Complete Project List

There are currently over 50 research projects happening at the Reserve. Some of these are conducted by in-house Reserve staff, some by scientists from other institutions  such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Marine Biological Laboratory, USGS, Boston University, UMass, URI, etc. Sometimes Reserve scientists work closely with these outside groups, sometimes they offer just logistical support such as boat rides or lab space, and sometimes the Reserve is only minimally involved. All visiting researchers have access to the wealth of data and information accumulated over 25 years of hundreds of studies. To search projects by subject, click the subject on the right-hand bar.

 

Monitoring wind waves in Nantucket Sound off South Cape Beach

Maxim Sheremet (Sturgis Charter Public School)

Chris Weidman (WBNERR)

South Cape Beach Wave Exp_Poster_NaturalHistoryConference_2016

Tracking bird and bat movements using nanotag transmitters and VHF arrays

Pam Loring (University of Massachusetts – Amherst)

Funding Source(s): Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, National Science Foundation

Remotely Determining Tidal Currents and Volumetric Discharge

Erika D. Johnson

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Funding Source(s): Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Effects of estuarine acidification on bivalve settlement

Lauren Mullineaux, Dan McCorkle and Bill Martin (WHOI)

Funding Source(s): WHOI Coastal Ocean Institute

CO2 Flux Sensor System

Anna Michel, Zoe Sandwith (WHOI)

Funding Source(s):          WHOI

Quantifying the biogenic silica content of primary producers in Waquoit Bay

Robinson W. “Wally” Fulweiler (lead PI) / Sarah Foster \ PhD student) / Mollie Yacano (undergraduate researcher)

Boston University, Earth and Environment Department

Funding Source(s):  Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), Boston University

Flux measurements using the eddy covariance technique

Matthew Long, WHOI

Funding Source(s):     WHOI

Bird Predation Exclusion

Jarret Byrnes, Farah Ahmad

UMASS Boston

Distribution and range expansion of blue crabs and their interactions with green crabs

Tanya Rogers, David Kimbro (Northeastern University Marine Science Center)

Funding Source(s):     Northeastern University; National Science Foundation

Investigating Salt Marshes as a source of Alkalinity and Low pH, High CO2 water to the Ocean

Kevin Kroeger, Meagan Gonneea (U.S. Geological Survey: Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center)

Aleck Wang (WHOI)

Funding Source(s):                 USGS, NSF

Exploring controls on the decomposition of salt marsh grass

Amanda Spivak

WHOI

Funding Source(s):     WHOI

Decreased atmospheric nitrogen deposition effects on water and vegetation quality in Waquoit Bay

2016

Ivan Valiela/ Elizabeth Elmstrom

Marine Biological Laboratory- The Ecosystems Center

Funding Source(s): WHOI Sea Grant

Examining decapod community composition and species interactions in salt marshes across New England

2016

Harriet Booth, Patrick Barrett, Meredith Burke, Dr. David Kimbro

Northeastern University

Funding Source(s):                 Northeastern University

Distinguishing denitrifying organisms across gradients

2016

Robinson W. Fulweiler(Boston University); Teri O’Meara (University of Auckland)

Funding Source(s):     Boston University, University of Auckland

Tea bag decomposition experiment

PIs: Dr. Faming Wang, Dr. Jianwu (Jim) Tang, Marine Biological Laboratory

teabagWe use commercially available tea bags as standardised test kits to gather data on salt marsh decomposition rates. This is a cost-effective, well-standardised method. By using two tea types with contrasting decomposability, we can construct a decomposition curve using a single measurement in time. We will compare the decomposition rate within the high marsh and low marsh, and also in the warmed chamber versus ambient reference. Our data was also included in a worldwide cooperation network to investigate the decomposition rate in different ecosystems using the tea bag method.

To read more about the tea bag experiment and its relationship to blue carbon research, please visit:

http://bluecarbonlab.org/ and also http://www.teatime4science.org/about/the-project/

Endangered shorebird migratory and flight tracking – testing improved radio telemetry techniques

PI: Darrell Oakley, ESS Group, Inc.
Matt Robertson, ESS Group, Inc.

