news in brief
Institute for the Environment Students In Residence
Every fall, students from UNC-CH’s main campus come to IMS, where for one semester they immerse in hands-on learning in the natural environment through a program sponsored by IMS and the Institute for the Environment at UNC. “This experience has been so valuable. I learn more out in the field, seeing and experiencing things for myself,” comments one of this year’s student, Elizabeth Gooding. Students explore the “living classrooms” of the NC coast and issues such as water quality, ecosystem health, and biodiversity and present their findings to the public. You can read more about this program here.
IMS Director Rick Luettich Wins Impact Award from DHC
Luettich has received the Department of Homeland Security’s Impact Award for his work with the ADCIRC storm surge and inundation model ahead of Hurricane Irene in 2011. ADCIRC is used to predict water heights and flooding in coastal areas under storm conditions. Federal, state and local agencies have used the model for risk analysis, risk reduction system design and preparation for coastal storms. Luettich says that the collaboration has provided an opportunity to “enhance, harden and ultimately transition an important research capability into an important operational capability.”
IMS Faculty Win Award for Camp Lejeune Ecological Project
IMS faculty members Hans Paerl, Pete Peterson, and Tony Rodriguez won a project-of-the year award for their interdisciplinary ecological research program at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The project was acknowledged for helping the Department of Defense manage its coastal installations in more effective and sustainable ways and for serving as a model for ecological research management, by bringing together participants from multiple institutions and disciplines to work for several years at the landscape scale and ensuring the research is linked to practical environmental management questions.
IMS Continues Commitment To Community College C-Step Program
This Fall, IMS Director Rick Luettich; his daughter Chrissy Luettich, a current UNC student; and Sarah Rhodes, a recent UNC graduate, met with students from Carteret Community College participating in C-STEP, a program enabling more talented low-income community college students to transfer to and graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill. They discussed the challenges and exciting opportunities that UNC offers students, including opportunities for travel and research. C-STEP advisor Melinda Rouse said she is “thrilled with the time IMS faculty and staff have invested in these young people (from Carteret Community College).”
IMS Professor Paerl Leads New 2.5 Million Drinking Water Project in China
China’s third largest lake, Taihu, was once a pristine lake supplying drinking water to over 12 million people. Now the lake has become overrun with toxic blue-green algae or cyanobacteria, which can damage the liver, intestines, and nervous system. Dr. Hans Paerl has been awarded two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, totaling 2.5 million, to lead an international team of researchers working to resolve the ecosystem balance in Lake Taihu. In the end, the researchers will have a science-based strategy to guide the Chinese government in bringing Lake Taihu below the toxic algae threshold.
New Water Profiler on the Neuse River
The Luettich lab has positioned a new profiler in the Neuse River, just downstream from New Bern. It profiles temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. The new profiler also collects wind data and particle size distribution profiles. It has been designed to support tethered current meters and other sensors. It has the ability to take 24 water samples at any requested time and depth and to generate power from both wind and solar sources. All data is mirrored to a remote database in near real time. Photos of the new profiler can be viewed here. For more information, click here or please contact Ryan Neve.
Video: Hurricane Season Update
According to IMS Director Rick Luettich, the hurricane category system fails to predict the deadliest aspect of hurricanes: storm surge. The category system, which rates hurricanes on a scale of 1 to 5, does give an indication of wind strength and storm size, but not storm surge or the sudden rush of water from the ocean over the land. Historically, storm surge has brought 90% of the death and destruction from hurricanes. You can read more about Luettich’s hurricane research in the Outer Banks Voice or the News and Observer or you can watch a taped interview with Dr. Luettich on YouTube.
Two IMS Graduate Students Win 2012 NOAA/Jones Awards
PhD students Michelle Brodeur, under the advisement of Dr. Joel Fodrie, and Rachel Gittman, under the advisement of Drs. Bruno and Peterson, have received Walter B Jones Memorial Awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Ten graduate student awards are given nationally every other year. Overall, six were awarded to students from NC. ”The high number of NC graduate students among the winners speaks to the excellent quality of marine and coastal research being conducted in our state…” said Chris Brown, vice-president for research and graduate education for the UNC system.
