Student Projects 2013

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008

Causes and Remediation of Chronic Beach Erosion at Hammonasset Beach State Park

Faculty          Dr. James Tait
                        Science Education and Environmental Studies

Student Participants

                        Summer 2013; Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                        Catherine Cota, Undergraduate Student, Honors College
                        Kaitlyn Stobierski, Undergraduate Student, Honors College

Project Description

This is a long-term study that is currently ongoing. Beach and dune erosion has been an issue at Hammonasset since the 1920's. Erosion is particularly intense along the west end of the park. The objectives of the research are 1) establishing the suitability of nearshore sands for use as beach replenishment material, and 2) establishing beach erosion rates.

Results to Date/Significance

Thirty beach and nearshore topographic profiles have been collected and analysis is ongoing. Profile stations 1 through 30 have now being surveyed and resurveyed out to wading depth. A current challenge that we are working on is how to define the "bottom" of the beach or offshore bar. This is particularly important for the offshore bar since the volume of sand contained in this bar is being presented as a source of beach sand.

Hurricanes Irene and Sandy have put an emphasis on beach erosion. Our efforts have provided us with pre-Sandy beach conditions for both beach and nearshore. This summer we are scheduled to resurvey the beach and offshore profiles for a third time. These three data sets should allow us to assess the suitability of using offshore "borrow" material for beach replenishment and to establish first order erosional trends for the park.

Assessment of Beach Erosion and Coastal Storm Damage Vulnerability at East Haven and West Haven, CT

Faculty         Dr. James Tait
                       Science Education and Environmental Studies

                       Dr. Ezgi Akpinar-Ferrand
                       Geography Department

                       Dr. Scott Graves
                       Science Education and Environmental Studies

Student Participants

                       Spring 2013; Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                       Catherine Cota, Undergraduate Student, Honors College
                       Kaitlyn Stobierski, Undergraduate Student, Honors College

                       Spring 2014

                       Alyssa Krinsky, Undergraduate Student, Geography Department
                       Michelle Ritchie, Undergraduate Student, Geography Department

Project Description

Several research initiatives have been initiated in response to the coastal impacts of hurricanes Irene and Sandy. The cities of East Haven and West Haven suffered severe damages to coastal properties are a result of these storms. Research activities include surveying beach profiles in order to assess beach stability (wide beaches were the most common source of protection against storm wave damage), mapping flood plains from the two storms and potential future storms, and creating coastal vulnerability maps and assessments. This research is being conducted in close liaison with city engineering and public works department to assure maximum usefulness of the data. It is our intention to extend these studies for Fairfield and Middlesex counties.

Results to Date/Significance

Pre- and post-Sandy profiles and observations pointed out the critical role of beaches in protecting shorelines from storm wave damage. The critical point of impact for Irene in CT was the Cosey Beach area of East Haven. The principle reason for this is that residents of the area had allowed their fronting beach to erode to the point or having no beach at high tide. The presence of a beach, even a relatively small one as it turns out, allows wave energy to be dissipated before interacting with structures such as coastal homes. This research led to a conference presentation at the Geological Society of America's Annual meeting in Denver, October 27-30, 2013. It also led to an invitation to write a chapter of a new book to be published by Elsevier on the Impacts of Hurricane Sandy.

The Effects of Dormancy on Competition Outcomes Between Marine Sessile Invertebrates

Faculty         Dr. Sean Grace
                       Biology, SCSU

Student Participant(s)

                       Summer 2013; Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                       Gabrielle Corradino, Biology, Graduate Student

Research suggests that the temperate coral Astrangia poculata is overgrown during the winter months by other marine invertebrates because this coral species undergoes dormancy (hibernation). The suggestion is being investigated for the first time in situ by tagging (aluminum tree tags) and following the competitive outcomes of 30 A. poculata colonies both in the intertidal (Bass Rock, Narragansett, RI) and subtidal (Fort Wetherill, Jamestown, RI) through the winter months (2013-2014). Using SCUBA, bi-monthly examinations of these interactions are taking place.

Results to Date/Significance

Results to date (February 2014) suggest that corals are not out-competed for space by a range of other invertebrate species (sponges, hydroids, anemones, tunicates). Assessment will continue throughout the summer months to examine the longer term effects of dormancy on these interactions, if any exist.

