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Report Assesses Mid-Atlantic Coast’s Economic Vulnerability to Climate Change

April 18, 2018                                                                   

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) has released a first-of-its-kind report at the Mid-Atlantic scale that examines the vulnerabilities of several critical economic sectors to climate change. The report quantifies the potential impacts of threats like sea level rise, rising ocean temperatures and changes in the ocean’s chemistry to communities and businesses in 63 counties and independent cities along the coast from New York to Virginia.

The report, “Climate Change Vulnerabilities in the Coastal Mid-Atlantic Region,” was prepared in collaboration with the UCI as part of the “Planning for a Changing Ocean” project, which aimed to better understand how a changing climate impacts our ocean and the Mid-Atlantic’s diverse marine ecosystems, coastal communities and economies. The project examined the implications for resilience of current trends, including increased acidification of coastal and ocean waters, the availability of offshore sand resources and shifting marine life habitats.

Click here to read a news release summarizing the report.


Discovering the Ecological Self through Art and Science

April 16, 2018

A new project created by Monmouth University Assistant Professor of Art and Design Kimberly Callas is providing at-risk youth an opportunity to learn about the coastal environment and science through an artistic lens.

Through Discovering the Ecological Self, middle school students from the Red Bank-based Aslan Youth Ministries take field visits and classroom lessons focused on nature-based topics, explore them from philosophical and cultural perspectives, and create works of art inspired by them.

Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy senior Rebecca Klee and junior Taylor Donovan have volunteered their time to guide the science teachings, with support from Assistant Biology Professor Dr. Pedram Daneshgar. Students from Callas’ AR 218 Sculpture II course have helped mentor the youths on their artwork.

Callas said the project is an example of a developing field in the arts called “social practice,” or socially engaged art, which focuses on collaboration with communities. She said the approach is all the more valuable in an era when young people’s time is increasingly occupied by indoor activities like video games and school work.

“Social practice is when artists work in communities around social issues – in this case sustainability and addressing environmental issues,” Callas said. “The focus of my project is to get people more in touch with nature.”

UCI staff recently took the students for a boat tour of the Two Rivers area and Sandy Hook Bay. While one group was on the water, another observed plants and the shoreline environment at the Monmouth Marine and Environmental Field Station site in Rumson. Many wore masks they created with designs inspired by previous nature lessons.

Callas and Daneshgar said they would like to continue the project with additional organizations in the future, incorporating even more hands-on activities in the field. This semester’s work was supported with grant funding from the UCI’s Marine Science and Policy Initiative.

Work from Discovering the Ecological Self will be on display at Student Scholarship Service Learning Showcase on Tuesday, April 17, from 2-4 p.m. at the Wilson Hall Versailles and Pompeii rooms. It will also be shown at the Art Student Exhibit on the second floor of the DiMattio Gallery on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22, from 1-4 p.m. Members of the public are welcome to attend.


Environmental DNA (eDNA) Panel April 18 at Monmouth U.

April 12, 2018

Monmouth and Rockefeller universities are pioneering a marine life detection technique that holds the promise of being less expensive, more humane and more revealing than other longstanding scientific methods. Faculty and students from both institutions have been conducting research in water bodies along the New Jersey and New York coasts using environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling, 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.

Join us for a free panel discussion that breaks down the science of eDNA and provides an update on what area waterways will be studied next. Pizza and refreshments will be served. For more information, email Karl Vilacoba at


Monmouth Magazine Infographic: Offshore Drilling in the Mid-Atlantic

April 11, 2018

Pick up a copy of the Spring 2018 issue of Monmouth magazine for a two-page infographic featuring the UCI and Polling Institute’s two recent surveys of Mid-Atlantic residents on ocean issues. The infographic focuses on respondents’ views on offshore drilling, which became a front-burner issue this year when the Trump Administration announced they would consider opening the East Coast to oil and gas exploration. Click here to view a PDF version of the infographic as it appeared in the magazine or here to view a digital rendition on the magazine’s website.


EarthShare NJ to Honor UCI for Environmental Education Work

April 10, 2018

Join us June 8 – recognized around the globe as World Oceans Day – at Bell Works in Holmdel as the UCI and Director Tony MacDonald are honored with EarthShare NJ’s Excellence in Environmental Education Award. Now in its 12th year, the EarthShare Celebrates New Jersey awards dinner recognizes remarkable organizations that have made a difference for the environment.

