems and a doctorate in marine science and conservation from Duke University. Ortuño Crespo specializes in the spatial ecology patterns of distribution of both pelagic species (such as tuna, billfish and sharks) and that of pelagic fisheries (including purse seines and longliners) to identify areas of high risk and opportunity for sustainable fishing in the open ocean. He has been an active participant in the ongoing high seas BBNJ negotiations highlighting the importance of improving fisheries management beyond national jurisdiction through more transparent operations and a wider use of spatial management tools to reduce bycatch. Throughout his postdoc at the Stockholm Resilience Centre he will be working on a novel spatial management study in collaboration with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) to develop the first ever tuna-RFMO dynamic spatial management strategy. As part of his commitment to the U.N. Decade of Ocean Science, Ortuño Crespo is facilitating the conversation on corporate sustainability among early career professionals with the ultimate objective of fostering strong relationships between upcoming science, conservation or technology young leaders and those companies which show determination in leading the way towards a more sustainable future.

Cresson Puts Marine Life Under a Microscope in New Art Collection

Before the advent of microscopic photography, it fell to the varying artistic skills of scientists to show the world what the invisible plants and animals in our oceans looked like. One of the most prolific and talented was Ernst Haeckel, an 1800s German zoologist and marine biologist whose groundbreaking sketches of organisms such as zooplankton, diatoms and copepods continue to capture the imagination of science enthusiasts and artists to this day.

Count among them Monmouth University Professor Pat Cresson, who recently created over 50 works highlighting both microscopic marine organisms and larger sea creatures. Cresson  presented her collection, The Interface Between Marine Biology and Creative Microscopic Inhabitants of the Sea, in a free public webinar on Nov. 18 (scroll to bottom of story for video). The session was offered as part of the Department of History & Anthropology’s Research and Teaching Pedagogy Seminar Series.

In an interesting twist, Cresson’s focus on the deep sea started with the CDC. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cresson was struck by the aesthetic beauty of models showing the virus and began investigating what other infectious diseases looked like. This research eventually shifted to imagery depicting the unicellular and microscopic life forms that are abundant in our waters, as Haeckel had famously done before.

“Art and science are very similar in some perspectives,” Cresson said. “Both science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. The subjects and methods have different traditions, and the intended audiences are different, but I think the motivations and goals are fundamentally the same.”

Cresson’s first works in the collection were detailed black ink drawings on heavy white watercolor paper. She then began creating a series of illustrations on deep wood panels that were covered with glued drawings on paper. Then an epoxy surface was poured over these panels, sometimes stained blue or green giving the appearance that they were submerged under water. She also created several collages on paper adhered to wood panels depicting ocean scenes. (Scroll to gallery below to view samples of her works.) Materials for the project were purchased through a faculty enrichment grant awarded via the Urban Coast Institute’s Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program.

Building upon her work, Cresson assigned her Advanced Digital Imaging class to create first traditional collages (cut paper and materials) and then digital collages focused on marine ecosystems. Some of the student works were also presented in the webinar.

“I gave them different ideas – the food web, symbiotic relationships, the role of light in the ocean, the health of the ocean and warming oceans, corals reefs and how they’re being bleached out,” she said. “They came up with some really interesting imagery. I was very happy with what they came up with.”

Image Gallery

Click Thumbnails for Larger View

 

 

Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal Story Map Profiles Captain of Navesink Queen

Come rolling on the rivers and bays with Capt. Dan Schade and his old-time paddle wheeler, the Navesink Queen, in the latest edition of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal’s “Ocean Stories” series, created by UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba. The story and its interactive data maps provide a snapshot of life navigating the crowded waters of the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers and Sandy Hook and Raritan bays aboard his fleet of classic boats. Click here to read the story. (Non-mobile device recommended for best view of scrolling data maps.)

UCI to Host Nov. 10 Lecture ‘Is Seaweed a Fish?’

REGISTER NOW

The Urban Coast Institute’s Marine & Environmental Speaker Series returns Nov. 10 from noon to 1 p.m. with “Is Seaweed a Fish?” by Ethan Prall, Esq. The talk is free and open to the public. Upon registration, attendees will receive an email with the Zoom link for the event.

