Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Current Research Projects

Since 1977, Maryland Sea Grant has funded scientific research relevant to the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland residents who conserve, enjoy, and make their living from it. We strive to fund projects that both advance scientific knowledge and offer practical results benefiting ecosystems, communities, and economies throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

Click on an individual project to find out more. Search current and past research projects here.

Determining the Resiliency of Juvenile Oysters to Estuarine Stressors and Climate Change: Implications for Restoration and Aquaculture Programs

Principal Investigator: 

Denise L. Breitburg

Institution: 

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Matthew Ogburn and Seth Miller, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Summary: 

Researchers will examine how Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) respond to acidification of Chesapeake Bay waters caused by climate change and to low-oxygen (hypoxic) conditions. Understanding these responses is important to ensure success in efforts to restore the Bay’s wild oyster population and expand oyster aquaculture.

Developing a technology to induce sterility in an emerging marine aquaculture species, sablefish, by disrupting primordial germ cell development

Principal Investigator: 

Ten-Tsao Wong

Institution: 

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Yonathan Zohar, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Adam Luckenbach and William Fairgrieve, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Summary: 

We have developed a technology to efficiently produce infertile fish by disrupting primordial germ cell development in fish embryos. The technology uses a bath immersion to administer a Morpholino oligomer (MO) against Deadend (Dnd), an essential protein for early germ cell development in fish. This approach has been successfully used in the zebrafish, trout and salmon. The goal of this proposal is to examine the feasibility of applying this technology to sablefish.

Development of a Bayesian Approach for Estimating Ecosystem-based Reference Points for Atlantic Menhaden

Principal Investigator: 

Genevieve Nesslage

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Michael J. Wilberg, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) play a vital role in Chesapeake Bay and Mid-Atlantic marine ecosystems by providing forage for recreationally important piscivorous fishes while also supporting the largest commercial fishery by volume on the US Atlantic Coast. Recognizing the importance of forage fish such as menhaden to marine ecosystems, fisheries managers have set a goal of adopting ecosystem-based reference points for menhaden that account for the forage services menhaden provide.

Exploring the Connectivity of Sediment Transport in Upper Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Cindy Palinkas

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Emily Russ, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

This research looks to improve the the sediment-transport model between the lower Susquehanna River to the upper Chesapeake Bay through the development of sediment budgets and exploring techniques to differentiate sediment sources. Results from this project are expected to inform water quality and coastal resilience issues in the Chesapeake Bay region for local governments and the general public.

Improving Prediction and Visualization of Coastal Inundation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Principal Investigator: 

Ming Li

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Xiaohong Wang, Salisbury University

Summary: 

Researchers will develop computer models to simulate the impacts of long-term sea level rise and episodic storm surges on the low-lying lands of Maryland's Eastern Shore in 2050 and 2100. The project will utilize web-based graphics to help communities to better understand risks of coastal flooding to people and property at street-level detail.

Integrated Geospatial, Cultural, and Social Assessment of Coastal Resilience to Climate Change

Principal Investigator: 

Michael Paolisso

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Brian Needelman, University of Maryland, Department of Environmental Science and Technology; Christina Prell, University of Maryland, Department of Sociology; Klaus Hubacek, University of Maryland, Department of Geographical Sciences

Summary: 

Social scientists will collaborate with a wetlands ecologist to improve assessments of communities’ vulnerabilities to climate change and to help communities develop strategies to adapt. Better integration of geospatial and modeling data with social science knowledge has the potential to reveal critical decision points leading to more resilient communities, economies, and ecosystems.

Linking Stormwater BMP Implementation and Mosquito Infestation to Resident Socioeconomic Status, Knowledge, and Attitudes in Two Suburban Watersheds

Principal Investigator: 

Paul Leisnham

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park, Department of Environmental Science and Technology

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Kanoko Maeda, University of Maryland, College Park, Department of Environmental Science and Technology

Summary: 

The quality of water in our streams, lakes, and estuaries results from interactions between the biophysical landscape and the attitudes and behaviours of communities. Unfortunately, the majority of watershed research and intervention programs have been on either the biophysical or the social components alone.

Managing for Biodiversity and Blue Carbon in the Face of Sea-level Rise and Barrier Island Migration

Principal Investigator: 

Keryn Gedan

Institution: 

George Washington University

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Chris Hein, Virginia Institute of Marine Science; Sunny Jardine, University of Delaware, School of Marine Science and Policy; Jorge Lorenzo Trueba, Montclair State University, Earth and Environmental Studies

Summary: 

This regional project funded by the Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia Sea Grant programs will provide insight into best practices for stabilizing barrier islands and conserving tidal marshes behind them in ways that preserve biodiversity and beach width as well as stores of carbon that are naturally sequestered in marshes. Areas to be studied include Parramore and Assawoman islands in Virginia; Fenwick/Assateague Island in Maryland and Delaware; and Long Beach Island in New Jersey.

Potential Pollution Trade-Offs for Sustainable Coastal Agricultural Management

Principal Investigator: 

Eric Davidson

Institution: 

Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Jake Hagedorn, Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

To ensure that Maryland's coastal resources are resilient and sustainable, the agriculture that is vital to the state economy must find ways to reduce nutrient runoff into precious water resources. One such way is a best management practice (BMP) that uses control structures to manage drainage water levels in farm fields. The goal is to increase the amount of denitrification by elevating the water table.