Effects of water flow on the capture ability of the temperate coral Astrangia poculata

Faculty         Dr. Sean Grace
                       Biology, SCSU

Student Participant(s)

                       Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                       Sarah Koerner, Biology, Undergraduate Student (Biology Honors Major)

Recent work suggests that water flow is important in explaining many aspects of a sessile organism's ecology and physiology. Small, sessile aquatic organisms like corals, anemones and sponges carry on simple respiration, in which dissolved oxygen diffuses into their cells from the surrounding water and carbon dioxide diffuses out of their cells back into the water, so that no specialized respiratory structures are needed. In addition to renewal of essential gases, water flow and mixing provide a continuous supply of nutrients and prey which allows some animals (for example, anthozoans like anemones, corals and hydroids) to feed as passive suspension feeders. Though this may appear to be an ideal feeding mechanism energetically, it has clear mechanical constraints. When water flow is very high, holding structures such as tentacles into the flow to capture prey may be difficult or impossible and polyps may collapse because of the water strain. Laboratory studies will be designed to determine the relative importance of water flow on the feeding biology of A. poculata. Laboratory experiments will be completed in a recirculating flume, (Vogel style racetrack flume) pictured below powered by a 3hp trolling motor.

Results to Date/Significance

Sarah has properly characterized water flow in the flume and will begin experiments this Spring 2014 semester. This coincides with her HON 494 Prospectus course in which she will write up her thesis proposal.

Water Quality Monitoring in New Haven Harbor

Faculty         Dr. Vincent T. Breslin
                       Science Education and Environmental Studies
                       Dr. James Tait
                       Science Education and Environmental Studies

Student Participants

                       Summer 2013; Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                       Hollie Brandstatter, Undergraduate Student, Marine Studies
                       MAR 460 Undergraduate Students (9 students) Spring 2014

                       Summer 2013

                       Tiffany Ng, Undergraduate Student, Environmental and Marine Studies
                       Alex Fertel, Environmental and Marine Studies

 Long Island Sound is an ecologically diverse environment with rich and varied ecosystems for marine organisms while also providing important environmental and recreational services for Connecticut and New York residents. Despite its ecological and economic importance, water quality throughout the Sound is vastly under-monitored, particularly in the especially vulnerable and densely populated coastal embayments. The Long Island Sound Study recently highlighted the importance of expanding and integrating water quality monitoring efforts throughout the Sound to provide uniform, reliable near-shore monitoring data to watershed managers and the broader scientific/technical community. The students and faculty of the Center for Coastal and Marine Studies at SCSU established a long-term water quality monitoring program at Long Wharf Pier, New Haven harbor in January 2012. Weekly water quality testing at this location occurs once per week coinciding with high tide. Water quality and meteorological parameters measured include salinity (ppt), specific conductance (mS/cm), dissolved oxygen (mg/L), air and water temperature (°C), wind speed (m/s), relative humidity (%), light intensity (lux), secchi disk depth (m), turbidity (NTU), and pH. Chlorophyll a measurements at this location will begin in March 2013.

Results to Date/Significance

To date, we have completed one continuous year of monitoring and are now monitoring water quality at this location for a second year. Water temperature (1.1-25.2 °C) at the pier at Long Wharf, New Haven displays a typical seasonal trend. Dissolved oxygen concentrations (5.75 – 13.6 mg/L) at this location also vary with temperature as oxygen solubility in water is a function of water temperature (greater solubility at lower water temperature).   Salinity at this location at high tide varies within a narrow range from (9.8 – 26.7 ppt). Water clarity at this location, as measured using a secchi disk, ranges from 0.6 – 2.0 meters. The ranges of these values for these water quality parameters are typical for similar water parameters reported for other LIS coastal embayments. The water quality monitoring program is networked with other similar citizen/scientist water quality monitoring programs throughout LIS.

We have developed a procedure for the determination of chlorophyll-a using the Shimadzu UV-2600 UV/VIS Spectrophotometer and chlorophyll a determinations are now monitored routinely as part of the water quality monitoring program. Weekly chlorophyll-a measurements were initiated in August 2013. Mean monthly chlorophyll-a concentrations decreased from a high of 11.9 mg/L in August 2013 to a low of 2.3 mg/L in December 2013.

Microwave Assisted Digestion of Marine Sediment and Oyster Tissues

Faculty         Dr. Vincent T. Breslin
                       Science Education and Environmental Studies

Student Participants

                       Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                       Jremy Flanders, Undergraduate Student, Chemistry and Marine Studies
                       Kristin Russo, Undergraduate Student, Biology

 Microwave enhanced acid digestion techniques are considered state-of-the-art methods for the extraction of metals from sediment and biological tissues in preparation for analysis by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The SE&ES Department acquired a Milestone ETHOS EZ microwave digestion system in September 2012. The microwave digestion process allows more rapid and thorough sediment and tissue decomposition as the digestion is accomplished at high temperature and pressure through microwave irradiation in acid in a closed vessel. This study will adapt previously recommended operational parameters for the digestion of sediment and biological tissues to optimize the microwave assisted digestion of harbor sediment and oyster tissue. Optimizing the time-temperature heating profiles and tissue mass:acid volume ratios for samples in my laboratory will allow for rapid metal extractions while reducing hazardous waste in research and teaching laboratory exercises. The working hypothesis in this research is that higher temperatures and pressures achieved during microwave digestion will result in more rapid sample decomposition and will allow the elimination of hydrogen peroxide and small quantities of perchloric acid added in previously used open-vessel digest techniques while achieving improved digest metal recoveries.

