Abate, now the assistant dean for environmental law studies at the George Washington University Law School, will discuss “climate washing” litigation that seeks to hold fossil fuel companies and other private sector entities accountable for misleading the public about their compliance with climate change mandates or goals. Climate washing tactics can threaten human rights to health, property, food and water, and life, especially in vulnerable communities, by postponing effective climate regulation and thereby amplifying the risks from climate change-related events such as severe storms, flooding, heat and droughts. The presentation will propose mechanisms to help ensure that companies’ characterizations of climate change compliance are transparent and truthful to limit human rights impacts from their efforts to comply with climate change mandates and goals.
Members of the public are welcome to attend virtually. To join by Zoom:
Dial-in option: Call (646) 558-8656 and enter meeting ID: 952 0599 8220
Members of the campus community may also attend in person at Bey Hall Room 129. Space is limited. To RSVP, email Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Peter Jacques at email@example.com.
The Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) and the Global Ocean Forum (GOF) have entered a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to leverage their expertise and resources to advance global ocean policy and research initiatives that mutually align with their missions.
Formed in 2001, the GOF is an international, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting good governance of the ocean, sustainable development for coastal and island peoples around the globe, and healthy marine ecosystems. The GOF brings together ocean leaders from all sectors to advance a global ocean agenda by promoting the implementation of international agreements related to the ocean, coasts, and small island developing states; promoting consensus-building on unresolved ocean issues, including ocean and climate issues, and improving the governance regime for ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction; and anticipating new ocean issues to facilitate forward-thinking policymaking and governance.
The UCI and GOF have collaborated on several initiatives, most recently co-organizing and participating in side events at last summer’s United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon and December’s U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Eqypt. UCI Director Tony MacDonald has served as a member of the GOF’s Policy Advisory Board, and is currently a member of its Board of Directors.
“As a member of the U.S. National Committee for the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, hosted by the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board, I am acutely aware that the challenges facing the oceans off the coast of New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic are similar to those facing other regional urban seas around the world, and in some cases it will take international commitments to reduce the impact of claims on oceans and to protect biodiversity and ecosystem health,” MacDonald said. “I hope that through our collaboration with the GOF, we can add our voice to the call to action to protect the ocean and bring some of the lessons learned from our work at the UCI, as well as learn from what others are doing around the globe.”
The GOF MOA recognized Monmouth’s value as a partner, citing the UCI’s focus on integrated coastal and ocean management and regional ocean planning, as well as the University’s proximity to the U.N. headquarters in New York City and its active U.N. partnerships, including its United Nation Academic Impact membership, the UCI’s official observer status at UNFCCC conference, and the School of Social Work’s collaboration through the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Social Work at the United Nations Initiative.
“The Global Ocean Forum has benefited from the support of a host institution since its inception. Through a strengthened partnership with the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute, the GOF has found its new home,” Global Ocean Forum Executive Director Miriam Balgos said. “This collaboration will provide a strong, science-based foundation ensuring that the GOF remains grounded while responding to the needs of developing countries and stakeholders it continues to serve across various international fora.”
The agreement paves the way for future collaborations including:
Opportunities for Monmouth students to serve as GOF interns and research assistants and participate in international fora.
The development of joint events and workshops that focus on understanding and managing ocean and coastal resources, climate issues and sustainability.
Participation by GOF principals and experts in on-campus lectures, webinars, symposiums and other events organized by the UCI.
Engaging in collaborative research and the collection of data to inform international coastal and ocean management and other topics of mutual interest.
The UCI and GOF will develop an annual work plan to guide their collaborative actions, activities and commitments.
The Fairleigh S. Dickinson, Jr. Foundation has awarded the Urban Coast Institute (UCI) a $75,000 grant to support student and faculty research at Monmouth University from 2023-25. The funding will be used for research that forwards the mission of the UCI, student and class activities aboard Monmouth’s research vessels, and equipment purchases needed to support those endeavors.