Abstract

This presentation argues that fisheries regulation under the Magnuson-Stevens Act should be modified to help facilitate the growth of the seaweed industry, which scientists have claimed can provide a key climate mitigation tool. In my work at Latham & Watkins, I have represented a pro bono client involved in innovative seaweed harvest technology. As I argue, seaweed harvest—primarily wild harvest rather than aquaculture—promises both benefits and costs, and legally, it thus should be neither completely prohibited nor allowed without restriction. Instead, federal seaweed regulation in the U.S. can provide a striking example of regulatory “compromise.” Although seaweed harvest is not a traditional kind of “fishery,” I argue that, in the absence of federal legislation directly governing seaweed, the Act’s regulatory regime can be applied to seaweed harvest with certain modifications that facilitate experimentation by the industry, absent serious environmental harms. Navigating this middle ground requires careful attention to the structure of the Act, to the science and policy of seaweed harvest, and to mechanisms for achieving regulatory equilibrium.

Bio

Ethan Prall, Esq. is an environmental lawyer and policy advocate at the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP, in Washington, DC.  He represents clients on a variety of domestic and international environmental and clean energy law and policy, including: creating the government for a new clean energy zone overseas, offshore wind energy permitting, Endangered Species Act consultations, and litigating against the Trump Administration’s rollback of California’s vehicle emissions standards. His scholarly work focuses on addressing the global challenges posed by anthropogenic change on natural systems, such as climate change and biodiversity loss. His latest publication, forthcoming Spring 2021, focuses on U.S. federal regulation of seaweed farming as a potential climate change mitigation tool. He holds a B.A. from Texas A&M University, an M.T.S. from Duke University, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

 

Herrington Garners Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant Award for Ocean City Flooding Project

Urban Coast Institute Associate Director Thomas Herrington was honored with the Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant Region’s Outstanding Outreach Award for his work helping residents and government officials in Ocean City, New Jersey, find solutions for chronic nuisance flooding in the community.

Ocean City flood projectThe award was presented during the Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant Region’s annual meeting, held virtually in October. Herrington serves as the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium’s coastal community resilience specialist.

The project was carried out through the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) program, which pairs scientists with local communities to solve problems on a pro bono basis. The barrier island community has seen flooding increase in frequency and severity over the years, to a point where high tides can cause disruptions and damage without rain. Herrington, an Ocean City native, worked with members of a grassroots community flooding group to examine the source and causes of the flooding and identify long-term solutions that would remain effective in the face of sea level rise and the more intense storms wrought by climate change.

Herrington trained local residents to conduct citizen science work and pool their data using an app developed by iSeeChange.  Through use of the app, Herrington was able to compare the information with federal data and investigate the source of flooding, its frequency, and location. Click here to read more about the group’s collaboration with iSeeChange.

In its nomination, New Jersey Sea Grant noted, “Through his efforts, the community and local government increased their knowledge on the complexity of the flooding events residents are currently experiencing.” The document added that Herrington’s work could serve as a model for researchers and extension agents at Sea Grant programs throughout the country.

“The data collected by the citizens is helping the community see that rainfall runoff combined with high tide levels is the major contributor to street flooding and has prompted a discussion of ways to reduce rainfall runoff into the storm sewer system,” Herrington said.

Visit the project page on the Thriving Earth Exchange website for more information, including a detailed overview, research documents, partner profiles and news coverage.

Video & Slides: Green Infrastructure and New Jersey Stormwater Management Webinar

The Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) hosted a webinar on Oct. 23 which explored the implications and implementation of new statewide rules that call for the use of green infrastructure to reduce pollution and flooding caused by stormwater runoff. A video of the session is posted above and presenter slides can be found below. The webinar was organized in partnership with Clean Ocean Action, the Deal Lake Watershed Alliance, the Jersey Shore Group – New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, Long Branch Green Team and the Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association.

A cornerstone of the amended New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) stormwater standards is the requirement for permit applicants to use green infrastructure (such as rain gardens, bioretention basins and green roofs) rather than more traditional engineered structures to reduce stormwater runoff and achieve water quality goals. The NJDEP announced the measures in the spring and set a March 2021 deadline for municipalities to reflect the changes in their local ordinances and provide the appropriate training for their engineers and review staffs.