In-situ ecosystem metabolism measured by eddy correlation

PI: Matthew Long, WHOI
Funding: WHOI

Economic and societal impacts of estuarine eutrophication: Waquoit Bay

PI: Hauke-Kit Powell, WHOI
Julia Mason, WHOI Summer Student
Funding: WHOI Summer Student Program

Quantifying the Impact of Low Oxygen Conditions on Sediment Methane Fluxes in Waquoit Bay

PI: Wally Fulweiler, Boston University Marine Program
Funding: MIT-Seagrant

WallyThe negative consequences of excess nutrient loading alter estuarine sediment nutrient cycling in general and the production of methane in particular.  On a per molecule basis, the impact of methane on climate is over 20 times greater than carbon dioxide (over a 100 year period).  And even though estuaries make up a small portion of the total global ocean area they contribute about 10% of the total ocean methane emissions. Thus, quantifying how the production of methane in estuaries changes seasonally and spatially is an important step in our understanding of coastal systems and future climate. The purpose of this ongoing research is to quantify sediment methane production in Waquoit Bay, MA and to determine how low oxygen conditions alter these rates.  To do this we collect sediment cores at four sites exposed to varying oxygen conditions in the Waquoit Bay system and measure methane fluxes across the sediment-water interface. Additionally, we will conduct experimental manipulations where we alter the oxygen conditions in the overlying water to see how this impacts methane fluxes. For more information please go to: www.fulweilerlab.com and follow us @Fulweilerlab.

Experimental mapping of coastal habitats using small airborne remote-sensing technology

PI: Hanu Singh, WHOI
David Fisichella, WHOI
Jim Rassman, WBNERR

WHOI scientists are working with Reserve staff, using a small hobby-plane equipped with GPS and camera to take high-resolution photos of the salt marsh and shore at South Cape Beach. These photos are useful for public presentations, but more importantly can map change over time, damage from storms, results of controlled burns, animal populations (such as seals), etc. TOTE 2012- jcm 005IMG_6933

A decade of nutrient monitoring in Waquoit Bay: Analysis of the Baywatcher Water Quality Monitoring Database

PIs: Meagan Gonneea, MIT / WHOI Joint Program, PhD Candidate, NERRS GRF
Isaiah Bolden, WHOI Summer Student, Bowdoin College
Funding: WHOI Summer Student Program

Effects of Ocean Acidification on the Food Location Behavior of the Marine Snail P. longicarpus

PIs: Ivan Valiela, MBL Ecosystems Center
Oliver Newman, WHOI Guest Student
Funding: WHOI, Mariot Foundation

 

Investigations of Interspecific Hybridization in Ammodramus Sparrows

PIs: Adrienne Kovach, University of New Hampshire
Jennifer Walsh, University of New Hampshire
Funding: USFWS, UNH Seagrant

 

Isotopic Composition of Marine Carbonate Fluid Inclusions – Development of a Biorecording Methodology for Marine and Estuarine Environments

PIs: Weifu Guo, WHOI
Chris Weidman, WBNERR
Funding: WHOI, WBNERR collaborative in-kind

 

Collaborative Research: Does Environmental Context Moderate Functional Diversity Effect on Estuarine Sediment Biogeochemistry

PI: Amanda Spivak, WHOI
Funding: WHOI

 

Invasive Marine Tunicates in Eelgrass

PIs: Mary Carman, WHOI
Phil Colarusso, EPA-Boston

 

Illuminating Chordate Evolution: the Acorn Worm

PIs: Chris Lowe, University of Chicago, MBL
Ariel Pani, University of Chicago, MBL

 

Greenhouse Gas Sensing in Coastal and Salt Marsh Environments

PI: Anna Michel, Princeton University (WHOI in Fall 2012)
Funding: WHOI and submitted grants (NSF, MIT Seagrant)

 

The Effects of Nitrogen-loading on Arthropod Diversity and Food-Web Dynamics in Salt Marshes

PIs: Gina Wimp, Georgetown University
Dan Lewis, Georgetown University
Shannon Murphy, Denver University
Funding: NSF

 

Salt Marsh Sediment Sources – the role of Barrier Beach Aeolian Sand Transport and Deposition