The public is invited to celebrate the UCI and this year’s Environmental Partnership Award recipient, the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, as a sponsor or guest for the evening of live jazz and gift auctions featuring experiences throughout New Jersey. Click here for tickets or additional information.

NJ Congressman Honored for Coastal Advocacy

March 22, 2018

Congratulations to longtime U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-South Jersey), who was honored with the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association’s 2018 Coastal Advocate Award, the organization’s highest congressional award. UCI Associate Director Thomas Herrington (right), an ASBPA board member, is seen here with Douglas Gaffney of Hatch Mott and Margot Walsh of the Jersey Shore Partnership presenting the award to LoBiondo at the ASBPA’s 2018 Coastal Summit in Washington, D.C., on March 22.


Read the UCI’s 2017 Annual Report

March 14, 2018


The UCI is pleased to present its 2017 Annual Report. Browse through to learn about our productive year of ocean and coastal research, student-faculty projects, educational initiatives and much more.

View document as:


How Did March Storms Stack Up to Nor’Easters Past?

March 13, 2018

By Dr. Thomas Herrington, UCI Associate Director

Back-to-back nor’easters between March 1 and 8 had many residents along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard dreading the next high tide cycle. High astronomical tides combined with the powerful cyclone that developed off the coast on March 2 generated minor to moderate coastal flooding and was quickly followed by a rapid-moving coastal low pressure system on March 7 that generated gusty onshore winds, significant inland snowfall and continued tidal flooding. In total, 12 consecutive high tides exceeded minor or moderate flood levels over the seven-day period.

Nor’easters are notorious for elevating water levels and causing tidal flooding. There was the infamous “Five-High” Nor’easter of March 1962 that devastated coastal communities from New Jersey to North Carolina. The December 1992 Nor’easter generated 11 consecutive high-tides, one of which held the water level record along the New Jersey coast until Sandy obliterated it and everything else in its way. The December 1992 storm was followed closely by the March 11-12 Nor’easter of 1993, also known as the Great Blizzard of 1993. That storm only hung around for two high tides but did do considerable damage to beaches and coastal infrastructure. The list goes on and on.

So where do the back-to-back nor’easters of March 2018 stack up to those of the past? Well for starters, they were not very significant in terms of coastal erosion and storm damage. Strong north-northwest winds along the Mid-Atlantic during the first storm spared the coast from the pummeling Boston and most of coastal New England received from high waves and large storm surges. The second nor’easter generated strong onshore winds but moved fast enough to only affect the coast for a day.

Coastal residents in the Mid-Atlantic, however, did experience significant “nuisance” tidal flooding for a week, trapping coastal residents in their homes and forcing motorists to detour around flooded areas. In Atlantic City, minor flood levels were exceeded on nine high tides for a total of 32 hours and moderate flood levels were exceeded on three high tides for a total of 3 hours.

Accounting for Sea Level Rise

To assess the March storms’ ranking among those past, let’s take a look at how they compare to the March 1962 and the December 1992 nor’easters. To do that, we first need to realize that sea level was slightly lower back then. In fact, sea level has been rising along the New Jersey coast at an average rate of 4.07 millimeters per year for over 100 years. In 1962, sea level was 9 inches lower than it is today and in 1992, sea level was 4¼ inches lower. If we reduce the observed water levels at Atlantic City during the back-to-back nor’easters by 4¼ inches, we will basically create the water levels that would have been observed for the same back-to-back storms in 1992.

Figure 1 below presents a comparison of the observed water elevations at Atlantic City in March and the 1992 adjusted water levels. Here I have used elevations in feet relative to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (or NAVD88, which is roughly equivalent to what people presently consider the mean waterline) for the comparison since NAVD88 is a geodetic datum unaffected by changes in mean sea level. Reducing the observed water levels by 4¼ inches eliminates all of the moderate flooding experienced during the March nor’easters and reduces the minor flooding from 32 hours to 18 hours spread over eight high tides.

The impact of sea level on the tidal flooding is even more pronounced if we adjust the observed water elevations to the 1962 mean sea level (Figure 2). Reducing sea level by 9 inches (0.75 ft), the back-to-back nor’easters would have only generated minor flooding on five of the 12 consecutive high tides for a total duration of 6.9 hours. None of the high tide cycles would have generated moderate flooding and the impact would have been limited to the March 2-4 time -period.

