Environment scientists from the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute (MERI) visited the installations of the Urban Ocean Observatory at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. Data from MERI’s water elevation monitoring stations in the lower Hackensack River estuary are now contributing real-time water elevation information to the Davidson Laboratory Storm Surge Warning System. As a result, most areas in the NJMC District will soon have reliable sea surge forecasting from the Pharos super-computer at the Davison labs. Scientists also visited Davidson’s Lab experimental wave generating water tank. This tank is used to evaluate boat and ship hull designs as well as to study the effects of waves on coast defense structures. The Davidson tank can also be used to investigate the buffering capacity of natural and engineered wetlands to help reduce flooding in urban areas. The new sea surge warning system should be operational by June for the onset of the next hurricane season.
MERI has been awarded an EPA grant in the amount of $215,239 to conduct a study titles Benthic Biodiversity and Benthic Pollutants in Emergent Marshes of the NJ Meadowlands. The proposed study will look at benthic diversity and population density at two wetland sites and contaminant loads associated with the benthic community at three other wetland sites in the Meadowlands. This study will complement historical baselines of sediment contamination and benthic diversity providing new and updated information critical to the future enhancement and management of these highly impacted urban coastal wetlands.
Steven Cohen demonstrated to MERI Staff the latest drone technology for acquisition of aerial imagery and video. Steve coordinates the Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle (UAS) and Mechatronics Education STEM GPS program at Bergen County Community College (BCC). A future collaboration between MERI and this program would involve on the one hand, the transfer of drone technology to MERI and on the other, BCC students would be trained on image processing techniques and methods at MERI. Drone technology is quickly becoming a preferred tool for environmental monitoring and will complement MERI’s current balloon photography for monitoring estuarine plant and animal communities.
On October 21, 2014 MERI hosted a USAID-funded Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program facilitated by the Coastal Resources Center of the University of Rhode Island. The objective of the study tour is to provide opportunities for Vietnamese officials and leaders to consider broader adaption strategies for rivers and deltas. USAID encourages the tour participants to consider some of the longer-term planning challenges facing deltas, notably with sea level rise and resettlement and various water issues. To achieve these objectives and to present innovative thinking, the US tour will visit government, business, academia and community leaders working in NY/NJ region as well as New Orleans and the Louisiana region of the Mississippi Delta. First stop of the tour was the New Jersey Meadowlands which is considered a large urban estuary and where joint actions between a variety of actors from government, industry and communities are addressing the long-term planning challenges facing this and other estuaries and deltas because of sea level rise.
MERI-GIS will be hosting a series of training sessions for In-District municipalities. The sessions will cover how to use the Municipal Map web mapping application, to get municipal officials familiarized with new tools and to get a better understanding of the overall functionality of the tools available. The second component is the Emergency Response Information System (ERIS) which focuses on emergency planning and pre-planning.
MERI, the scientific arm of the NJ Meadowlands Commission shared valuable work related to the Meadowlands region at the Mid Atlantic Chapter of URISA. This marked the 17th bi-annual MAC-URISA Conference that provides technology-rich moderated sessions, workshops and networking opportunities for GIS professionals. Studies presented by MERI ranged from spatially explicit flood modeling efforts to Balloon photography of wetlands, GIS and permitting workflow, Hyperspectral remote sensing of marsh vegetation and estuary sediment movement patterns.
This summer MERI staffed 7 interns working in various research projects of the institute. Samantha Calderon (Bloomfield H.S.) and Marielly Pena (Newark Tech) were brought to us through the program “Explore NJ” for High School students interested in environmental science, and were supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1203210. Samantha will begin her first year at Bryn Athyn College in Pennsylvania and Marielly is a returning junior at Newark Tech. Omar Morgan studied under our “Senior Experience” program throughout the school year as well as this summer. He graduated in June from Bergen Academy and will begin his college career at Boston University. Brian Wlodowski & Maulik Patel will return to college this fall. Brian is a 3rd year student at Ramapo College and Maulik will begin his 2nd year at TCNJ. Isabella Martin will return to Bergen Academy as a Senior and Sumin Lim who was brought to us through Liberty Science Center’s “Partners in Science” program is a senior at East Brunswick High School.
Every year in August a team of MERI scientists with help from a landscaping crew mechanically remove the invasive Phragmites at the Riverbend Wetland Preserve site to prevent the collapse of the native plant community. Portions of the site currently support a mixture of native high saltmarsh vegetation, dominated by saltmarsh hay (Spartina patens). Other areas consist of open water and dense monocultures of common reed (Phragmites australis).
MERI scientists recently completed the first installation of a stage-velocity measuring station at a tidal creek in the Secaucus High School Wetlands Enhancement Site. These measurements are part of an EPA Wetlands Development grant designed to measure impairments to wetland function in the Meadowlands. For coastal wetlands to remain functional and continue to provide valuable ecosystems services such as effective buffer areas against flooding and support high levels of biodiversity they must keep up with sea level rise.
Scientists from the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute will be traveling back in time 3000 years to look at the composition of the first wetlands to become established in the Meadowlands of New Jersey. Using a Russian Peat sampler scientists can go back in time and extract sediment core samples buried thousands of years ago containing pollen grains, plant seeds and plant fragments. Tree branches from the original forested fresh water wetlands were recently collected from 17 feet deep samples at the Lyndhurst Riverside Marsh near the New Jersey Turnpike between exists 15 and 16. Carbon 14 dating revealed that some of the first wetlands to become established in the Meadowlands of New Jersey after that last glaciation period date back to 3000 years ago.