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SBU to Receive Share of New York Sea Grant
Stony Brook University, Cornell and other NY institutions to share $2.4 Million for NY waters research projects

STONY BROOK, NY, March 15, 2012 – The New York Sea Grant (NYSG) program has received a grant totaling $2.4 million for fiscal years 2012-2013 to fund its research, extension and education efforts on important coastal issues related to storm surges and flooding, seafood safety, wetland habitats, fisheries, and harmful algal blooms, among others.

“NYSG is just beginning a new round of nine funded research projects which address critical coastal concerns from diverse regions of the state, the Lake Ontario shoreline, the Hudson estuary and New York Harbor, and both the north and south shores of Long Island,” said New York Sea Grant director Dr. Jim Ammerman. 

Two separate researcher teams will study potential human exposure to, respectively, hazardous substances such as mercury (Hg) and bacterial toxins like Listeria monocytogenes through fish consumption. 

“The goal of my investigation is to provide the most thorough, up-to-date information on mercury in commercial seafood via the Web for public use by research scientists and public officials,” said Dr. Nicholas Fisher from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences(SoMAS). 

As for the Listeria study, Cornell University’s Dr. Martin Wiedmann and his team will employ several scientific methods to predict effective combinations of bactericidal agents and growth inhibitors for L. monocytogenes on cold smoked salmon. “The results should provide salmon food processors cheaper and more effective control measures and increase seafood safety for consumers,” he said.

Sea level rise associated with climate change is also a concern, as detailed in an investigation by Dr. Stuart Findlay of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook. Findlay says climate change related processes could cause salt water to intrude further up the tidal Hudson River where they could impact tidal marsh ecology. “Freshwater tidal marshes of the Hudson are known to be important sites of nitrate removal during tidal exchanges,” said Dr. Findlay. “The literature suggests that this function will decline under a higher salinity regime.” Results of this project will inform managers and land stewards about the current functioning of brackish water wetlands of the Hudson and provide information crucial for future management/restoration plans.

SoMAS researcher Dr. Malcolm Bowman is a member of The Stony Brook Storm Surge Research Group which has been funded principally by NYSG since 2002 to work on storm surge science, coastal defense systems and policy issues related to regional protection of New York City and Long Island.

According to the Research Group, the New York Metropolitan region is vulnerable to coastal flooding and large-scale damage to city infrastructure from hurricanes and nor'easters. Much of this region—an area of about 100 square miles—lies less than three meters above mean sea level. Within this area lies critical infrastructure such as hospitals, airports, railroad and subway station entrances, highways, water treatment outfalls and combined sewer outfalls at or near sea level.

The Group’s most recently-funded study examines a possible combination of the variety of storm surge prediction models out there, from the National Weather Service to universities and technical institutes. "Since each storm has its own peculiar characteristics and behavior," said Dr. Bowman. "No one model is always the most accurate at predicting surge events. For this reason we believe that a forecast obtained by constructing an ensemble of these model outputs will produce the most reliable predictor for a wide range of storm event scenarios."

Water quality is at the center of several studies, including one led by SoMAS’s Dr. Robert Cerratothat focuses on the paralytic shellfish toxin (PST), which has caused important health concerns because of its presence in commercially important bivalve species such as hard and softshell clams. In Long Island’s Northport-Huntington Bay estuary, algal blooms of Alexandrium fundyense, the dinoflagellate that produces PST, are characterized by blooms that are made of high cell densities but produce low toxicities. This project will study how such blooms impact the productivity of hard and softshell clams. Information from this study will aid decision making for coastal managers within the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, shellfish growers, and harvesters.

In August 2010, Sodus Bay, Lake Ontario suffered from a toxic cyanobacterial bloom (Microcystis sp.) that resulted in extensive economic impacts to the region. In order to determine the possible impacts of marinas on such algal blooms in the Bay, a team led by Dr. Gregory Boyer, from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, is developing a model to better understand the nutrient and algal dynamics of the Bay and further aid decision making for the Bay’s management.

Monies for these projects come via NYSG’s parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP), located in Silver Springs, MD. 

In addition to addressing important problems and opportunities, NYSG's 2010-2013 Omnibus funds will also provide graduate students with financial support through the Sea Grant Scholar Program, and sponsors conferences, seminars and workshops on a variety of coastal issues each year.

New York Sea Grant is a statewide network of integrated research, education, and extension services promoting the coastal economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness about the State's marine and Great Lakes resources. One of 32 university-based programs under the NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, NYSG is a cooperative program of the State University of New York and Cornell University. Learn more online at www.nyseagrant.org.