In terms of magnitude, the March 1962 Five-High storm reached a maximum water elevation of 5.83 feet above NAVD88, exceeding the major flood level of 5.38 feet above NAVD88 by half a foot. In comparison the back-to-back March 2018 nor’easters would have only generated a maximum water elevation of 3.92 feet above NAVD88, well within minor flood levels. Similarly, the December 1992 Nor’easter generated a maximum water elevation of 6.27 feet above NAVD88, exceeding the major flood level by just under a foot. The 2018 nor’easters would have only generated a peak water elevation of 4.32 feet, still within the minor flood limits.

Minor Storms to Become More Serious Events

So, in conclusion, the back-to-back March nor’easters were insignificant compared to the historic storms of the past. But why was the impact perceived as so significant within our coastal communities? The answer lies within the persistent slow rise in sea level that has occurred over the past 100 years.

The addition of 9 inches of sea level between 1962 and 2018 has transformed a storm that would have been insignificant in 1962 into a storm that generated moderate flood impacts along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard in 2018. If we assume sea level will rise another 9 inches over the next 56 years — a rate many climate scientists will tell you is significantly lower than expected — then the back-to-back March 2018 nor’easters would become a very significant coastal event (Figure 3).

In 2074, water levels will be expected to exceed minor flood levels on three high tides, moderate flood levels on 10 high tides, and reach the major flood level limit at the peak of the storm. In total, water levels would exceed moderate flood levels for 21.7 hours and minor flood levels for 57.5 hours.

Figure 1. Comparison of observed water levels at Atlantic City in March 2018 and predicted water levels for the same period adjusted for 26 years of past sea level rise. The blue line represents the observed water elevations in 2018, the red line is the water levels adjusted to 1992 mean sea level, the horizontal green line is the minor flood level threshold, and the horizontal red line is the moderate flood level threshold.

Figure 2. Comparison of observed water levels at Atlantic City in March 2018 and predicted water levels for the same period adjusted for 56 years of past sea level rise. The blue line represents the observed water elevations in 2018, the red line is the water levels adjusted to 1962 mean sea level, the horizontal green line is the minor flood level threshold, and the horizontal red line is the moderate flood level threshold.

Figure 3. Comparison of observed water levels at Atlantic City in March 2018 and predicted water levels for the same period conservatively adjusted for 56 years of future sea level rise. The blue line represents the observed water elevations in 2018, the red line is the water levels adjusted to 2074 mean sea level, the horizontal green line is the minor flood level threshold, the horizontal red line is the moderate flood level threshold, and the horizontal blue line is the major flood level threshold.


Monmouth U. Seeks Endowed Chair of Marine and Environmental Law and Policy

March 9, 2018

The Monmouth University School of Humanities and Social Sciences invites outstanding applicants for the Endowed Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy. The successful applicant will be hired at the associate professor or full professor level and located in the Department of Political Science and Sociology as well as associated with the UCI.

Applications received by April 15 will receive fullest consideration. The search process will remain open until the position is filled. Click here to apply or learn more.


Apply Now for Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Summer Research Grants

March 8, 2018

The UCI is pleased to announce student-faculty collaborative summer research funding opportunities are now available through its Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Summer Research Grant Program. Funding is available to support activities by faculty and students from any school or department at Monmouth University, and interdisciplinary projects are encouraged. The grants are available to all Monmouth undergraduate and master’s students in good standing.

Proposals should be submitted by March 30, 2018, and will be considered on a rolling basis thereafter, if funds are available. Detailed information about the grant program and application requirements can be found in this application form or at

For more information, please contact UCI Associate Director Tom Herrington at (732) 263-5588 or


Coming Soon: The R/V Nauvoo

February 27, 2018

The finishing touches are now being applied to the newest and largest member of Monmouth University’s research vessel fleet – the 49-foot Nauvoo.

The acquisition of the Nauvoo will make it possible for the UCI to conduct its research, educational and contract work at a larger scale than ever before. The Nauvoo joins two smaller UCI-maintained vessels that have long served as the workhorses of its marine field operations and research – the 18-foot Little Hawk and 27-foot Seahawk.

The vessel will 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 Nauvoo 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. Thanks to a grant from the Fairleigh S. Dickinson, Jr. Foundation, the vessel will be equipped for safe navigation and ready to take full classes of students out to sea in the spring.

