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Exhibition Explores Economic and Emotional Toll of Superstorm Sandy through Art, Multimedia

Nearing Anniversary of Sandy, Residents Invited to Post their Stories to Gallery Wall

With the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approaching, a new exhibition at Monmouth University captures the destructive force of the storm and the mounting threats of climate change and sea level rise through abstract and participatory works of art. Free and open to the public, the exhibition encourages residents who were impacted by Sandy to contribute to the installation by sharing their memories on a special wall adorned with satellite imagery of the storm.

“Just Beachy/After Sandy,” featuring the work of Monmouth University Department of Art and Design Professor Karen Bright and Assistant Professor of Communication Amanda Stojanov, can be viewed through Dec. 9 at the DiMattio Gallery, located in Rechnitz Hall. Some of the exhibition’s highlights include:

  • The Drying Station: Nearly a century of scientific data for natural phenomena such as high tide levels, wave heights and wind speeds on the Jersey Shore are interpreted by Bright in the form of beach towel designs. The towel panels hang in an arrangement that allows visitors to walk among and between them.
  • 9 Feet High: Those who endured Sandy can “erase” the storm by covering up this wall of NASA satellite images with their hand-written stories. The colorful prints were designed by Bright with production assistance by Stojanov.
  • The Climate Shelter: Visitors can step into a personal-sized, geodesic-domed shelter to hear and view a digital media interpretation, “Hurricane,” created by Stojanov. The outside is decorated with prints and paintings by Bright – representing a world turned inside out – requiring a new way of thinking about climate and the effects of global warming.
  • The Transformer: At over 10 feet high, this information graphic in the form of a sculpture visualizes the massive number of housing units that were lost in New Jersey and New York as a result of Sandy. Bright’s sculpture is composed of stacked tree rounds topped by two bird houses fashioned to look like green Monopoly game houses, which are sized to mathematically represent the number of lost homes. A sandbox at its base offers visitors a chance to rake or bury a small relic from their Sandy experience, or just provide a moment of release.

“The driving intent for ‘Just Beachy/After Sandy’ is to reach out to people through action,” Bright said. “The installation offers visitors the chance to share their personal stories and release them to the wall, contemplate while raking or digging sand, hear and view a media interpretation of Sandy while sitting in a quite space, and learn while walking through a maze of hanging panels. The hope is that by bringing the community together, people will find personal relief through shared experience.”

Two complementary exhibitions led by Bright will also debut on Sept. 20. “Karen Bright―Throughline,” also at the DiMattio Gallery, features four decades of the artist’s works centered on the environment as well as prevalent social and cultural issues such as the #MeToo movement and politics. ”A Sense of Place in Contemporary Encaustic,” at the neighboring Ice House Gallery, features 24 artists’ works that provide interpretations of space, ranging from serene landscapes to the abstract.

The exhibitions are open for public viewing during standard gallery hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

The exhibitions are also part of the Monmouth University Center for the Arts 2019-2020 season. “Just Beachy/After Sandy” was funded in part by the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute. For more information, visit

Monmouth Polling Institute, UCI to Host Marine Plastics Panel Oct. 2

The Monmouth University Polling Institute and Urban Coast Institute will co-host Marine Plastics: Law, Science and Action at the university’s Lauren K. Woods Theatre on Oct. 2. The event is free and open to the public.

This panel discussion will feature experts from the legal, scientific, and grassroots activism communities to discuss plastics and microplastics in the marine environment, with a focus on challenges and potential solutions for New Jersey. Topics will include an assessment of the nature and degree of risks posed to humans from microplastics in seafood and shellfish, and from plastics such as straws and bags in the marine environment. The panel will evaluate the advantages and limitations of potential responses to this crisis including bans, other legislative initiatives, market mechanisms, and education and activism.

The Polling Institute conducted a New Jersey poll in September that gathered data on the public’s awareness of and degree of concern for the threats that plastics and microplastics pose to New Jersey’s marine environment. Patrick Murray, director of the Polling Institute, will moderate a discussion that also responds to the results of this poll. See the flyer below for more details.