Among other needs to be determined, the grant will allow the UCI to obtain a new sediment grab sampler for the University’s largest research vessel, the 49-foot Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe. The device is designed to scoop sand or other materials from the seabed and raise it to the surface, where it can be inspected for marine life, sediment composition or taken to the lab for testing.
The Fairleigh S. Dickinson, Jr. Foundation has been an instrumental supporter of the UCI over the years. Prior gifts have enabled the UCI to initiate programs in water quality testing along the Jersey Shore, increase understanding of water quality and flood warning systems, and to train students on the use of remotely operated underwater vehicles and other marine technologies. A 2018 gift from the Foundation helped restore the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe when it was donated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and outfit it with enhanced technologies. The UCI is thankful for the Foundation’s continued support.
Meredith Comi, an expert in designing, implementing and directing aquaculture, oyster restoration and living shoreline projects, has joined the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) as its coastal resilience and restoration practitioner. Through an agreement with NY/NJ Baykeeper, Comi will continue to guide and build upon a portfolio of projects she previously led as director of the organization’s Coastal Restoration Program, which will transition to Monmouth’s management. She will also work with UCI Associate Director Thomas Herrington to support UCI coastal community resilience work.
Comi’s work will be funded through a combination of external grants and fall under the umbrella of the UCI’s Coastal Community Resilience Initiative (CCRI). The CCRI is focused on providing community resilience and planning support for disadvantaged communities, promoting the development of natural features and green infrastructure to improve the resilience of communities and ecosystems, and working with other Monmouth partners and outside experts to advance elements of the New Jersey Coastal Resilience Plan.
Comi has over 25 years of experience with oyster restoration science and policy issues in New Jersey and has overseen the placement of millions of oysters in the Raritan and Sandy Hook bays, the Navesink River and the greater New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary. After starting her career in 1997 as a technician at the Rutgers University Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Comi became a staff ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sandy Hook Laboratory, where she began her work on the design of reefs that could withstand the conditions of the Raritan Bay. Starting in 2006, she expanded and evolved NY/NJ Baykeeper’s early oyster restoration initiatives, successfully turning what was once an oyster gardening-focused program into a bi-state coastal restoration program.
In 2016, Comi and NY/NJ Baykeeper began a research partnership with Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Earle that allowed for reefs to be installed and monitored in waters that were off limits to the public. The undisturbed 10-acre area has served as an ideal laboratory, yielding lessons on scientific questions such as the best artificial reef shapes for young oysters to cling to, the impacts their filter-feeding have on water quality, and how effective reefs are for stunting wave energy. Comi noted that several students from Monmouth’s Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program joined BY/NJ Baykeeper upon graduation and were instrumental in this work.
“I’ve been proud to see how the hands-on experience that they received as field techs on these projects has led to interest and careers in marine science and how their passion for the subject has endured,” Comi said. “We are still in touch and some still work on the projects when they can and are still involved in the planning and monitoring of projects. That’s something I’m very excited to experience with Monmouth’s students.”
Comi oversees the monitoring of 600 oyster castles – cinder block-size pieces that join together like Legos to form underwater pyramids – that have proven to be viable habitats. Through federal grant funding, Comi and Monmouth will work with the Office of Naval Research and other partners to bolster NWS Earle’s resilience to climate change through a range of natural defenses including the oyster reef.
“Meredith brings a track record of creating and maintaining living shorelines for coastal resilience purposes in our region,” Herrington said. “She has a deep knowledge of every step needed to put an oyster reef in the water, from permitting to design, implementation and monitoring. She is very interested in the research questions surrounding oysters’ survival in urban environments and their potential resilience benefits, and we see these as excellent opportunities for collaboration with students and faculty.”
Comi also served as a biology, marine science and ecology teacher at Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren, New Jersey, from 2003-06. She holds a degree in biology from Rowan University, is the co-chair of the New Jersey Coastal Resilience Collaborative’s Ecological Restoration and Science work group, and serves as a member of the Matawan Environmental Commission.