PI: Camille David, UMASS-Dartmouth, PhD Candidate
Advisor: Brian Howes, UMASS-Dartmouth
Funding: UMASS-Dartmouth, WBNERR collaborative in-kind

 

Seawater Circulation in Coastal Aquifers: Processes and Impacts

PI: Hanan Karam, MIT, PhD Candidate
Advisor: Charles Harvey, MIT
Funding: EPA Star Graduate Fellowship

 

Estuarine Hydrodynamics – the velocity field, tides, seiching, and storm-generated currents

PIs: Vitalii Sheremet, University of RI, NOAA NMFS Research Fellow
Chris Weidman, WBNERR
Funding: NOAA NMFS Research Fellowship, WBNERR collaborative in-kind

 

Development of a Towed Precision- Benthic Resistivity Mapping Tool

PIs: Rob Evans, WHOI
Greg Schultz, Sky Research, Inc.
Funding: Sky Research, Inc.

 

Sub-estuarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD), Dissolved Nutrients and the Production of Benthic Microalgae

PIs: Rachel Stanley, WHOI
Evan Howard, WHOI
Funding: WHOI

 

Comparing Methods and the Stability of Deep-Driven Rod Elevation Benchmarks and SETs in a Salt Marsh Environment

IMG_2761PIs: Philippe Hensel, National Geodetic Survey
Galen Scott, National Geodetic Survey, University of RI
Jim Lynch, US Geological Survey
WBNERR Staff: Jim Rassman, Jordan Mora, Chris Weidman

Description: Sediment Elevation Tables (SETs) and benchmarks are used to measure change in marsh elevation with millimeter scale accuracy to determine sedimentation rates. This information, combined with accurate water level measures, can assess whether salt marshes are keeping up with sea level rise or risk being “drowned.” Traditionally SETs and benchmarks are installed by driving metal rods deep into the earth until they hit resistance. This can be difficult and costly as each 4’ length of rod is expensive. This project is investigating whether it is necessary to drive the rods that deep, or whether they are just as stable at, say, 20’ depth. Rods have been driven to different depths in the South Cape Beach salt marsh and are being “leveled” regularly – measured against a known point – to see if they have shifted. If not, this research could result in new standards for installation of this infrastructure which would save significant time and money. This is one of a growing number of projects in the new “Climate Change Observatory” in this marsh.

 

Development of an In-situ Automated pCO2 and Alkalinity Sensor Instrument – RATS

PIs: Dan McCorkle, WHOI
Bill Martin, WHOI
Fred Sayles, WHOI
Funding: WHOI Coastal Institute, collaborative in-kind WBNERR

 

Ocean / Estuarine Acidification – pCO2, pH and Aragonite Saturation State in Waquoit Bay and its Potential Impact on Shellfish

PIs: Dan McCorkle, WHOI
Bill Martin, WHOI
Anne Cohen, WHOI
Funding: WHOI, collaborative in-kind WBNERR

 

Late Holocene Marine Transgression and the Drowning of a Coastal Forest: Lessons from the Past

Chris Maio

PI: Chris Maio, UMASS-Boston, PhD Candidate.

Advisor: Allan Gontz, UMASS-Boston

Funding: UMASS-Boston, Geological Society of America Research Award, collaborative in-kind-WBNERR

My research looks at coastal changes that have occurred in response to sea-level rise and storminess during the past 4000 years. I use a variety of methods including sediment core analysis, ground penetrating radar, GIS, and radiocarbon dating. Learning about how the Waquoit estuarine system responded to past sea level-rise and storminess will provide needed context for understanding and anticipating future changes.
An ancient red cedar forest was first revealed after a series of storms in 2010 resulted in significant erosion along South Cape Beach revealing 111 subfossil stumps along the beach and into the water. Thirteen stumps were radiocarbon dated and ranged in age from ~413-1200 years old. We assume this age represents the time at which the ancient trees were drowned by marine waters. Shoreline change analysis showed that between 1846 and 2008, the shoreline fronting the paleoforest retreated landward by 70 m at a long-term rate of 0.43 m/yr. paleo forest2
Sediment cores were analyzed to determine storm and sea level history. Radiocarbon dates of bivalve microfossils indicate that Waquoit Bay was first inundated by marine waters approximately 3600 years ago. The ongoing research will help decipher the relationship between sea-level rise, storminess, and the inundation of terrestrial ecosystems and will help to illuminate what caused the drowning of the South Cape Beach paleoforest.

