February 13, 2012

New Research Funding Awarded

MIT Sea Grant: New Research Awards, February 2012

DEVELOPMENT OF AN AUTOMATED SEEPAGE METER FOR QUANTIFYING SUBMARINE GROUNDWATER DISCHARGE IN THE COASTAL ZONE
Matthew Charette, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Project Summary: Nutrient-rich, submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) seeps into neighboring bodies of water may result in damaging eutrophication of salt marshes, bays and other coastal waters. This project seeks to deliver SGD measurement technology to oceanographers, industry and coastal managers through the development of a low-cost and easy to operate automated seepage meter. The key innovation in this new seepage meter will be the development of a low power, low cost spectrophotometric sensor for determining groundwater flow based on dye dilution.

DEVELOPMENT OF AN INUNDATION FORECAST SYSTEM FOR MASSACHUSETTS COASTAL WATERS
Changsheng Chen, University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth
Project Summary: Coastal flooding in Massachusetts results from heavy rains, high river discharge, tides, wind-propelled waves, and storm surges. Climate change predictions indicate that these events are likely to increase, threatening the state's built-up coastal areas. With this project, scientists propose to establish an inundation forecast model system based on a well-validated model previously devised for Scituate. The inundation forecast system will be made available to community and state managers and researchers as a component of the Northeast Coastal Ocean Forecast System (NECOFS).

ASSESSING THE BIOACTIVITY OF ESTROGENS, INCLUDING HALOGENATED DERIVATIVES, IN CHLORINATED SEWAGE EFFLUENTS AND COASTAL SEAWATER
Philip Gschwend, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Project Summary: This project seeks to measure halogenated estrogens in the waters of Massachusetts Bay, thus enabling a realistic assessment of the risk posed by these compounds to fisheries and coastal ecosystem health. Currently these steroidal hormones are making their way into both fresh and ocean waters, where they cause anomalies such as the feminization of fish, which has been seen in response to exposures to sewage effluent. Results will provide the first integrated assessment of the bioactivity of halogenated derivatives relative to other estrogen forms and provide new data to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority relevant to their on-going efforts to protect the health of the Massachusetts Bay ecosystem.

MICROBIAL COMMUNITY COMPOSITION OF PERMEABLE REACTIVE BARRIERS: WHO IS REALLY DOING THE WORK?
Jennifer Bowen, University of Massachusetts - Boston
Project Summary: Permeable Reactive Barriers (PRBs) are placed along beachfront and marsh-edges to intercept groundwater flow as it enters coastal waters. Their function is to filter out nitrogen caused by fertilizer runoff, septic waste, and other sources before it causes pollution, eutrophication, algae blooms and other problems. Geochemical analysis suggests that the barriers effectively remove nitrogen, but slight differences in location appear to have a profound effect on their function. The investigator will use genetic sequencing tests on the microbes present in the PRBs to see whether the difference in effectiveness has to do with the presence of salt water in the PRB. There is some evidence that barriers regularly inundated by seawater foster microbes that enhances nitrogen removal. Understanding what environmental conditions help denitrifying bacteria thrive will help to guide future barrier design, construction and placement.

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PI, Jennifer Bowen, states: "This is showing the region of the beach where the barrier to be studied is located. Notice there is a wide expanse where there is no macroalgae. This is directly in front of the barrier, whereas to either side there are visible amounts of algae on the beach. Pretty compelling visual evidence that the barriers are working." Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bowen

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