For her summer research project, marine and environmental biology and policy student Nicole Cappolina studied how sea level rise will impact Clam Cove Island, a small marsh island in the Barnegat Bay. Her analysis concluded that a sharp increase in tidal inundation events will alter the makeup of vegetation on the island, shifting to plant species that will be more salt-tolerant but less effective at protecting nearby Long Beach Island communities from climate change.
Below, Cappolina discusses her research at the 15th Annual School of Science Summer Research Symposium. Each year, the school hosts the public poster session, where students can present the work they conducted from May-August under the supervision of faculty mentors. Abstracts from all of this year’s presenters are available online.
Poster Title: Analyzing the Frequency of Inundation of Clam Cove Island, Holgate, NJ, with Sea Level Rise
Faculty Mentor: Urban Coast Institute (UCI) Associate Director Tom Herrington
Funding Source: UCI Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Program
Abstract: As global sea levels continue to rise, there are growing concerns about the frequency of tidal flooding and its impacts in the near future. Frequent inundation of marshes disrupts the natural balance between salt and freshwater. This imbalance will likely cause a change in vegetation, favoring salt and flood tolerant species. For example, a shift in species of marsh grasses, Spartina patens to Spartina alterniflora, is expected to be seen. Marshes are important ecosystems to conserve as they serve a large role in protecting coastal communities from flooding and possible destruction. A regime shift in marsh ecosystems could result in less resilience and protection.
Clam Cove Island is one of several barrier marshlands that borders Long Beach Island, New Jersey. In recent years, it has suffered significant erosion. The aim of this research was to analyze the frequency of inundation of Clam Cove with sea level rise. Historic water levels recorded at the Rutgers Field Station in Tuckerton, NJ from 2003-2017 were used to determine how frequently the water elevation was above the surface elevation of Clam Cove, which is about 1.5 ft above the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD88). The results show that water elevations currently exceed this threshold of about 18 high tides per year. Expected sea level rise rates under moderate emission scenarios provided by Rutgers University were then used to predict future frequency of inundation events. This analysis found that by 2030, Clam Cove would experience inundation for 138 high tides per year. This number exponentially increases to about 360 times per year by 2050, 614 times by 2070, and 717 times by 2100, which is about 358 days of the year. This research can be used to develop sea level rise management strategies and marsh restoration to ensure safety to surrounding coastal communities.
This summer, marine and environmental biology and policy student Brooke van de Sande conducted experimental research on the accuracy of detecting humpback whales with trace genetic materials floating in the ocean. Working aboard Jersey Shore Whale Watch’s tour vessel, van de Sande collected water samples when whales were observed nearby and will now work with Monmouth University faculty researchers to lab test them for the presence of environmental DNA (eDNA).
Below, van de Sande discusses her research at the 15th Annual School of Science Summer Research Symposium. Each year, the school hosts the public poster session, where students can present the work they conducted from May-August under the supervision of faculty mentors. Abstracts of all of this year’s presentations are available online.
Poster Title: Comparing Visual Sightings of Marine Mammals with Environmental DNA (eDNA) Samples Along the New Jersey Coastline
Faculty Mentors: Jason Adolf, Ph.D., and Sam Chin, Ph.D., Monmouth University Department of Biology; Danielle Brown, Jersey Shore Whale Watch/Rutgers University Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources
Funding Sources: Monmouth University School of Science; Department of Biology; Urban Coast Institute
Abstract: Over the last decade, there has been an apparent increase in marine mammal sightings, specifically humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), along the New Jersey coast. To maintain effective conservation parameters for these and other cetaceans in the area, it is crucial to track and understand how they move about and use the New Jersey coastline as their habitat for large periods of the year. Although visual surveillance is commonly used to track marine mammals, the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) holds promise as a supplementary surveillance methodology. This research aims to compare visual sightings of humpback whales with detections by eDNA metabarcoding. Samples for eDNA detection will be taken within 100 feet of whales then be compared to the eDNA from the control samples that were taken when there were no visual sightings of whales in the area or on a given day. It was hypothesized that DNA would always be detected in the water for humpback whales and any other marine mammals that were visually observed from 100 feet away or less. It was also hypothesized that DNA would continuously be detected in the control water samples without any visual sightings due to whales residing along the coast for several months at a time. To assess how other factors affect eDNA signals, variables such as whale behavior, location, water temperature, sea state, and other marine animal sightings were recorded for each sample. The information gained from this research will allow for a greater understanding of how cetaceans utilize the New Jersey coastline during the summer months while providing support for ongoing visual sightings.