UCI Associate Director Dr. Thomas Herrington moderated a panel that included one of the NJDEP officials who helped craft the regulations and stormwater experts from throughout the state. The following are the panelists, their discussion topics and slides:

  • Non-Point Pollution Control – Gabe Mahon, Bureau Chief, NJDEP Division of Water Quality. Slides: PDF, 1 MB
  • Enhanced Provisions to the Model Ordinance – Mike Pisauro, Esq, The Watershed Institute. Slides: PDF, 1 MB
  • Green Infrastructure Examples – Chris Obropta, Extension Specialist in Water Resources, Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Slides: PDF, 8 MB
  • Stormwater Utility Defined – James Cosgrove Jr., PE, Vice President, Kleinfelder, Inc. Slides: PDF, 2 MB

Special Presentation: Green Stormwater Infrastructure for New Jersey

Obropta also delivered an hourlong presentation in the morning that provided a more detailed look at green infrastructure options that can be used by developers and municipalities. The session was moderated by Faith Teitlebaum of the Whale Pond Brook Watershed Association. Click here to download slides from the presentation (PDF, 20 MB).

 

 

Watch: ‘The Ocean-Climate Action Plan’ with Dr. Jason Scorse

 

The Urban Coast Institute hosted the online lecture “The Ocean-Climate Action Plan: Building the Blue Economy for the 21st Century” with Dr. Jason Scorse on Oct. 21. Scorse discussed key projects that he is working on in food systems and ocean and coastal policy and why the International Environmental Policy program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey is unique.

Click here to download slides from the presentation (PDF, 1 MB).

About the Speaker

Dr. Jason Scorse completed his Ph.D. in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics at UC-Berkeley in 2005 with a focus on environmental economics and policy, international development, and behavioral economics. Upon graduation, he became a full-time faculty member of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Professor Scorse teaches courses in environmental and natural resource economics, ocean and coastal economics, and behavioral economics. In 2009, he was promoted to the Chair of the International Environmental Policy Program, and in 2011, he became the Director of the Center for the Blue Economy, which provides “leadership in research, education, and analysis to promote a sustainable ocean and coastal economy.” Professor Scorse’s book, What Environmentalists Need to Know About Economics, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010.  In his spare time, Professor Scorse longboards, cooks gourmet vegan food, and writes fiction for when he starts his new career after we’ve solved all of the world’s great environmental challenges.

Jersey Shore Wave-Monitoring Buoy Deployed from R/V Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe

A buoy programmed to transmit real-time data on waves and temperatures at sea was recently deployed about 13 miles east of Barnegat Bay from Monmouth University’s R/V Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe.

The buoy joined a national network of stations operated by the Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP), based at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, to provide coastal engineers and planners, scientists, mariners and the public with a wealth of data that can inform their research and decision-making. Among the parameters being measured are average wave heights, the distance between waves and the direction of their movement. A live feed sharing data from the buoy is now available on the CDIP website.

The buoy’s location fills an important gap for researchers, according to Urban Coast Institute Associate Director Thomas Herrington. The nearest stations of its kind, all maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are located off Long Island, at the entrance to New York Harbor and offshore of the Delaware Bay.

buoy“The Jersey Shore sees very different wave fields than, say, North Carolina or even Delaware because Long Island Sound, Long Island itself and New England act as a natural breakwater for waves coming from the northeast,” Herrington said. “So the wave climate we have off New York Harbor is very different than the wave climate we have off Cape May. This buoy is really important to understanding what’s going on off our coast.”

UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels, Field Operations Assistant Mitchell Mickley and Monmouth University student Bryce McCall placed the buoy and its 1,100-pound anchor just inside the southern reach of the zone that separates the Barnegat-Ambrose shipping lanes, among the busiest maritime corridors in the country. It was a job the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe was born to do – the vessel was originally built as a U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender.

Funding for the deployment came from Scripps through the Army Corps of Engineers, which relies on the CDIP data to evaluate the performance of coastal projects ranging from beach replenishment to the dredging of channels.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS) is studying the data as part of an effort to more accurately model wave heights in the region. Depending on wind direction the waves near the coast can be drastically different from waves reported by NOAA buoys which are located farther offshore. The CDIP buoy provides a nearshore wave measurement to validate the high frequency radar-derived wave heights. MARACOOS also provides a free and publicly accessible feed from the buoy on its portal OceansMap.