Parking is available at the Woods Theatre complex, located at 370 Cedar Ave., West Long Branch.  Directions to campus and an interactive map of the University/venue are available online. You can also find the Woods Theatre on Google Maps.

Marine Plastics panel flyer

Monmouth University and Rumson to Host Two River Seminar Series

The Monmouth University School of Science and the Borough of Rumson will host a Two River Seminar Series centered on the environment and wildlife of the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers beginning in September. Members of the public of all ages are invited to participate in these educational discussions led by experts from the university’s Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program and Urban Coast Institute.

The series kicks off on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. with “Our Watershed as a Living Laboratory.” The session will cover historic and emerging scientific questions surrounding the rivers, current research efforts focused on the watershed’s health and steps needed to make it more resilient to climate change.

On Oct. 24 at 7 p.m., the series continues with “Rivers Alive: Wildlife and Habitats of the Two River System.” This seminar will explore the area’s unique plant life, wetlands, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

The events will be held at Bingham Hall, located at 40 Bingham Ave. in Rumson. There is no cost to attend.

The Two River Seminar Series is part of a broader educational collaboration between Rumson and Monmouth. Plans are underway to develop a Monmouth Marine and Environmental Field Station on municipal property located behind Borough Hall on the Navesink River. With an array of classrooms, laboratories and meeting spaces, the field station will provide a waterfront location for educational programs and facilitate research opportunities for Monmouth University students, alongside K-12 students from the Rumson School District and surrounding communities.

For more information, contact Karl Vilacoba at or (732) 571-3688.

Ocean Inspires Student Event Poster Designs

By Hanan Al Asadi, UCI Communications Assistant

Students in Associate Professor Jing Zhou’s Digital Illustration course recently designed a series of posters promoting real and fictitious events about the ocean and coastal ecosystems. With the support of a UCI mini-grant, Zhou purchased calligraphy tools and supplies and coached the students to incorporate calligraphical elements into their work. Zhou believes the project provided a valuable design lesson and contribution to the course.

Zhou said her inspiration for the project stemmed from a realization that many of today’s students struggle with performing handwriting illustrations in our modern age of technology. She feels that it is highly important for students to have an artistic appreciation for calligraphy and not to lose their handwriting abilities as the result of a reliance on digital tools.

“From a personal perspective, calligraphy is the aesthetic manifestation of languages and cultures created by hand,” she said.

When Zhou surveyed her students, the majority declared that they hadn’t been exposed to the art of calligraphy.

“It is sad for me to observe new generations who have lost the opportunity to practice writing by hand and, not to mention, the joy and satisfaction of creating tangible work, which is irreplaceable by digitally assisted productions,” Zhou said.

The students’ final posters were created using Adobe Illustrator. Scroll below to view samples of their work.

“Overfishing” by Lauren Haug


“Inked” by Jill Martin


“Stingray City” by Laura Kassin


“Draining Color” by Jenna Capitelli


“Spills” by Noah Rottler-Gurley


‘Climate Change and the Voiceless’ Talk Sept. 26 at Monmouth

August 21, 2019

Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randy Abate will discuss his upcoming book on the legal treatment of “voiceless” victims of climate change on Sept. 26 at Monmouth University. The event is free and open to the public.

‘Climate Change and the Voiceless’ Talk Sept. 26 at Monmouth

Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randy Abate will discuss his upcoming book on the legal treatment of “voiceless” victims of climate change on Sept. 26 at Monmouth University. The event is free and open to the public.

Watch: Students Discuss Summer Science Research Projects

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

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

Turtles of Lake Takanassee: How Does this Assemblage Persist?

Christiana Popo and Travis Kirk

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

Skyler Post and Erin Conlon

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

Kelly Hanna and Victoria Lohnes

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

Ariel Zavala

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

Karolina Szenkiel

The UCI Scholars Program is supported through the generosity of private and corporate donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the Urban Coast Institute, please use our Give a Gift Now contribution form.

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

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

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

By Jason E. Adolf, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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