Surfers at beaches where stormwater drainage pipes discharge into the ocean risk catching more than waves on a rainy day. Monmouth University researchers studying the influence of weather and ocean conditions on microbial pollution found that within 6-24 hours of moderate rainfall, enterococcus bacteria levels exceeded state health safety standards about half the time at these beaches. While rain is a known driver of illness-causing microbial pollution at New Jersey beaches, this was the first peer-reviewed study to formally investigate the linkage.
Endowed Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf and Specialist Professor Jeff Weisburg of Monmouth University’s Biology Department collected water samples with students on dry days and following storms at five Monmouth County beaches with outflow pipes in 2019 and 2020. The research was conducted both in the summer bathing season, when the state monitors pollution levels weekly, and from September-May, which is not regularly monitored by the state. Although the throngs of beachgoers largely vanish after Labor Day, the fall and winter months are considered prime surfing season for the Jersey Shore and its waters remain crowded with riders taking advantage of hurricane swells.
“Without a system on the beach to warn them, surfers could unknowingly be exposed to bacteria that can cause respiratory infections, nausea, abdominal pain and fevers,” said Dr. Weisburg, whose research focus is immunology and disease. “Since the restrictions on which beaches you’re allowed to surf at are lifted in the offseason, surfers should take advantage of the other beaches open to them and steer clear of outfall pipes during and after rains.”
The samples were tested for enterococcus levels and checked for relationships with data for three important drivers: precipitation, which transports animal waste and other pollutants to beaches via stormwater discharges; water temperature, which determines how easy it is for bacteria to thrive; and tide stage, which can control whether the pollutants are diluted or concentrated.
Model Accurately Predicts Microbial PollutionBased on Environmental Data
The research found that rainfall within 6-24 hours of sampling and higher water temperatures were the best predictors of high enterococcus counts, although exceedances of the state regulatory threshold of 104 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 mL seawater were found in all seasons – even in seas as cold as 44 degrees, following rainy periods. Although not an explicit part of this study, observations during sampling suggested that these bacteria spikes subsided quickly at these sites, within one or two days of occurring.
The researchers created a model that could predict the likelihood of bacteria spikes at the sampling sites with accuracy based on data for rainfall accumulations, water temperature and water levels. When the model focused on sites having stormwater drainage in the surf zone, its predictions that levels would exceed the state threshold were correct 69 percent of the time; it was a perfect 100 percent when it predicted levels would stay safely below the threshold.
Adolf said a model of this type, if expanded statewide, could be used to augment the state’s own system for monitoring water quality and advising bathers when the ocean is unsafe. New Jersey regularly samples on Mondays and only follows up with tests on Tuesdays or beyond if it detects a CFU count above 104.
The five sampling sites offered case studies in how the setup of outfalls could impact the results. A site where overflow water drained from Wesley Lake in Asbury Park had the highest percentage of samples above the threshold. The percentage was lowest at Neptune Boulevard in Deal, where the water drained into a sandy dune area that essentially filtered it before it reached the ocean. The results were more consistent at Roosevelt Avenue in Deal, and South Bath Avenue and Ocean Place in Long Branch, where the pipes all drained stormwater into the surf zone area.
The researchers also used the model generated in this study to “back cast” enterococcus levels at the same beaches using about 20 years of historical hourly rainfall, water temperature, and water level data. The output was used to test the efficacy of different sampling scenarios.
