WELCOME TO THE
The next series of blog posts will be about Emory's internship in the Gulf of Mexico with US EPA and Mississippi State University in the lab of Dr. Eric Sparks.
How do cities or companies interested in living shorelines get the ball rolling on projects which can protect their waterfront? Often, the first step is a site visit! I just went on my second site visit since being in Mississippi and it turns out they’re a lot of fun. Both of these began either with a local official (the Mayor of Biloxi – the man in the black jacket pointing) or the Safety Director of a chemical plant reaching out to local experts, including my supervisor, Dr. Eric Sparks (in camo). Site visits are fun because they’re essentially an ecological engineering brainstorming session – you tramp out to the shoreline and poke around, identifying native and non-native vegetation, trying to spot oysters or other bivalves, and hypothesizing about the degree to which the shoreline is changing based on Google Earth time lapse photos and the height of the marsh scarp. Site visits are also a great time to bring out the drone to collect high-quality aerial imagery, onto which you can map potential plantings or marsh sills. Site visits are a highly productive way to get out of the office and interact with coastal stakeholders!
The severity of boat wakes and wind waves can make or break the success of an oyster, seagrass, or marsh restoration project. However, the sensors required to collect wave energy data are often extremely expensive and therefore not frequently used. Wave energy plays a big role in my work so I have been very excited to learn how to build do-it-yourself wave gauges at the Sparks Lab. These gauges are built entirely from materials bought at Home Depot or computer parts websites, for a fraction of the price of the typical wave gauge. Though not necessarily difficult, the gauges require A LOT of steps and very precise work. The hardest thing for me was learning how to use a soldering iron. It’s a steep learning curve but a lot of fun, and I am happy to report that I have only seriously burned myself once. Here you can see the completed top portion of a gauge – the small white circle within the red square is the only portion of the instrument which will be exposed to water, and is actually a very sensitive membrane that calculates the pressure exerted on it by passing waves. Next up: trying to learn how to code using Arduino!
CE Field Work in the GBNERR
Do clonal plants “decide” how to best use their limited resources as they grow? Research by Dr. Valerie Reijers in the Netherlands indicates that grasses growing in sand dunes do, and marsh plants might as well. I set out to test this in a different system – namely a salt marsh at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GBNERR) in Moss Point, MS. Here, drought has led to the formation of salt pannes, into which black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) is slowly growing back. With the help of folks from Mississippi State University (MSU) and GBNERR, we very carefully clipped needlerush shoots and replaced each with a pin, like you’d use in quilting. I then photographed these pinned plants, and we excavated the sediment to expose the rhizomes connecting the shoots. In the “After” picture, ALL of those little dots are the heads of pins. With these photos and the knowledge of how the plants connect, I can (theoretically) upload these photos into MATLAB and use Dr. Reijers’ code to assess the distances between shoots and therefore gain insight into the plants’ “priorities.” Wish me luck!
Congratulations to Sarah for successfully defending her thesis today! We are very proud of Sarah and her outstanding research on seagrass ecology!
Check out our new publication on scaling up coastal restoration published in Sustainability from our Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) Working Group: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/3/869.
New publication on coastal wetland loss and restoration from our SNAPP Coastal Restoration working group!
Check out our new publication in Frontiers in Marine Science: "Voluntary Restoration: Mitigation's Silent Partner in the Quest to Reverse Coastal Wetland Loss in the USA"
This work is a product of our Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) Coastal Restoration Working Group.
Check out this great video created by my collaborator Dr. Carter Smith and videographer Mary Lide Parker on living shorelines:
For centuries, humans have been building walls to hold back the sea, but new research shows that creating structures with nature, instead of against it, can enhance coastal sustainability and resilience to storms. This video discusses recent research funded by the North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License Fund.
Check it out: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/rec.12992
We have a new paper out in JEMBE:
Interspecific and intraspecific interactions between fiddler crabs Minuca pugnax (mud fiddler) and Leptuca pugilator (sand fiddler) influence species' burrowing behavior
Check it out!
ECU Coastal Faculty Collaborates Across Disciplines and Universities to Evaluate Shoreline Resilience after Hurricane Florence and Beyond
Nice article by the ECU Coastal Studies Institute about our shoreline resilience research in collaboration with the UNCW CES Lab!
Congratulations to Sarah Donaher for becoming the 2019 NC Coastal Research Fellow!
Sarah will be conducting a study this summer to determine if filter-feeding bivalves (hard clams) can facilitate seagrass recovery from disturbance and enhance overall habitat resiliency. Read more about her fellowship project here:
Gittman Lab Master's student Emory Wellman was one of ten graduate students to receive the Ecological Society of America's 2019 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). As a GSPA recipient, Wellman traveled to Washington, DC in March 2019 to receive policy and communications training and meet with congressional policymakers on Capitol Hill, discussing with them the importance of federal support for the National Science Foundation. Wellman met with the staff of Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and Congressman G.K. Butterfield, emphasizing her own experience receiving NSF funding and the ways in which robust support of biological and ecological sciences benefits the state of North Carolina. Wellman hopes to apply the lessons learned during this trip in future interactions with policy makers at the state and local level, especially those meetings relate to her own research.