Quantifying Changes to Nutrient Cycling and Nitrogen Removal in an Estuary as a Consequence of Aeration

Principal Investigator: 

Lora A. Harris

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Jeremy Testa, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Researchers will investigate the effects of low oxygen (hypoxic) conditions on natural processes that remove excess nitrogen from the Chesapeake Bay.  The researchers will use a large-scale, engineered aeration system in Rock Creek to experimentally reduce dissolved oxygen in bottom waters by turning off the aeration. This research may inform estimates of how quickly water quality in the Chesapeake will improve as nutrient loads are reduced.

Resilience of Vallisneria americana in the Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Katharina A. M. Engelhardt

Institution: 

Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Maile C. Neel, University of Maryland, College Park, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture

Summary: 

In the Chesapeake Bay, many beds of underwater grasses are small and transient, which makes it difficult for them to recover from environmental stress and disturbances. This study will examine the species Vallisneria americana (commonly called wild celery) to learn how the extent and proximity of these grass beds are related to the genetic and functional characteristics of the plants living there and in turn how these traits affect the beds’ long-term growth and survival. The study is intended to help natural resource managers restore submerged aquatic vegetation in the Bay. 

Tracking Septic System Performance by Using Innovative Mass Spectrometric Approaches and Traditional Nutrient Measurements

Principal Investigator: 

Michael Gonsior

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Lora A. Harris, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Andrew Heyes, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Scientists will examine whether technology used in newer septic systems is more effective than older septic systems are at reducing nitrogen loads and improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The project will seek to identify unique organic tracers that are specific to septic-system effluent and use them to track the effluent as it travels far from septic systems and into streams and groundwater. It is anticipated this project will improve understanding of septic system contribution to excess nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay. This information could help municipalities understand how best to achieve their Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) targets for water quality in the estuary.

Understanding Atlantic Menhaden Population Dynamics Through Use of Data from a Large-scale Historical Tagging Study

Principal Investigator: 

Michael Wilberg

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Thomas Miller, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Amy Schueller, Beaufort Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service; Joseph Smith, Beaufort Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service

Summary: 

Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) plays an important role in linking production from lower trophic levels to diverse marine predators and supporting the largest commercial fishery on the U.S. east coast. A significant management controversy has arisen because of uncertainties over their movement into and out of the Chesapeake Bay and the size or age-dependent vulnerability of fish to the commercial fishery. A landmark mark-recapture study of Atlantic menhaden was conducted during the 1960s–70s, which allows estimation of movement rates. Over one million menhaden were tagged, and over 200,000 tags were recovered, but the data were never fully analyzed. Using these data, this study will obtain estimates of migration rates and selectivity patterns, develop maps of the menhaden's range, and obtain estimates of the impact of the spatial distribution of the fishery on menhaden. These results will substantially improve our knowledge of menhaden population dynamics (migration and mortality rates), reduce uncertainty in estimates of stock status, and advance ecosystem-based management of the fishery.

Understanding Decisions to Participate in Oyster Aquaculture in Maryland-Implications of Livelihood Diversification on Resilience

Principal Investigator: 

Jen Shaffer

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Adriane Michaelis, University of Maryland, College Park

Summary: 

In Maryland, oyster restoration projects have attempted to enhance the Chesapeake Bay's wild oyster population and restore critical ecosystem services provided by oysters. Oyster aquaculture, paired with restoration, is a sustainable alternative or complement to wild harvest that can reduce fishing pressure on wild populations, contribute to the ecological role of oysters in the bay, and provide a more rel iable source of income for those involved.

Understanding the Complex Roles that Green Infrastructure Can Play in Improving the Resilience of Coastal Urban Zones

Principal Investigator: 

David Tilley

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Rhea Thompson, University of Maryland, College Park

Summary: 

Green infrastructure (GI), by relying on natural processes and energies for its ability to reduce flooding, decrease heat waves, enliven the local environment and provide ecological habitat, has the ability to increase the resilience of coastal communities and their environments, and adapt to climate change. New complexity metrics are needed to fully appreciate the multiple benefits GI has to offer, and this project looks to develop a model that integrates information theory with energy accounting to understand the role of GI in urban environments.

Using an Individual-Based Model to Predict the Genetic Impacts of Hatchery Based Restoration of the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Louis Plough

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Katie Hornick, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

A century of overfishing, habitat destruction, and disease have left stocks of the Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica at historically low levels in Chesapeake Bay, prompting wide-ranging restoration efforts. A large hatchery-based supplementation program has been established in Harris Creek on the Choptank River, in which billions of spat produced by the Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) Oyster Hatchery have been planted since 2011.

Variation in Retention and Export of Atmospheric Nitrate as a Function of Land Use Across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Principal Investigator: 

David Nelson

Institution: 

Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Keith N. Eshleman, Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Cathlyn D. Stylinski, Appalachian Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Riverine nitrogen (N) export has decreased in forested and mixed land-use watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay (CB) in recent decades, but the factors driving these water-quality improvements are uncertain. This knowledge gap impedes the development of science-based strategies to project future changes in water quality. One factor that may explain these trends is reduced atmospheric N deposition, but existing data cannot address this hypothesis.