Results to Date/Significance

 A time-temperature program was developed for the microwave digestion of sediment. The accuracy and precision of the microwave assisted digest technique was assessed by comparing metal recoveries versus their NIST 2702 Standard Reference Material Inorganics in Marine Sediment respective certified values. Additionally, previously analyzed Stamford harbor sediment samples from three stations were also analyzed using the microwave digest technique. Results showed that the microwave assisted digest technique was able to recover between 90-100% of the copper, zinc and iron certified values for the NIST 2702 Marine Sediment. Comparable metal recoveries were also achieved for the Stamford harbor sediment samples digested using a conventional open vessel wet acid digestion technique used in our laboratory. Current work is focusing on developing a similar microwave technique for the recovery of metals from oyster tissue.

Spatial Trends in Sediment Mercury in Connecticut Embayments

Faculty         Dr. Vincent T. Breslin
                       Science Education and Environmental Studies

Student Participants

                       Summer 2013; Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                       Jremy Flanders, Undergraduate Student, Chemistry and Marine Studies

Harbor sediments, due to the restricted water circulation and the proximity to multiple sources of industrial and municipal wastewater, are often contaminated with metals of environmental concern. Sediment metal contents vary as a function of sediment type and coastal harbors are usually characterized by a variety of sedimentary environments. The presence of contaminated sediment in Connecticut harbors is an issue of concern. WCCMS faculty and students have sampled sediment from 12 Connecticut harbors and embayments over the past decade (2002-2013). Many of the sediment samples collected from these harbors have been analyzed for copper, iron, zinc, loss on ignition and mean grain-size. WCCMS researchers are analyzing these archived sediments for the presence of mercury using the Milestone DMA-80 direct mercury analyzer.

Results to Date/Significance

Sediment mercury concentrations have been determined on archived samples for Black Rock, New Haven, Stamford, Clinton, and Milford harbors during the past year (2013). Sediment from Branford harbor are currently being analyzed. Results of these analyses were reported in the poster titled "Spatial Variations in Surface Sediment Mercury in Connecticut Coastal Embayments" at the Long Island Sound Research Conference, Port Jefferson, NY. April 19, 2013. We anticipate analyzing the mercury content of the archived sediment inventory in 2014.

Spatial Trends in Sediment Metals in Stamford and Greenwich Harbors

Faculty         Dr. Vincent T. Breslin
                       Science Education and Environmental Studies

Student Participants

                       Summer 2013

                       Kristin Russo, Undergraduate Student, Biology
                       Jremy Flanders, Undergraduate Student, Chemistry and Marine Studies
                       Hollie Brandstatter, Undergraduate Student, Marine Studies

                       Fall 2013; Spring 2014

                       Kristin Russo, Undergraduate Student, Biology

 The objective of this study is to conduct a high spatial resolution sampling of Stamford, Greenwich and Cos Cob harbors to determine levels of sediment metal contamination. All three of these harbors are located along the Connecticut coastline in western Long Island Sound. This study examines the sediment composition and physical characteristics (grain size, and loss on ignition) at predetermined stations throughout each harbor. This study will also analyze the sediment for metals including iron, copper, zinc, and manganese. Results of this study will be compared to the results which have been found in previous studies. Sediment metals will be compared to their respective crustal abundances to determine the extent of contamination due to anthropogenic discharges. The sediment metal concentrations will be compared to previously published sediment quality guidelines to determine if sediment metal concentrations are causing harm to living marine resources.

Results to date/Significance

 Sediment samples were collected from 17 stations in Stamford harbor and 11 stations in Greenwich/Cos Cob harbor during June 2013. These sediment samples have been examined for physical characteristics (predominant grain size, LOI) and digested for metal analyses. Greenwich and Stamford harbor metal contamination is highest in the fine-grain inner harbor sediment proximate to their respective wastewater treatment discharge areas. Kristin Russo is in the final stages of data analyses and will complete her Honors Thesis in May 2014.