Microbial Community Composition of Permeable Reactive Barriers – Who Is Really Doing the Work?

Jen BowenPIs:  Jennifer Bowen, UMASS-Boston

Ken Foreman, MBL Ecosystems Center

Funding: MIT Seagrant

Description: Permeable Reactive Barriers (PRBs) are currently being tested at the Waquoit Bay Reserve as a potential partial mitigation strategy for nutrient pollution. The barriers are designed to remove nitrogen by promoting microbially-mediated denitrification but there has been no examination of the microbial community that is responsible for the removal of the nitrogen and no attempt to understand how those microbial communities might respond to future environmental change.  This project will use molecular biology to examine how the barriers, and the periodic inundation of seawater, alter the structure and function of the microbial community. This information will help determine the best placement of the barriers to maximize their effectiveness.  Understanding how the microbial communities in the two barriers differ and under what environmental conditions the denitrifying bacteria thrive will help to guide future barrier construction, particular in the context of rising sea levels.

Development of Low-cost, In-situ, Precision Hydrodynamic Instrumentation for Measurement of Tides, Currents and Waves

Vitallii compressed

PI: Vitalii Sheremet, University of RI, NOAA NMFS Research Fellow

Funding: NOAA NMFS Research Fellowship, WBNERR collaborative in-kind

Description: An inexpensive current meter based on the drag principle is being designed and developed. It provides a simple, elegant, robust, and low-cost solution for measuring currents at the ocean bottom or from any fixed platform. Its operation is based on the drag law of a buoyant tethered cylinder in flowing water. Three-axis accelerometers measure tilts which are converted to a horizontal velocity vector. Special tethered attachment enables estimation of not only the magnitude but also horizontal direction of the current. The same accelerometers are also used to construct a simple stick-and-float tide gauge.

The performance of the instruments is being evaluated in field tests in Waquoit Bay and Nantucket Sound. Arrays of the instruments deployed for periods from days to months are used to record tidal and higher frequency oscillations in the Waquoit Bay. A dramatic double peaked flood (double height) tide arising from nonlinear interaction with bathymetry is studied. Strong seiches with periods of about 15-30 minutes are also recorded in some parts of the Waquoit Bay system.

“Multi-Cropping Shellfish and Macroalgae for Business and Bioextraction.”

Scott plus algae compressedPI: Scott Lindell, Scientific Aquaculture Program, MBL. Funding: WHOI-Seagrant
Description: Nutrient enrichment from septic systems is one of the most pressing coastal problems on Cape Cod. Towns are facing staggering costs for sewering and other solutions. This project aims to investigate whether a native seaweed, Gracilaria tikvahiae, can be co-farmed together with oysters to both soak up nutrients and produce a marketable crop.

http://hermes.mbl.edu/research/resident/lab_lindell.html

“Using Molybdenum Concentration in Estuarine Sediments as a Proxy for Hypoxia Occurrence and Frequency.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PI: Warren Boothman (EPA)

Description: With the assistance of the Waquoit Bay Reserve, staff from the Atlantic Ecology Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory are examining the relationship between the frequency of hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen) in marine waters and accumulation of molybdenum (Mo) in sediments underlying those waters. Previous research in Narragansett Bay (RI) has shown that Mo accumulates in sediments when the water above becomes low in oxygen and revealed a linear relationship between the total period of hypoxia and concentration of Mo in surface sediment. To test whether the relationship is valid over a wider spatial scale, the same analyses are being done at monitoring sites within Waquoit Bay that have more than a decade of water quality data. Research chemist Warren Boothman (EPA) and Chris Weidman, Research Coordinator at the Waquoit Bay NERR, collected 12 sediment cores from 4 sites in May that will be sliced into 1-cm thick sections and analyzed for Mo. Results of the chemical analyses will be combined with historical records of dissolved oxygen to determine whether the Mo-DO relationship found in RI is also valid in coastal water bodies in MA and presumably elsewhere. In addition to examining the Mo-DO relationship in recent years, vertical profiles of Mo in the cores could develop a historical perspective on the frequency of hypoxia in Waquoit Bay.