The vessel is outfitted with state-of-the-art side-scan sonar technology that provides highly detailed views of underwater terrains. The system 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 the fall at no cost. We thank NOAA for this valuable contribution to the marine science and education efforts taking place at Monmouth University.

The photos below show the Nauvoo being painted and undergoing maintenance to get her ready for use.


Science Building Renovation and Expansion Project Completed

February 22, 2018

Monmouth University unveiled the completion, remodeling and expansion of its science facility in a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the expanded lobby of the Edison Science Building.

Special guests, including state leaders, elected officials, business and community leaders and members of the university’s Board of Trustees joined University President Grey Dimenna and Dean of the School of Science Steven Bachrach as they officially opened the completed renovated facility.

Among those in attendance were Sen. Vin Gopal, N.J. State Senator from the 11th District, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey, N.J. State Assemblypersons from the 11th District, Janet Tucci, Mayor of West Long Branch, N.J., and Rochelle Hendricks, N.J. State Superintendent of Higher Education. Board of Trustees Chair Michael Plodwick and former chair Henry Mercer assisted with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

Click here to read the full University news release or here to browse photos of the event and the School of Science improvements.


Comment on Federal Offshore Drilling Program by March 9

February 15, 2018

A large crowd turned out for New Jersey’s public meeting on the federal Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program in Hamilton on Feb. 14. If you couldn’t make it, you can still visit to learn more about the process and submit a comment online. The deadline is March 9.


Photos: School of Science Ribbon Cutting

February 14, 2018

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Feb. 14 to mark the completion of Edison Science Hall renovation. This semester, students and staff from the School of Science and UCI settled into the now three floors of beautiful new classrooms, laboratories, offices and study/meeting spaces. The UCI moved into its office suite on the bottom floor of the new Atrium connecting Edison and Howard halls in 2017.

Click here to browse our album of photos from the event and some scenes from around the School of Science.


Video: Monmouth U. Students Answer Our Poll Questions

January 17, 2018

The UCI and Monmouth University Polling Institute recently surveyed Mid-Atlantic residents on a wide range of ocean issues, including their views on climate change and sea level rise. Here we pose a few of those questions to students on campus.

UCI Marine Initiative Awards Nine Faculty Enrichment Grants

January 11, 2018

From disappearing cattails to recurring algal blooms, the UCI has awarded nine grants for a diverse group of research projects and class activities that will take place throughout the spring semester.

In total, the work of nine faculty members and administrators from six Monmouth University departments will be supported through the faculty enrichment grants, which are funded through the UCI’s Marine Science and Policy Initiative. The grants are made available each semester to support the enhancement of existing curriculum, new curriculum development, research and scholarship, and team-teaching opportunities.

The recipients were selected through a competitive application process led by a panel of reviewers from several departments on campus. Below is a summary of this semester’s projects:

rumson boat ramp

Aerial Drone Applications in Environmental Mapping and Education 

Faculty Lead: Dr. Geoffrey Fouad, Dept. of History and Anthropology, with UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels; Dr. Richard Veit, Dept. of History and Anthropology; Dr. Pedram Daneshgar, Dept. of Biology; and UCI Associate Director Dr. Thomas Herrington

Aerial drone images will be captured from multiple altitudes to help visualize the topography of marsh and maritime forest areas near the Monmouth Marine and Environmental Field Station in Rumson, conduct beach surveys, and monitor archaeology sites. The project will use the drone to continuously sample dynamic coastal areas and develop innovative processing and visualization methods to analyze the data.

Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms in New Jersey Coastal Lakes: An Experimental Assessment of Deal Lake in Monmouth County 

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

This grant will be used to purchase equipment for Dr. Adolf to research factors that have resulted in a recent expansion of harmful algal blooms in coastal lakes. The equipment will be used by Dr. Adolf’s Ecosystems Analysis class to analyze plankton populations and water quality at Deal Lake over time and to better understand nutrient conditions that favor the onset of these events.

Discovering the Ecological Self and Assessing Student Outcomes of Discovering the Ecological Self 

Faculty Leads: Kimberley Callas, Dept. of Art and Design, and Dr. Megan Delaney, Dept. of Professional Counseling; with Dr. Pedram Daneshgar, Dept. of Biology

In this two-prong project, Professor Callas will work with students from the Aslan Youth Ministry  to create 3-D printed mask artwork inspired by local beach environments and reflections on what that environment means to them. Dr. Delaney will explore whether the students’ immersion in art and nature changed their perspectives on coastal stewardship.

