The mission of the Student Drifter Program, initiated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and now administered by the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation (GOMLF), is “to establish scientific partnerships between schools around the region and engage students in activities and communication about ocean climate science.” NOAA oceanographer James P. Manning spoke with EM about the program and how it benefits students and the environment.
Less than four hours away from Seattle and Vancouver is a different, less urban sort of gem: the University of Washington (UW) Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL). In the midst of the Salish Sea, FHL is a truly unique setting for marine research. Director Billie Swalla spoke with EM about this biological field station set up for exploring the rich and varied ecosystems of the San Juan Archipelago. “We’re a research unit with the University of Washington, part of the College of the Environment,” explains Dr. Swalla, a biologist.
An independent research facility within the School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) has multidisciplinary research and education in tropical marine biology at the heart of its mission. HIMB is also a world leader in applying new technologies to conservation research into Hawaiʻi’s stunning biodiversity. Dr. Judith D. Lemus, HIMB’s interim director and the co-director of the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa’s graduate program in marine biology, spoke to EM about HIMB.
Sometimes if you want to teach kids about water quality, you just need to wade into the subject—at least, that’s the plan between Schuylkill River Greenways (SRG) and the Stroud Water Research Center (SWRC). Citizen science group project facilitator David Bressler of SWRC and SRG education coordinator Sarah Crothers spoke with EM about the environmental education program between SWRC and The Hill School in the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area.
A team from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University working with New Jersey officials has revealed that the state’s water quality indicators—those specific to nutrients—need some work. But unlike some other approaches that focus on chemical analysis or other biological indicators like the health of benthic macroinvertebrates, this technique is focused on tiny, single-celled diatoms, a form of algae. Dr. Don Charles, a senior academy scientist and the principal author of a recent paper spoke to EM about the work.
Alaska is known for its relatively untouched aquatic ecosystem. In fact, thus far the state has experienced fewer invasive marine species than any other state, but thanks to a tiny, tenacious invertebrate, Bugula neritina, that may soon change. Scientists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) and Temple University are now teaming up with citizen scientists to track this and three additional invasive species in the Ketchikan region; considered the gateway to the north’s more pristine waters.
For around four years, aquatic ecologist Scott Roberts has been at the Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) in Colorado, most recently serving as Water Programs Director. Mr. Roberts recently took the time to speak to EM about the MSI and its programs, starting with community and educational outreach. “We’re a not-for-profit, environmental education and research center based in the San Juan Mountains,” explains Mr. Roberts. “We do on the ground environmental research, mine hydrology, water quality monitoring, and forest health monitoring. . .
As Earth’s climate warms, so do its oceans. The ability of the world’s oceans—and the many species that live in them—to adapt to warmer conditions remains a mystery. Researchers are now exploring how benthic macroinvertebrates decompose wood falls, fallen timber deposits, at the bottom of the ocean to determine how much access to food influences biodiversity. Dr. Craig McClain, Executive Director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), spoke to EM about the research.
As wildfires are burning hotter, larger, and more often thanks to our warming climate, they are becoming more destructive and leaving more contaminants, debris, and runoff in their path. Researchers and policymakers are working to identify threats from wildfires to drinking water supplies, and Colorado-based US Geological Survey (USGS) scientist Sheila Murphy spoke to EM about some of the effects wildfire has on drinking water, and how experts might evaluate the risks.
Maine has long been known for its natural beauty and resources, and best practices for stormwater management are essential to preserve those features. The Youth Conservation Corps, a program of the Midcoast Conservancy, is working hard to help local Maine landowners ensure they are following best stormwater management practices and protecting water quality in the process. Midcoast Conservancy Director of Water Conservation, Garrison Beck, spoke with EM about the Youth Conservation Corps. . .
At Florida International University (FIU), teams are monitoring for signs of red tide using data buoys, and citizen scientist volunteers are learning how sea level rise is affecting Miami. Brad Schonhoff, the Program Manager for FIU’s Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment, Southeast Environmental Research Center, and Institute of Water and the Environment, spoke to EM about these innovative programs.
Utah’s Pelican Lake is a hotspot for fishing among locals and tourists alike, but for the past several years it has fallen upon hard times thanks to an invasive species. Recently, officials have been working to alleviate the problem and restore a more balanced ecosystem to the lake. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources regional aquatics manager Trina Hedrick spoke to EM about the process.
“Pelican Lake is a nationally renowned, blue ribbon fishing hole, and has been since the 1970s,” explains Ms. Hedrick.
The most voluminous of the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake, rests at the heart of the local wine industry. Historically the lake has been a cool, clear body of water, but in recent times harmful algal blooms (HABs) have marred its crisp surface. Dan Corbett, vice president of water quality for the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, spoke to EM about what’s being done about HABs in the lake.
“I got engaged in the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association in 2014 as a volunteer for our stream sampling program, and I have been more and more engaged over time,” explains Mr. Corbett.
In Caribbean waters and into the coastal areas off Florida and Georgia in the United States, an exotic-looking invader is threatening local ecosystems: the lionfish. Unfortunately, lacking natural predators and being dangerous to fish thanks to its painful poisonous spines, lionfish aren’t easy to manage. Now, undergraduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have designed and prototyped an underwater robot that might be able to tackle this invasive species and help local fishermen make a profit, too, as much as $20 per pound.
Since the mid-1960s, Australian officials have noticed an “outbreak” in populations of the crown-of-thorns sea stars (COTS). More and more COTS were living on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) for unknown reasons—and this was a problem because these sea stars feed on live coral. A single COTS eats six to 12 square meters of the GBR annually. What constitutes an “outbreak” on the reef? COTS numbers jumping from around 65 per 10,000 square meters to twice that—and as many as 1,000 animals per 10,000 square meters.