MERI and Natural Resources scientists are working to collect samples of benthic fauna from mudflats in the Meadowlands District as part of an EPA grant designed to assess the contaminant levels of mud dwelling critters that are the main source of food for some birds migrating through the Atlantic flyway. As the summer season comes to an end, migrating birds will start returning south to their wintering grounds and shorebirds will be stopping by the mudflats in the Meadowlands of New Jersey to feed before continuing their journey south. Scientists plan to determine the amount of contaminants the benthic fauna has accumulated from the sediment in which they live in this highly developed estuary. Another part of this study will examine the current diversity and population density of invertebrates at Meadowlands sites previously sampled several years ago. This will allow the researchers to recognize change over time in those benthic communities and from that infer changes in the quality of the habitat. The results of the two parts of this study will allow for informed decision making on natural resources management.
NJDEP Office of Natural Lands Management staff members visited with MERI and the Natural Resources Management Department on August 4, 2015. Presentations and discussions were provided by both Departments on their respective activities. Participants also toured the MERI laboratory, Library and GIS lab and Scientific Education Center. The day was complete with a pontoon boat tour through Sawmill and Mill Creek.
The professors and students from Montclair State University’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program came to meet with MERI staff. Staff members gave presentations regarding the MERI overview, GIS program and the Chemistry lab operations. The group also enjoyed a tour of the GIS lab and the Chemistry lab after the presentations.
The AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors Year-end Meeting was held at the Meadowlands Environment Center. Guest speaker, Dr. Francisco Artigas, Director of the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute (MERI) gave an overview of the functions of MERI. The Program Manager from NJDEP and all the Ambassadors from the State all attended the meeting.
The GIS Team from Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute (MERI) visited the Borough of East Rutherford’s Fire Station on Herman Street to show mapping tools available from the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority’s (NJSEA) Emergency Response Information System (ERIS). ERIS is a mapping tool provided to each member municipalities of the Authority focused on emergency related spatial data. Tools that were showcased included the Borough’s ability to create pre-plan reports, incident reporting, upload photos, view floor-plans and identify hazardous materials found in a building (i.e. substances that are reported to NJDEP’s RTK Program and MERI provides these reports in ERIS). MERI also demonstrated the water level alert where responders or town officials can subscribe to this alert (via text message or email), and are notified when flood waters approaches 6 feet. Water level alerts originate from continuous water level measurements from River Barge Marina (Carlstadt). Responders and/or Borough Officials can view corresponding static flood maps, and focus in on areas that may potentially flood. Other focus of the meeting was the use of GIS technology to map out key facilities within the Borough that may require detailed mapping for Police Department use. The outreach program overview sessions will continue through the summer/ fall of 2015, and will focus on meeting with specific groups of the towns.
MERI’s ballooning campaign for the summer of 2015 has begun with acquisitions from Fish Creek, Hawk property and River Bend. The goal is to acquire high resolution true color aerial images of marsh surfaces in the Meadowlands estuary. This season more than 300 acres of marsh surface are planned to be photographed from a tethered balloon less than 400 feet high. The images are used to map the extent of invasive species and to record the location of valuable native species. Balloon images of marsh surfaces have been collected during the growing season since 2005.
As green leaves emerge and plants start photosynthesizing early in the growing season there is a shift from a winter condition where marsh ecosystems emit C02 to a growing season condition where marsh ecosystems capture more atmospheric C02 that they emit. In other words, ecosystems shift from being a source of C02 during the winter leaf-off months to being a sink of C02 during the leaf-on months. When marshlands become sinks of C02 they perform a valuable ecosystem service by removing greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and burying it in the sediments where it may remain buried for hundreds if not thousands of years if left undisturbed. There is an exact day each year when this shift from source to sink occurs and it`s usually at the end of April. MERI scientists select this time period to calibrate the LI-7500A Open Path CO2/H2O Analyzer (CO2 sensor) that measures CO2 fluxes at the boundary between marsh vegetation and the atmosphere. The accuracy of the measurements from these sensors mounted on a 2.8 meters tower above the marsh surface depends on how well they are calibrated. To correctly measure this important ecosystem service, MERI scientists conduct detailed calibrations at the start of the growing season, in the middle (July-August) and at the end (December-January).
Parts of the towns of little Ferry, Moonachie and Carlstadt are located in a low lying basin of the Hackensack River Estuary with an historical original elevation of about 1.5 feet above sea level. During super storm Sandy, flood waters from the sea surge moved over berms and tide gates and up tidal creeks and storm drainage pipes reaching residential areas and known contaminated industrial sites. Water levels rose up to 38 inches above street level and areas remained flooded for more than seven hours. Deployed sensors registered a sharp increase in water turbidity as the flood waters receded. Contamination by heavy metals – in particular by chromium and mercury- is well known for this area. An assessment of metal concentrations (Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn) in the sediments of seven tidal creeks on the sea side and landside of tide gates were sampled to establish a post Sandy metal concentration baseline. The concentrations of Cr, Hg, Mn and Ni showed a negative gradient from the tide gates moving inland. Overall, samples from the sea side of tide gates had higher metal concentrations than the land side. Peach Island Creek East showed consistent higher metal concentration than the other six creeks. Tide gates, legacy mosquito ditches, storm water drainage networks, building footprints and aerial imagery from 1930 to 2014 were used to establish the spatial relationship between historic land uses and contaminants. This study establishes the post Sandy baselines for metal contaminate for future reference on their transport and fate in these ecosystems.
The NJDEP’s mapping contest is an old tradition among map makers in the State of New Jersey. This year marked the 28th annual event with nearly 100 participants from NJ State agencies, County and academia. Michael Stepowyj of MERI (NJSEA) took the overall Gail P. Carter Award for “Best Application of Science and GIS”. Michael also took 2nd Place in Data Integration (12 entries) and 2nd overall in “Newbie” category. This was Michael’s first mapping contest as part of the MERI group and a remarkable achievement for the 3 categories he won. This marks the third year in a row that the MERI-GIS group received top awards in various categories in NJDEP’s annual mapping contest.
Working in tandem with Riverkeeper and our Commission’s Parks Department, the MERI GIS team has developed an interactive web mapping application that details a boating trail along the Hackensack River within our district. The map application was created with ArcGIS Online services and includes the main path, secondary paddling trails, and seventeen points of interest along the river. These points include important natural, cultural, and historical features that gives paddlers a glimpse of the area’s history while they enjoy their excursion. The public can access this map service on their home desktops or on their mobile devices. The seventeen markers along the river have corresponding pictures and information attached to supplement the map. Paddlers can access the Paddle Map web application through the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission ArcGIS Online Portal: http://njmc.maps.arcgis.com/home/