Disappearing Cattails: Documentary Video Project 

Faculty Lead: Dickie Cox, Dept. of Communication, with Dr. Pedram Daneshgar, Dept. of Biology

Students will create a documentary that shows Jersey Shore cattails to be emblematic of the global problem of invasive species disrupting coastal ecosystems. The film will highlight Dr. Daneshgar’s research of how invasive reeds (phragmites) are displacing cattails along local waterfront habitats and will be submitted to a number of regional and science-based film festivals.

Establishing A Gillnet Survey to Examine Population Demographics of Atlantic Sturgeon within the Restricted Waterways of Naval Station Earle and Sandy Hook Bay 

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

Dr. Dunton will expand upon previous UCI-funded research on the populations and behaviors of the endangered Atlantic sturgeon in area waterways. Prior research has focused on monitoring tagged Atlantic Sturgeon with underwater acoustic receivers. The present research will provide a better estimate of the present Sturgeon population by sampling tagged and untagged fish through gillnet surveys.

Impact of Interdisciplinary Team Teaching on Development of Student Critical Thinking Skills 

Faculty Lead: Dr. Heide Estes, Dept. of English, with School of Science Associate Dean Dr. Catherine Duckett

The funding will support an ongoing assessment of how students respond to a team of teachers representing separate areas of expertise while completing a course that explores the topic of climate science from the perspectives of biology and literary studies. The research will determine if interdisciplinary team teaching improves students’ critical thinking, sense of environmental value and civic engagement.

Using Population Genetics to Inform Management of New Jersey Fisheries 

Faculty Lead: Dr. Megan Phifer-Rixey, Dept. of Biology, with School of Science Assistant Dean John Tiedemann

The funding will support efforts by the Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program to determine the region(s) of origin for striped bass in northern Ocean County, and estimate the historic population sizes of Atlantic sturgeon through genetic data analysis. DNA collected from the stripers and sturgeon will be 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.

What Lies Beneath? 

Faculty Lead: Dr. Richard Veit, Dept. of History and Anthropology, with UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels

New Jersey shipwreck information and artifacts available in local museums and other repositories will be inventoried for Dr. Veit and Nickels’ Underwater Archaeology course.

This research is being funded by the UCI’s Marine Science and Policy Initiative, which is supported through the generosity of many private and corporate donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the UCI, please use our Give a Gift Now contribution form.

What Lies Beneath? 

Faculty Lead: Dr. Richard Veit, Dept. of History and Anthropology, with UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels

New Jersey shipwreck information and artifacts available in local museums and other repositories will be inventoried for Dr. Veit and Nickels’ Underwater Archaeology course.

This research is being funded by the UCI’s Marine Science and Policy Initiative, which is supported through the generosity of many private and corporate donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the UCI, please use our Give a Gift Now contribution form.

Register for 1/18 Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Webinar

January 10, 2018

loop current report

Monmouth University President Emeritus and UCI Ocean Policy Fellow Paul G. Gaffney II will serve as a panelist on a Jan. 18 webinar about a new report and funding opportunities related to the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current System.

The Loop Current System is the dominant ocean circulation feature in the Gulf of Mexico, influencing all types of ocean processes, and its behavior has implications for a variety of human and natural systems. However, despite the far-reaching impact of the Loop Current System, knowledge about the underlying dynamics that control its behavior is limited. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine undertook a study to identify existing knowledge gaps about the Loop Current System and to develop a list of recommended efforts to fill those gaps. The resulting report, Understanding and Predicting the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current, calls for an international, multi-institutional campaign of complementary research, observation, and analysis activities that would help improve understanding and prediction of the Loop Current System. Gaffney serves as the chair of the Committee on Advancing Understanding of Gulf of Mexico Loop Current Dynamics, which authored the report.

Monmouth University Named to Surfer Magazine’s Best Surf Colleges

January 9, 2018


Surfer Magazine ranked Monmouth University #10 on its list of Best Surf Colleges! Per the article: “Widely considered one of the top private schools in the region, Monmouth offers degrees in 26 undergraduate programs, plus a bounty of learning opportunities for ocean-inclined students through the school’s Urban Coast Institute and internships with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.” Click here to read the magazine’s Monmouth University profile.


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