“Over the long term at the sites we studied, you’re going to detect about one in seven exceedance events if you’re only sampling one out of seven days because the nature of rainfall is random and the response of microbial pollution is rapid,” Adolf said. “If it happens to rain on the weekend or early Monday, you’re going to get a lot of exceedances when you measure on Monday. But if it rains on Tuesday through Saturday, the beaches we studied are likely to exceed enterococcus levels within 24 hours and will probably be clear by the following Monday. We recognize the logistical challenges to daily sampling, but our research suggests you can supplement weekly monitoring with modeling that predicts the water’s safety based on environmental parameters which are already being measured all the time.”
The study was published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. It was co-authored by Monmouth graduates Kelly Hanna and Victoria Lohnes with research contributions by Monmouth graduates Maria Riley, Skyler Post, Ariel Zavala, and Erin Conlon. Associate Professor of Geography Geoffrey Fouad made important editorial contributions to the paper. Funding for the research was provided by the Surfers Environmental Alliance, the Monmouth University School of Science and the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute.
Monmouth University is hiring four grant-funded (2023-25) positions for fisheries monitoring related to offshore wind development off the New Jersey coast. These positions will work as part of a growing team within the research labs of Professors Keith Dunton and Jason Adolf at Monmouth University (and collaborators at St. Anselm College, Stony Brook University, and New England Aquarium), working on acoustic telemetry monitoring and eDNA of various offshore wind development areas.
Interviews will begin immediately with a proposed start date ASAP. Scroll below for overviews of four open research positions at Monmouth University and click the links to learn more or apply for these jobs.
Marine Fisheries Acoustic Telemetry Senior Scientist – Full time 2-year grant funded. Begins ASAP. Up to $70,000 per year depending on experience. PhD. preferred or an MS with relevant work experience.
The incumbent will coordinate and lead field research related to assessing marine fish communities using acoustic telemetry as a monitoring tool in offshore wind areas. The incumbent will primarily be responsible for deploying and maintaining a large offshore (up to 50 miles offshore) Innovasea acoustic telemetry array and surgically tagging multi-species, including elasmobranchs and finfish. Ability to operate small boats, independently lead fisheries sampling seasonally in offshore conditions, and work with partner commercial/recreational fishing industries, as well as other academic institutions is a must. The incumbent will also be expected to lead report and manuscript writing, data analysis, presentations at national meetings, and contribute to outreach and education.
Environmental DNA / Marine Fisheries Senior Scientist – Full time 2-year grant funded. Begins ASAP. Up to $70,000 per year depending on experience. Phd Preferred but extensive experience with acoustic telemetry can be substituted.
The incumbent will coordinate and lead field/lab research related to assessing marine fish communities using eDNA across pre-during-post construction phases of an offshore wind farm. This includes collection of eDNA samples, hydrographic (CTD) data, as well as conducting field experiments related to the sampling. The incumbent will also lead laboratory processing of eDNA samples, including filtration, DNA extraction, and metabarcoding library construction, as well as analyses. Offshore fisheries and eDNA sampling trips will occur seasonally (quarterly), and the incumbent will be in charge of preparing for/leading/processing/helping to analyze samples from the eDNA component of these sampling trips. Sampling trips are coordinated with fish trawling trips (up to 7d duration at sea) conducted by a partner university, and the incumbent will be expected to contribute to fish sampling (e.g., sorting, measuring, weighing, tagging, fin clip sampling) on these trips. The incumbent will be expected to lead report/manuscript writing, presentations at national meetings, and contribute to outreach and education.
Marine Fisheries Acoustic Telemetry Field Specialist – Full time 2-year grant funded. Begins ASAP. Up to $58,000 per year depending on experience. MS preferred but extensive experience with acoustic telemetry can be substituted.
The incumbent will assist and, in some cases, lead field research related to assessing marine fish communities using acoustic telemetry as a monitoring tool in offshore wind areas. The Specialist will primarily be responsible for assisting in the deploying and maintaining a large offshore (up to 50 miles offshore) Innovasea acoustic telemetry array and surgically tagging multi-species, including elasmobranchs and finfish. The incumbent is expected to operate small boats, independently lead fisheries sampling seasonally in offshore conditions and work with partner commercial/recreational fishing industries, as well as other academic institutions is a must. The incumbent will be expected to assist in preparing reports and manuscripts, presentations at national meetings, and contribute to outreach and education.