IMS Rapid Methods Put Into Use on the Great Lakes
IMS Professor Rachel Noble and researcher Denene Blackwood have recently developed and patented a rapid DNA-based test for water quality that is being used in Racine, Wisconsin, to test Great Lakes water samples this beach season. In the past, using a culture method, water sample testing took about 24 hours, which meant the decision to close a beach one day was based on a water sample taken the previous day. The new DNA-based test allows for same-day water management decisions.
You can more about this exciting research in the UNC online magazine Endeavors.
Former IMS Faculty Member Receives Cody Award from Scripps
Mark Hay, who was on the faculty at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences from 1982-1999, was selected to receive the 2012 Cody Award in Ocean Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Dr. Hay is currently Teasley Professor of Environmental Biology and co-director of the Center for Aquatic Chemical Ecology at Georgia Tech. Hay is an experimental field ecologist who investigates the processes and mechanisms affecting the structure and function of marine communities, with most of his research focusing on consumer-prey interactions and on the cascading effects of these interactions.
Could old crab pots, once destined for landfills, help revive the severely depleted NC oyster population? The Institute’s researchers are working with local fishermen to test the idea and transform derelict crab pots into oyster habitats. The trash-to-treasure project underscores the connection between healthy habitats and healthy fisheries, says Joel Fodrie, assistant professor of coastal biological oceanography, who is heading up the research effort. To learn more about the crab pot to oyster reef projects, you can read an article on the UNC website here, or you can watch a WCTI-12 (ABC/New Bern) news clip on YouTube.
IMS Serves As REU Site
IMS is a host site for a Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (or REU), supported by the National Science Foundation (or NSF). REU students develop the skills and confidence necessary to conduct scientific research and communicate the results. The expertise among potential mentors at IMS offers students unique opportunities for research. Past projects have examined topics ranging from whether algae that collect on beaches carry with them harmful bacteria and the effects of human activities on foraging behavior by shorebirds. The REU program is coordinated by Dr. Steve Fegley.
Theuerkauf Receives Multiple Grants
PhD student Ethan Theuerkauf, under the advisement of Dr. Tony Rodriguez, received grants from the Geological Society of America , the Society for Sedimentary Geology, and the National Geographic Society to help fund his work. Ethan is particularly interested in the evolution of beaches and barrier islands and how these environments respond to storms, sea level rise, and human modification. As part of the Rodriguez research team, Theuerkauf has been engaged in highly intensive field studies and has collected and examined lithologic, geophysical, and paleontologic data.
Luettich Gets Two New Appointments for Work in the Gulf of Mexico
IMS Director Rick Luettich has been named to the Water Institute of the Gulf’s nine-member science and engineering advisory council, which will help shape the focus of the institute’s work. He was also recently appointed by the Governor of Louisiana to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Levee Authority – East, which oversee the hurricane protection system on the east side of the Mississippi River, including metropolitan New Orleans.
You can read more about Luettich’s computer modeling of coastal systems in the University Gazette.
Peterson Publishes New Study of Oil Spill Impacts
Near the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform blowout, a national panel of researchers, led by IMS Professor Charles “Pete” Peterson, is providing new insight into what happened in the disaster and why existing tools were inadequate to predict the effects. The study published in the May issue of Bioscience is entitled “A Tale of Two Spills: Novel Science and Policy Implications of an Emerging New Oil Spill Model.” The researchers are calling for a new model for studying the environmental impacts of deep water oil spills. To read the National Science Foundation press release, click here.
Noble Gets Patent for New Water Quality Assays
As an alternative to the currently available methods for bacterial water quality testing at beaches, which require 24 hours or longer for public notification, Dr. Rachel Noble has developed several new rapid (<4 hours) molecular assays for quantification of fecal indicator bacteria, E. coli and Enterococcus spp. The technology can be used to test the safety of marine water, stormwater, drinking water, tap or bottled water. In March, Dr. Noble received a patent for her methods. The Noble lab is currently working to make the technology portable for even more rapid results and to improve cost effectiveness.
Smyth Honored With UNC Impact Award
Each year, the UNC Graduate School recognizes graduate students whose research is improving the lives of people in North Carolina and beyond. Of the 22 graduate students selected to win Impact Awards, two are from IMS: Ashley Smyth and Nate Geraldi.
