2018 Research Project Descriptions

Projects will take place from 2019 to 2021.

The LIS Respire Program

Investigators: Penny Vlahos, Jamie Vaudrey, and Michael Whitney, University of Connecticut
Grant Award:  $398,387 plus $103,843 in matching funds

Gaining a better understanding of how oxygen is being used in the water column of Long Island Sound will inform decisions that seek to avoid hypoxia and manage the estuary sustainably amidst coastal population growth and shifting climate. The research team will sample 10 sites across the Sound. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s monitoring vessel John Dempsey will provide access to the project. Components of the respiration process that will be quantified include organic matter degradation rates, nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide and controlling variables including pH, alkalinity and temperature. The field sampling will occur in different seasons and at various locations, allowing the timing and location of respiration rates to be predicted.

This project builds on analyses of carbon balances in the Sound being conducted by the investigators and will help develop a more detailed biogeochemical understanding to enhance Long Island Sound management.

See the Long Island Sound Respire Program website.

Water Column O2 Respiration – Rates, Distribution, Drivers and Elemental Stoichiometry

Investigator: Craig R. Tobias, University of Connecticut

Grant Award: $384,544 plus $99,887 in matching funds

Western Long Island Sound is the area of the Sound most vulnerable to low oxygen (hypoxic) conditions. The investigator will deploy automated respiration chambers at locations throughout the western Long Island Sound, including in the Bronx at Throggs Neck where the East River enters the Sound, and along the gradient of the Connecticut River plume, the largest source of non-urban freshwater and nutrients to the Sound. These devices will measure respiration and net ecosystem production at the above locations chosen for their differences in organic matter sources and composition, a major driver of these processes. The researcher will incubate parallel samples onboard the research vessel to compare with measurements from the automated respiration chambers and provide additional information. The results will address hypoxia by increasing our understanding and the predictability of how respiration responds to management actions.

Eliciting and Modeling Residential Lawn and Landscape Practices: Systematic Information to Assess Knowledge, Explicate Behavior and Inform Management across the LIS Watershed

Investigators: Robert J. Johnston, Clark University; Peter Groffman, City University of New York; and Colin Polsky, Florida Atlantic University
Grant Award:  $370,619 plus $92,624 in matching funds

The ecological impact of residential lawns exporting nutrients from fertilizer into Long Island Sound (by runoff into storm drains and rivers or by infiltrating into the groundwater) is significant. Currently, there is no clear understanding of the most effective means to reduce harmful lawn care practices across the Long Island Sound watershed. The research team will study and explain how different homeowner behaviors influence nitrogen export and stormwater runoff, and will evaluate the effectiveness of programs and policies designed to encourage less polluting lawn care and landscaping practices. The team will develop a model of lawn care practices around the watershed, and survey over a thousand households across New York and Connecticut portions of the watershed. Using this survey data and direct observation of lawns in the watershed, the team will forecast behavioral changes from management interventions in differing scales at a variety of locations.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers will engage with stakeholders to explore implications for policy and program development to reduce the environmental impacts of lawn care in the Sound. See final report.

Refined Integration of Remote Sensing with Biological Parameters for Improved Management of Long Island Sound Water Quality

Investigators: Maria Tzortziou, The Research Foundation CUNY—The City College of New York;  Dianne Greenfield, The Research Foundation CUNY—Advanced Science Research Center and Queens College; and Joaquim Goes, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

Grant Award: $380,231 plus $95,162 in matching funds

The research team will address the challenge of gathering data from satellite images of Long Island Sound. Like many similar highly populated estuaries in the world, the Long Island Sound suffers from water quality problems, including high loadings of nutrients, hypoxia, and recurrent harmful algal blooms. Satellite observations give environmental monitors and water resource managers the ability to observe changes in water conditions across large areas not feasible with field-based monitoring alone. However, determining water composition and identifying which bloom-forming phytoplankton species are in the Sound from space has been a challenge. This study proposes to develop new remote sensing products to improve our knowledge of the Long Island Sound ecosystem parameters that are critical for management. See final report.

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