For more information on this research, contact Warren Boothman (401-782-3161, boothman.warren@epa.gov).

“The Impact of Nitrogen-loading on Salt Marsh Greenhouse Gas Fluxes.”

DSC_0125PIs:  Serena Moseman-Valtierra, University of Rhode Island, Jianwu Tang, MBL Ecosystems Center, Kevin Kroeger, USGS-Woods Hole Science Center,
Funding: MIT Seagrant
Description: The general goal for the project is to measure potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and net CO2 uptake in coastal wetlands under a range of realistic nitrogen (N) loads and inundation (sea) levels. By meeting this goal, we aim to improve the information with which managers and policy makers can maintain and maximize ecosystem productivity, reduce harmful feedbacks of climate, and assess the potential for these ecosystems to enter C markets.

We will examine how GHG emissions from salt marshes vary along an existing gradient of anthropogenic N loading in Waquoit Bay, MA (WB-NERR). Further, we will test for relationships between N loads to the marshes and plant productivity. To investigate the influence of anticipated future increases in sea level, we will use existing gradients in marsh soil elevation (and therefore a gradient in soil water saturation and in frequency and duration of soil inundation) as a space-for-time substitution simulating future inundation of soils.

“Carbon Management in Coastal Wetlands: Quantifying Carbon Storage and Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Tidal Wetlands to Support Development of a Greenhouse Gas Protocol and Economic Assessment.”

wetlandsProject Lead: Alison Leschen, Waquoit Bay Reserve Manager
Collaborative Lead: Tonna-Marie Rogers, Waquoit Bay Coastal Training Program Coordinator
PIs: Jianwu Tang, MBL Ecosystems Center, Kevin Kroeger, USGS-Woods Hole Science Center, Neil K. Ganju, USGS-Woods Hole Science Center, Serena Moseman-Valtierra, University of RI, Omar Abdul-Aziz, Florida International Univ., Stephen Emmett-Mattox, Restore America’s Estuaries, Igino Emmer, Silvestrum, Stephen Crooks, Consultant to RAE, Pat Megonigal, Smithsonian ERC, Thomas Walker, Manomet CCS, Chris Weidman, Waquoit Bay Reserve Research Coordinator,
Funding: NERRS Science Collaborative

Increasing atmospheric concentrations of three major greenhouse gases (GHG) are the main drivers of climate change. Efforts to ameliorate rising levels of GHG include the protection and restoration of ecosystems that constitute major carbon (C) sinks and minor sources of CH4 and N2O emissions. Tidal marshes are prime candidates for such efforts as their sediments display  high C sequestration. Loss of wetlands through human impacts such as land conversion, sediment supply disruption, nutrient loading, and with sea level rise, reduces future sequestration capacity and places at risk stores of C that built up over past centuries. Improved management of coastal C and nitrogen (N), based upon sound science, is a critical first step towards mitigation of climate change and management of coastal ecosystems. Management must address N loading that has the dual impact of 1) contributing to climate change through production of N2O, and 2) reducing production of root and soil matter by plants which can decrease the C sequestration capacity and resilience of marshes to sea level rise. Recognition of the importance of coastal marine systems in terms of C storage has led to national and international efforts to place monetary value on preserving or restoring the “blue carbon” in those systems, analogous to the value placed on forests. The barrier to incorporation of tidal wetlands into C markets is the absence of agreed upon GHG offset protocols that set guidelines for monitoring and verification requirements for wetlands projects, and a lack of data and knowledge regarding C and GHG fluxes in wetlands to support model development.

The project goals are to provide scientific information that can inform both C and N management as well as wetlands protection and restoration strategies for supporting development of policy frameworks and market-based mechanisms to reduce GHG.

Project website: http://wbnerrwetlandscarbon.net/