Ashley Smyth, a PhD candidate advised by IMS Associate Professor Mike Piehler, led a series of experiments assessing oysters’ ability to improve ecosystem health and water quality. Ashley’s work on oyster mediated impacts on nitrogen cycling has already been used in decisions regarding oyster restoration in NC. For more information, click here.
Geraldi Honored With UNC Impact Award
Nate Geraldi, a PhD candidate advised by IMS Professor Pete Peterson, has received the UNC Impact Award for his research into identifying the best ways to maximize oyster population growth. NC has invested significant resources toward restoring its severely threatened oyster reefs; Nate investigated what methods are likely to produce the best results and concluded that restoration resources should be devoted to deploying hard substrate for oysters to settle on. For more information on the award and this year’s award winners, please follow this link: http://gradschool.unc.edu/student/awards/impact/2012.html.
Rodriguez, Fodrie, and Paerl Head New NC Sea Grant Research Projects
North Carolina Sea Grant has selected a dozen new core research projects for the 2012 to 2014 funding period. Among them are: A Metatranscriptomic Survey of the Eukaryotic Plankton Community Along the Freshwater-Marine Continuum in the Neuse River Estuary, led by Adrian Marchetti and Hans Paerl; and Quantifying Oyster Reef Accretion Rates and Structural Evolution for Improving Estimates of Carbon Sequestration and Restoration Success, led by Antonio Rodriguez and Joel Fodrie from IMS and John Fear from the N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Lindquist and Fodrie Investigate Oyster Reef Restoration in Tidal Creeks
Drs. Lindquist and Fodrie are deploying concrete-coated crab pots to area tidal creeks with their commercial fisherman collaborators, Adam Tyler and David “Clammerhead” Cessna. The old crab pots are being placed at different heights and in waters of different salinity in order to investigate some of the critical conditions for oyster growth. This project, funded by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, is providing hard substrate material for oyster larvae to settle on and recycling old crab pots in the process. Tidal creeks have traditionally received little attention in restoration efforts.
IMS Partners With Carteret Community College:
View It on YouTube
Professor F. Joel Fodrie is just old enough to remember Charles Kuralt of CBS News saying UNC is “a university of the people, by the people and for the people.”
That is why he agreed to take part in the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP), giving a talk and tour of IMS to students from Carteret Community College. To read the full story from the Carteret News Times, click here. To view a video on YouTube about the Institute’s partnership with C-STEP, click here.
Hans Paerl Featured in the Press
William R. Kenan Distinguished Professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Dr. Hans Paerl is a world-class leader in the ecology and physiology of harmful algal bloom species, and his research is being used by management agencies worldwide. Dr. Paerl was recently featured in the News and Observer as the Tarheel of the Week. To read the complete News and Observer article, click here.
Hans Paerl and his ambition to continually monitor water quality in the Pamlico Sound by ferries also made headlines in the UNC Gazette. To read the Gazette story, click here.
IMS Serves As Field Site
IMS serves as a field site for the UNC Institute for the Environment. This program, led by Professor Rachel Noble, allows in-residence undergraduates to explore the “living classrooms” of the NC coast and issues such as ecosystem health, biodiversity, water quality, fisheries management, shoreline erosion, risk analysis, public policy and decision making. The students also engage in a capstone project that helps them to develop the skills necessary to conduct research and communicate scientific results. To view photos from the 2011 Fall semester, click here.
Are the Fish All Right?
Professor F. Joel Fodrie and other researchers have found that young fish remained abundant last summer and fall in some areas of the Gulf of Mexico that were slammed by the catastrophic 2010 BP oil spill. The researchers tallied numbers of juveniles retrieved by research vessels. The abundance of these youngsters offered one gauge of whether eggs and larval fish had taken a big, deadly hit from early exposure to hydrocarbons.
Still unknown, the researchers acknowledge, is the health of fish reared in polluted regions of the Gulf. To read more, please click here.
New Grant Helps Students To Spread the Word
A new grant from the Kenan-Biddle Partnership will support media training for PhD students at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort and UNC at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. The awardees include UNC-IMS PhD students Rachel Gittman and Clare Fieseler.
“Digital media is an incredibly important tool for science outreach, but it’s one that many PhD students have little experience using,” says Clare Fieseler, who initiated the inter-campus collaboration. To read more about this grant, click here.