2022 Research Project Descriptions

Projects will take place from 2023 to 2025

Testing the Effects of Vegetation on Saltmarsh Ecology, Services and Restoration Success: from Microbial Ecology and Biogeochemistry to Wildlife Conservation

Investigators: Christopher Elphick, Beth Lawrence and Ashley Helton, University of Connecticut; Blaire Steven, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station; and Min Huang, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Grant Award: $909,748 plus $456,645 in matching funds

By creating sediment mounds of varying elevations planted with various species at different densities at Great Meadow Marsh in Stratford, the researchers seek to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of how marsh restoration efforts impact the functioning of these ecosystems and their value for wildlife.

Tracking Pathogen Pathways and Fecal Bacteria Patterns for Public Beaches Suffering with Poor Water Quality Grades and Closures

Investigators: Michael Whitney, University of Connecticut and Peter Linderoth, Save the Sound

Grant Award: $310,628 plus $156,957 in matching funds

The researchers will analyze patterns of fecal indicator bacteria in water samples from Green Harbor Beach in New London and Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme. Because of high bacteria levels, these two public beaches are among the most frequently closed or under swim advisories in the state of Connecticut. The work will include efforts to identify bacteria pathways and public outreach about water quality issues.

Assessing Temperature Mediation of PFAS Impacts on Coastal Fish Fitness to Inform Environmental Management

Investigators: Maria Rodgers, North Carolina State University and Jessica Brand, Daniel Bolnick, Kat Milligan-McClellan and Milton Levin, University of Connecticut

Grant Award: $709,095 plus $357,188 in matching funds

The researchers will examine concentrations of PFAS (poly- and per-fluoroalkyl substances) at different water temperatures in fish populations downstream from the outfalls of public sewage treatment plants. The results will quantify how fish can be expected to respond to exposure to these “forever chemicals” in the Sound over the next five decades.

Assessing the Impacts of Warming and Planting Strategy on the Resilience of Restored Salt Marshes to Improve Restoration Efficacy

Investigator: Sarah Crosby, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk; A. Randall Hughes and Nicole Kollars, Northeastern University; Nicole Spiller, Harbor Watch and Earthplace; and LaTina Steele, Sacred Heart University

Grant Award: $352,916 plus $182,058 in matching funds

By enclosing sections of salt marshes within open chambers to increase interior temperatures, the researchers will assess the expected effects of warmer temperatures associated with climate change. The work will include plantings of southern-sourced marsh grass (Spartina) strains to determine impacts on future resilience, and an examination of the genetic mixing of these salt marsh strains to enhance the success of restoration efforts.

Using Geohistorical Baselines to Assess Responses of Benthic Macroinvertebrate Communities to the Nitrogen TMDL Management Intervention in Long Island Sound

Investigator: Gregory Dietl, Paleontological Research Institution

Grant Award: $38,994 plus $19,565 in matching funds

Researchers will look at the remains of mollusks buried beneath the seafloor to understand past ecological conditions in the Long Island Sound. The molluscan geohistorical record could provide much-needed baseline information to assess the response of marine life to changes in water quality.

Coupled Prediction of Residential Fertilizer Use and Nitrogen Loads to Long Island Sound: An Integrated Targeting Tool for Nitrogen-Reduction Behavior Change Campaigns

Investigators: Robert Johnston of Clark University; David Dickson, Qian Lei-Parent and Jamie Vaudrey, University of Connecticut; David Newburn, University of Maryland; and Haoluan Wang , University of Miami

Grant Award: $405,630, plus $205,677 in matching funds

This project will use a survey of households to predict residential fertilizer lawn use for the coastal counties and municipalities across the Long Island Sound watershed. A model combining this information with water quality data will be used to inform prospective behavior-change campaigns to identify and prioritize the areas or types of households that would have the greatest impact on reducing nitrogen from lawn fertilizer and its impact on the Sound.

Actionable Satellite Water-Quality Data Products in Long Island Sound for Improved Management and Societal Benefits

Investigators: Maria Tzortziou, City College of New York; Joaquim Goes, Columbia University; and Melanie Abecassis, University of Maryland College Park

Grant Award: $688,572 plus $351,330 in matching funds

Human-caused climate change as well as other anthropogenic factors can intensify harmful algal blooms in Long Island Sound. Observations of the entire ecosystem, over different seasons and across a range of conditions, including during extreme weather events, can be obtained from satellite data. This work will provide actionable information for water resource management, policy, and decision-making.

Evaluating Changes in Suitable Habitat and Distribution of Cold and Warm Adaptive Fish Species in a Changing Long Island Sound to Inform Ecosystem-Based Management

Investigators: Yong Chen, Stony Brook University; Kurt Gottschall, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; and Kim McKown and John Maniscalco, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Grant Award: $316,734 plus $167,360 in matching funds

Conditions in Long Island Sound have been shifting due to climate change, affecting water temperature, acidity, oxygen levels, and incidence of Harmful Algal Blooms. The scientists will evaluate these shifting conditions on the distributional changes of warm-adapted and cold-adapted species of fish in the Sound.

Equitable Access to Long Island Sound Waterfront and Beaches Through On-Demand Mobility

Investigators: Anil Yazici and Elizabeth Hewitt, Stony Brook University

Grant Award: $479,083 plus $239,548 in matching funds

Some communities on Long Island do not have the mobility means to use and appreciate the Long Island Sound waterfront. Project leaders are designing and piloting on-demand shuttles that will facilitate equitable public access to the Long Island Sound waterfront. The team will survey users of the shuttle service to identify changes in attitudes toward the Sound’s environment.

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