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.”
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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).
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.
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/VHeidi 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.
“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.
The Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) and Urban Coast Institute (UCI) kicked off their 2020 Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series on Oct. 12 with Dr. Wil Burns, co-executive director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University. Burns delivered a lecture titled, “Antacids for the Sea: The Potential Role of Ocean Alkalinization Enhancement in Combating Climate Change.” Click here to download slides (PDF, 2 MB) or here for information about additional lectures in the series.
It is becoming increasingly clear that achievement of the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets will require both aggressive policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and large-scale deployment of so-called “carbon dioxide removal” options, i.e. processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere to reduce radiative forcing. While much of the early research in this context focused on terrestrial options, scalability and sustainability issues have led to increasing interest in ocean-based approaches. This presentation focuses on one of the more promising options: ocean alkalinization enhancement, which seeks to enhance storage of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans through the addition of limestone or other substances. The presentation will examine the potential effectiveness of this approach, potential risks to ocean ecosystems, and avenues for international governance.
Dr. Wil Burns is a Professor of Research and Founding Co-Executive Director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law & Policy at American University in Washington, DC. Prior to this, he served as the Founding Co-Executive Director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment at American, Director of the Energy Policy & Climate program at Johns Hopkins University, and Assistant Secretary of State for Policy for the state of Wisconsin.
He also serves as the Co-Chair of the International Environmental Law Section of the American Branch of the International Law Association. Previously, he served as President of the Association of Environmental Studies & Sciences and was the 2019 recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Scholarship and Service in the field. His research agenda includes: climate geoengineering, climate loss and damage, and the effectiveness of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System. He received his Ph.D. in International Law from the University of Wales-Cardiff School of Law and is the author of more than 80 publications.
Monmouth University students and researchers recently returned to Crosswicks Creek in Bordentown, New Jersey, where two ships destroyed in the Revolutionary War were found over the winter (read story in Monmouth magazine). The team is now gathering aerial drone footage as part of a project to create 3D models of the remains. Learn more in this video featuring interviews with Monmouth GIS Program Program Director Geoff Fouad, student researcher Bre DiRenzi, and Urban Coast Institute Field Operations Assistant Mitch Mickley.
With grant support from the UCI’s Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Program, Monmouth University students London Jones and Aidan Bodeo-Lomicky conducted research on two timely topics: Discriminatory barriers to beach access in New Jersey and threats to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. We caught up with London and Aidan recently to ask a few questions about their research. Read what they had to say and download copies of their papers below.
Q: Your research focused on Asbury Park, Belmar and Cape May as case studies. What was your reasoning for selecting those three towns?
My reasoning behind the selection of Asbury Park, Belmar, and Cape May was that I aimed for difference in coastal location, town history, population, and racial composition so that my case studies could encapsulate all types of New Jersey beach towns. I want my proposal to be adopted statewide, so it was pertinent for me not to only focus on towns in a certain category, like those in South Jersey or those with only wealthy residents. Rather, I selected a diverse mix of towns to highlight the common flaw they share despite their differences: the beach tag.
Q: While Jersey Shore visitors generally regard the beach tag as a hassle, it is seldom discussed from the standpoint of imposing racially discriminatory burdens. How does the practice of requiring them impose an unfair burden on Black beachgoers?
As described in my paper, the practice of requiring beach tags imposes a disproportionate burden on Black beachgoers in cost, access, and how beach tag revenues are spent. Historically, beach tags were imposed as a way of keeping nonresidents off the beaches of certain towns, which had populations majorly consisting of white communities. Although rights for public access along New Jersey beaches have been secured, the constant increases in beach tag prices and caps on numbers of tags sold restricts access for low income communities and those who do not reside in the beach towns, which is primarily the Black community. Additionally, beach tag revenues are then spent on frivolous beach amenities rather than necessary spending to make those shorelines safer and more accessible to those who either visit after hours or forego attending the beach all together to avoid the need for beach tags.
Q: Do you believe there were discriminatory motives behind the beach access barriers discussed in your paper or are they policies that carry that unintended consequence?
As underscored by the Black Lives Matter movement, many majority communities do not always have the best interests of the Black community in mind. While many past instances of discrimination on the Jersey shore, as described in my paper, have been motivated by discriminatory intent, I do not believe that the current beach access barriers have been imposed due to discriminatory motives. Rather, these barriers cause unintended consequences to the Black communities, placing unfortunate burdens on their lives when attending their favorite shore towns. Nonetheless, any impact to the Black community, purposeful or not, should be addressed with urgency and sensitivity.
Year and Major: Junior; Major: Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy; Minor: Political Science
Q: Scientists estimate there are only about 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the wild. What are some of the ways that climate change is exacerbating the threat to them?
Climate change is warming the waters off New England faster than any other region on the planet, which is having severe impacts on this aquatic ecosystem. The primary food source for the North Atlantic right whale is a subarctic zooplankton called Calanus finmarchicus, and these copepods must migrate to colder, deeper waters to survive this warming. Naturally, the whales must follow their food, and as they do so, they enter new regions without the same protections against ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement. Since 2017, 10% of the entire North Atlantic right whale population has been killed or severely injured, with most of these incidents occurring in new habitats that have not historically warranted conservation measures for this species but now do as a result of climate change. Furthermore, as the whales must travel greater distances to feed, they expend valuable energy and time, which lowers their overall health and reproductive success. Climate change has rapidly thrown this entire region out of balance, and now it is up to managers to quickly adapt in an effective way.
Q: The issues of right whales suffering from ship strikes and entanglements with fishing gear have attracted a lot of attention from scientists and the public. Did you find that the threats from climate change have been adequately studied to date?
It certainly never hurts to learn more about the threats to a critically endangered species, especially when they involve an issue as dynamic and far-reaching as climate change. However, the science is already quite clear and the North Atlantic right whale simply does not have any time to waste. Immediate actions must be taken to protect this incredible species, or it will be lost forever. Once these actions are taken, more time and money can be put towards gaining further insight into how climate change is affecting the region so that future adaptation methods can be more effective.
Q: You propose a series of short- and long-term measures to protect right whales, including expanded speed restrictions in their habitat areas and mandates for the use of ropeless gear for some fisheries. If enacted, what kind of difference would you expect to see in their populations?
Removing the fast-moving vessels and dangerous fishing ropes from the areas where right whales are (or will soon be) found will have immediate positive impacts on the population. Just this summer, a 1-year-old right whale was killed by a ship strike in Elberon, New Jersey, a few minutes away from Monmouth University’s campus. If vessel speed reductions had been extended later into the summer here, this calf would still be swimming alongside his mother. Similarly, fishing gear presents both lethal and sublethal threats to whales, including the reproductive success of mature females, so removing the ropes will create benefits that go even beyond this generation of whales. Ropeless fishing gear is already being developed and implemented in other regions, so it is simply a matter of having the political and economic will to implement it in New England.