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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.

Abundance and Variety of Microplastics in Surface Waters, Sediments, and Oysters: Relationship to Point-Sources and Land Use Practices

Principal Investigator: 

Lance Yonkos

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Carys Mitchelmore, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Johan Schijf, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, has historically been a species of tremendous importance to the Chesapeake Bay economically and ecologically and provides numerous ecosystem services, including water filtration, habitat and food for many other Bay species. Significant hatchery and aquaculture efforts are currently underway to recapture the economic and ecological benefits of a robust oyster population within Chesapeake waters, whether for human consumption or to promote improvements in water quality and benthic habitat.

Advancing Monitoring and Management of Mid-Atlantic Alosine Fishes with eDNA Analysis

Principal Investigator: 

Louis Plough

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Matthew B. Ogburn, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Summary: 

Anadromous alosine fishes (river herrings and shads) are critically important to ecosystem function, economies, and cultures of coastal communities, but have seen major declines in the mid-Atlantic region and the Chesapeake Bay in particular. We have developed and demonstrated the effectiveness of new monitoring tools for river herring (alewife and blueback herring) including environmental DNA (eDNA) and sonar image-based run counts that are rapidly improving our ability to study these species.

Assessing the Effectiveness of the Anacostia River Tunnel in Reduction of Eutrophication

Principal Investigator: 

Caroline Solomon

Institution: 

Gallaudet University

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Patricia Glibert, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

The Anacostia River is among the most polluted tributaries in Chesapeake Bay. With substantial algal blooms and bacterial contamination, it has placed those who recreate on the water at considerable health risk. The first phase of a recently completed, multi-billion dollar infrastructure project, the Anacostia River Tunnel, which will retain and divert sewage and storm water effluent is due to be operational by March 2018. The tunnel project is award-winning from the perspective of the engineering community, but the environmental outcome is yet to be determined.

Assessing the Impact of Freshwater Salinization Syndrome on Mobilization of Nutrients and Metals in Urban Streams and Rivers

Principal Investigator: 

Sujay Kaushal

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Shuiwang Duan, University of Maryland College Park

Summary: 

Salinization is increasingly affecting many watersheds, significantly impacting drinking water resources and infrastructure, reducing stability and resilience of aquatic ecosystems, and potentially hindering stream and river restoration efforts. Salinization is related to deicer use on roadways with additional contributions from accelerated weathering of impervious surfaces, water softeners, and sewage. The concentrations of chloride observed in many urban streams in Maryland now exceed the limit of 250 mg/L established by the U.S. EPA for chronic toxicity to freshwater life.

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 and Validation of Novel, Fluorescence-based Tools to Screen For and Identify Urban and Agricultural Sources of Contaminants of Emerging Concern in the Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Lee Blaney

Institution: 

University of Maryland Baltimore County

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Ethan Hain

Summary: 

Government agencies have expressed concerns about the potentially negative impacts of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, on coastal ecosystems. Few data are currently available on the sources, levels, and spatiotemporal distribution of these contaminants in the Chesapeake Bay.

Development of Triploid and Tetraploid Eastern Oysters for Maryland Aquaculture

Principal Investigator: 

Ming Liu, Morgan State University

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Amber DeMarr, Morgan State University; Richard Lacoutoure, Morgan State University

Summary: 

Triploid eastern oysters are an important component of the Maryland aquaculture industry because of their fast growth and sustained high meat yield. Commercially, triploids are produced by mating tetraploid oysters with normal diploid oysters. Developing tetraploid stock is crucial to meeting the growing demand for Maryland triploid oysters. However, it is challenging to produce and maintain excellent tetraploid lines for the benefit of industry.

Effects of Bivalve Biodeposits and Bottom Shear Stress On Sediment Erodibility with Implications for Biodeposit Export for Aquaculture Areas and Sediment Biogeochemistry

Principal Investigator: 

Elka Porter

Institution: 

University of Baltimore

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Jeffrey Cornwell, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory; Lawrence Sanford, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory

Summary: 

The net environmental impacts of oyster aquaculture are strongly related to the transport and fate of biodeposits, though little is known of their physical and biological properties. Biodeposits exported from aquaculture sites may result in net denitrification elsewhere while mitigating the impacts of organic matter over-enrichment at the aquaculture site. Consequently, the susceptibility of biodeposits to erosion and long range transport is key to determining the ecological effects of oyster aquaculture.

Effects of Oyster Aquaculture on Submersed Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) Habitat

Principal Investigator: 

Cassie Gurbisz

Institution: 

St. Mary's College of Maryland

Co-Principal Investigator: 

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

Summary: 

As Chesapeake Bay (CB) submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) recover and oyster aquaculture operations in Maryland expand, the potential for these important shallow-water resources to spatially overlap and come into conflict is increasing. Until recently, the Code of Maryland Regulations has restricted installation of aquaculture gear in areas occupied by SAV and further requires that aquaculture operations cease if SAV expands into an existing lease. These regulations were intended to support SAV restoration under the assumption that aquaculture will impair SAV growth.

Effects of Oyster Biodeposit Resuspension on Nutrient Release and Ecosystem Dynamics in Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Elka Porter

Institution: 

University of Baltimore

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Lawrence Sanford, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

While existing research addresses many of the important issues of oysters in Chesapeake Bay (CB), the fate and effects of resuspended oyster biodeposits in aquaculture areas on the nutrient, light, zooplankton and phytoplankton dynamics have not been taken into account when the use of oysters in mitigation of eutrophication in CB is examined. Currently, models do not include the effects of biodeposit resuspension on the ecosystem, nutrient dynamics and light and experimental data are not available.

Evaluating Consequences of Alternative Harvest Policies for Atlantic Menhaden and the Impacts on their Predator Atlantic Striped Bass

Principal Investigator: 

Genevieve M. Nesslage

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Michael Wilberg, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory; Katie Drew, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC); Amy Schueller, National Marine Fisheries Service

Summary: 

Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a migratory forage fish that plays a vital role in Chesapeake Bay and Mid-Atlantic marine ecosystems by linking production at lower trophic levels with piscivorous predators. Given the critical ecosystem services menhaden provide as forage, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is currently developing an Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management (EBFM) approach to stewardship of the menhaden resource.

Functional and Taxonomic Diversity of Microbial Communities in Microplastic Particles from the Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Feng Chen

Institution: 

Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, University System of Maryland

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Fellow: Ana Sosa

Summary: 

Microbial biofilms are formed for protection from grazing, the mitigation of competition between species, the facilitation of gene transfer and the overall increase of the possibilities of survival. Biofilm formation on plastic is no exception, and microplastics provide further advantages for microbes as these particles can subsist for decades in aquatic environments. Microplastics are polymer particles that are smaller than 5 mm and their existence and prevalence in aquatic environment has been the focus of many studies in the last few years.

Impacts of Misspecification of Spatial Structure of Assessment and Stock on Reliability of Reference Points

Principal Investigator: 

Tom Miller

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Fellow: Reed Brodnik

Summary: 

The existence of spatial structure in populations of exploited marine fishes challenges our ability to develop reliable stock assessments. Using the northern stock of Black Sea Bass (BSB - Centropristis striata) on the US Atlantic coast as a model species, I will combine empirical and analytical approaches to explore the impacts of the spatial resolution of population and assessment models on the reference points generated by assessments.

Maryland Climate Resilience Indicators (MCRI): Participatory Indicators to Assess, Plan, and Evaluate Climate Adaptation Actions

Principal Investigator: 

Michael Gerst

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Melissa Kenney, University of Maryland, College Park

Summary: 

This research aims to aid communities in addressing the question, “are our climate adaptation investments increasing our community’s resilience?” The state of Maryland and its communities are acutely interested in this question because they are being, and will continue to be, impacted by a range of climate impacts. As a result, Maryland has been aggressively setting reduction targets to mitigate greenhouse gases emissions and developing adaptation strategies to increase its resilience to the human health, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change.

Mixotrophic Dinoflagellates: Elucidating the Relative Importance of Grazing and Photosynthesis in Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Greg Silsbe

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Sairah Malkin, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Microbial communities govern the transformation of energy, carbon, and nutrients in aquatic ecosystems. In Chesapeake Bay (CB), microbes drives seasonal hypoxia and and forms the base of the foodweb that sustains important commercial and cultural fisheries including oysters, crabs, and striped bass. The efficacy of virtually any management plan that seeks to improve the health and resilience of CB intrinsically requires a fundamental understanding of these tiny but mighty organisms. 

Novel Genomic Tools to Assess Fish Diet and Prey Quality and in the Choptank River

Principal Investigator: 

Louis Plough

Institution: 

Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Jamie Pierson, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Zooplankton are critical food sources for marine fish, and climate-driven changes in their abundance, diversity, and quality can have profound effects on larval recruitment and fisheries productivity in coastal oceans and estuaries. Despite the importance of prey for understanding variation in fisheries recruitment, accurate identification of zooplankton species remains challenging and a lack of information on prey quality and prey selectivity by fish may hinder the discovery of relationships between zooplankton and fish productivity.

Quantifying Nitrogen Removal Potential in Oyster Reefs Versus Aquaculture in Response to Hydrodynamic Setting and Water Quality

Principal Investigator: 

Jeremy Testa

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Lora Harris, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory; Lawrence Sanford, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory

Summary: 

Current efforts to restore natural oyster reefs and a growing oyster aquaculture industry in Maryland will serve to support an increased prevalence of oysters in Chesapeake Bay. While these activities will support continued commercial harvests and restored natural habitats, elevated oyster numbers will also lead to changes in estuarine biogeochemistry relevant to water quality restoration.

Quantifying Nutrient Sequestration in Chesapeake Bay Submersed Aquatic Vegetation Beds

Principal Investigator: 

Cassie Gurbisz

Institution: 

St. Mary's College of Maryland

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Cindy Palinkas, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

Although external nutrient load reductions have been a primary management strategy for Chesapeake Bay restoration, internal ecological processes, such as seasonal nutrient retention in submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, may also play an important, complementary role. However, we lack sufficient details about the factors controlling the magnitude of an important mechanism of SAV-mediated nutrient sequestration--particulate nutrient trapping--to make inferences about its importance relative to total loads to the system.

Understanding the Distribution and Ecology of the Mysid Neomysis americana, a Key Forage Species in Chesapeake Bay

Principal Investigator: 

Ryan Woodland

Institution: 

Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Hongsheng Bi, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Elizabeth North, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Summary: 

There is a concerted effort to move away from traditional single species fisheries management in Chesapeake Bay toward a more holistic management framework that considers the interactions between fishery and non-fishery species and how their dynamics are linked to their environment.

What Happens After the Phragmites Is Killed? The Role of Native Plantings in Accelerating Post-treatment Recovery of Tidal Wetlands

Principal Investigator: 

Dennis Whigham

Institution: 

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Karin Kettenring, Utah State University; Melissa McCormick, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; Andrew Baldwin, University of Maryland College Park

Summary: 

A European haplotype of Phragmites australis (common reed) is an increasingly widespread invasive plant in Chesapeake Bay tidal wetlands. The spread of Phragmites has been promoted by disturbance and nutrient enrichment, resulting in threats to native plants and animals and triggering changes in ecological processes in wetlands. Cultural issues such as loss of vision-scape and access to water are important public concerns. Phragmites removal is possible but difficult, and thus is likely to be cost-effective over relatively small areas.