Offshore Wind Fisheries and Oceanographic Technician – Full time 2-year grant funded. Begins ASAP. Up to $51,000 per year depending on experience. BS (or higher) in Marine Science or related field.
The incumbent will assist staff in a variety of tasks in assessing marine fish communities using acoustic telemetry and eDNA as a monitoring tool in offshore wind areas. The technician will assist in sampling water and fish offshore as well as prepare and maintain a variety of sampling equipment. The incumbent should be comfortable working on various sized vessels and working offshore conditions.
The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) welcomed 18 students participating in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Inclusive Fisheries InternSHip (IN FISH) program aboard the R/V Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe on June 9 for a research cruise on Sandy Hook Bay.
IN FISH is a partnership program between NOAA Fisheries and research partners in academia and non-governmental research institutions which aims to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce. The 10-week experience includes a two-week course on ecosystem dynamics complex systems and eight weeks of project experience working with a mentor in science or management at a NOAA or partner institution marine research lab or marine resources program office. Students receive two credits through the University of Maryland Eastern Shore that are transferable to their institutions, as well as a stipend, tuition and course supplies.
For the second consecutive year, the two-week course was based at Monmouth University. Students stayed at Monmouth’s Garden Apartments and participated in daily educational activities on and off campus, visiting facilities around the region such as the Lund’s Fisheries processing plant in Cape May, the NOAA James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory, the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, and the Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership. Monmouth was also a partner in the debut year of IN FISH in 2021, which was conducted virtually.
The cruise offered the students an opportunity to get hands-on training conducting plankton tows, using sediment grab samplers, collecting CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) meter data, and testing other equipment under the guidance of UCI Marine Scientist Jim Nickels and Field Operations Assistant Mitch Mickley.
“I was impressed by what excellent students they were and what bright futures they have,” Nickels said. “I’ve enjoyed working with the IN FISH program these last two years and see it as an academic-NOAA partnership that is beneficial for all involved.”
Students hailed from 16 universities located in 10 U.S. states and territories, some as far away as Puerto Rico, California and Oklahoma. Among them was Monmouth University’s Marie Mauro, a rising senior majoring in marine and environmental biology and policy who will complete her research internship in Maine.
The UCI’s participation in IN FISH is the latest step in its commitment to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and justice on and off campus and through its ocean science and policy programs.
A study co-authored by Urban Coast Institute Fisheries and Ocean Conservation Fellow Jay Odell in the journal Fish and Fisheries probed the condition of over 300 fisheries selected from a pool of nearly 2,000 state-managed, territory-managed and unmanaged fisheries in the U.S. The status of federally managed fisheries is assessed every year to determine which have been overfished and/or are being harvested at unsustainable rates. This study is the first to provide a comprehensive assessment of non-federally managed and unmanaged fisheries.
Although state-managed and unmanaged fisheries comprise about 40 percent of the total value of U.S. wild harvest fisheries, the stock status is unknown for nearly four out of five of them. The researchers found that for the 19 percent that had known status, only 16 percent had clearly healthy status and more than half did not partially or fully meet criteria for acceptable stock condition.
“Everyone says U.S. fisheries are the best managed in the world and there’s some truth to that,” Odell said. “However, that only applies to fisheries managed under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Although there are many well-managed state fisheries, as a group, most are unmanaged and most are in poor condition.”
More than half of the respondents (state fish and wildlife agency fishery experts) surveyed said they were constrained by lack of resources. Another factor that came up was the intensive demand to assist with the federal fishery management system. Odell said this points to the need for greater investment in state/territorial fisheries management throughout the nation.
Odell completed the research while a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) staff in 2022. Fellow co-authors were from TNC and the University of Washington (UW), using a modified version of the Fishery Management Index methodology previously developed and published by UW researchers.
The full study, “Characterizing state-managed and unmanaged fisheries in coastal marine states and territories of the United States,” is available online. A UW blog summarizing the research can also be found here.