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.

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.

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. 

Salt Water Intrusion and Legacy Nutrient Release Across Coastal Farmland

Principal Investigator: 

Katherine Tully

Institution: 

University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator: 

Fellow: Danielle Weissman

Summary: 

As the world’s climate changes, rural coastlines are becoming more vulnerable to sea level rise. Consequently, these ecosystems are undergoing major disruptions in nutrient cycling. Tidal salt marshes, riparian forests, and farmland converge on coastlines, forming ecotones, or unique transitional ecosystems. With centuries of farming and fertilizer additions, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in excess of plant demand can accumulate in soils (known as legacy nutrients).

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 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 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.

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.

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