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Water Quality & Ecosystem Health

The UCI works with communities and government agencies at all levels to help monitor and protect the health of coastal water bodies. It coordinates the Coastal Lakes Community Observing Network (CLONet), a citizen science partnership with municipalities and community groups dedicated to understanding the causes of environmental problems facing seaside lakes in Monmouth County. Through the work of Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf and Marine Scientist Jim Nickels, the UCI is engaged in several efforts to study the threats posed to coastal ecosystems by factors such as harmful algal blooms, water pollution, marine debris and sediment contamination.

The UCI maintains three research vessels, equipment and technologies used to monitor water quality in the region. For several years, the UCI operated a network of eight real-time water quality monitoring stations in the northern estuaries of New Jersey in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Barnegat Bay Partnership, Monmouth County Board of Health, local and regional watershed management groups, and other partners.

Resources and Recent Activities

  • 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. (August 2023)
  • A Monmouth University-led study probed a seasonal cycle responsible for harmful algal blooms in Deal Lake (January 2023).
  • The UCI coordinates a Coastal Lakes Community Observing Network (CLONet) that partners Monmouth faculty and student researchers with community residents to monitor the health of local lakes. With grant support from the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation, the project will continue through 2023.
  • Monmouth scientists are conducting a first-of-its-kind study that uses genetic materials extracted from the ocean to determine whether the development of turbines and power infrastructure has an impact on fish populations and demographics in the Ocean Wind 1 project area. (July 2022)
  • Monmouth received a $127,600 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to monitor Sunset and Deal lakes as part of a study of factors driving cyanobacterial harmful algal bloom formation in New Jersey lakes. (February 2022)
  • Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf has been selected to lead a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Expert Team formed to provide guidance to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on HAB prevention, mitigation and management for the state’s lakes and other waterbodies. (January 2021)
  • The UCI is the project lead in a study of sediment contamination levels in New York Harbor and its tributaries.
  • The Monmouth Polling Institute and UCI conducted a survey of New Jerseyans’ views on plastic bag bans and plastic pollution and discussed the findings during the October 2019 panel event “Marine Plastics: Law, Science and Action.”
  • The UCI maintains the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network website and is helping the organization develop a region-wide acidification monitoring plan through our work on the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal.