MERI

Terry Doss receives Bergen County’s Audubon Society’s Harold Feinberg Conservation Award

 

Our own Terry Doss, Co-Director and Chief Restoration Scientist Meadowlands Research and Restoration Institute (MRRI),  has been awarded the the Bergen County Audubon Society’s Harold Feinberg Conservation Award.   Feinberg, a longtime BCAS member, field trip chairman, mentor, and enthusiastic supporter of BCAS endeavors,always gave freely of his expertise with a combination of patience and knowledge that few possess. In her role, Terry helps to oversee the unique and fragile habitat and wildlife in the New Jersey Meadowlands .Her eagerness to venture out into the field to study the dynamics of marsh life is endless. She is always seeking to improve native habitats through restoration projects that can include introducing beneficial plants, managing invasive populations, and building suitable nesting habitats for different bird species.

Congratulations Terry!


East Coast Greenway Project Mission

 

MERI collected orthoimagery and video footage to promote the East Coast Greenway project’s mission.

The Greenway project sets out to bring to life the Jersey City and Hudson County Master Plans’ call for the development of an off-road route for the East Coast Greenway Maine-to-Florida trail. Developing the Harsimus Branch will significantly advance that route through Hudson County, linking historic sites, parks, and other open spaces. The Greenway will serve as a spine for a trail system.

MERI’s drone mission focused on the Jersey City part of the project and covered part of the Essex- Hudson Greenway, the Bergen Arches and the Harsimus Branch and Embankment.

MERI’s drone pilot took orthoimagery of the abandoned rail line to provide high resolution aerial imagery for research at Rutgers University to assess vegetation composition along the embankment and the greenway. The orthoimagery is supported by an assessment of plant health, derived from VARI vegetation index.

Deliverables also included a video footage of the greenway. The montage gives a bird eye’s view of the green line starting from the Hackensack River and ending at the 6th street waterfront in Jersey City.


Osprey Nesting Platform Installation in the Meadowlands

 

The osprey, formally known as the fish hawk, is one of New Jersey’s largest raptors, and well known along coastal marshes. Habitat deterioration has resulted in less-than-optimal places for this species to nest. This installation over open water is intended to provide a nesting place for osprey in the Meadowlands Estuary.

(Please click on the embedded satellite photo to view the full resolution)


New Sediment Elevation Table installation at Ackerman (2021)

 

Sediment elevation tables (SET’s) are used to measure increases or decreases in marsh surfaces from sedimentation and shallow subsidence. This method is paired with marker horizon to explain processes behind elevation increases or decreases It provides accurate and precise measurements at an exact location with mm resolution. The technique is based on a mechanical leveling device. There are 10 SET permanent installations in the Meadowlands that go back to 2004., The most comprehensive source for SET background, installation, and measurements can be found at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center website (http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/set/)


New state of the art continuous water quality sensor at the Barge Marina

 

The water quality sensor at the Barge Marina was replaced with a state-of-the-art continuous water quality sensor. The sensor is a new generation YSI multiparameter EXO3 sond for estuarine applications. This probe allows us to supplement the seasonal and expensive grab samples and observe temporal details in the water quality of the lower Hackensack. Salinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen temperature, turbidity, and pH are reported every 10 minutes. This new sond is designed with tough materials and new antifouling technology for extended deployment. Real-time measurements can be accessed from our top menu by clicking on Environmental Monitoring Data under the Scientific Data submenu.


Groundwater Monitoring in the Meadowlands District

 

The increases in sea level and the frequency of storm events due to climate change is having a profound effect on the water table of the tidally influenced Meadowlands district and will consequently affect the redistribution of legacy trace metal contaminants buried and immobilized in the sediments. With the support from NJWRRI (New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute) funding, MERI established four shallow groundwater monitoring wells at a well-studied site (SHS) in the Meadowlands to explore the relationship between the groundwater table level and storm events with trace metal movement and redistribution.




Tide Gate Sensors to Predict Flood Risk

 

The hurricane season has kicked off at the Meadowlands, bringing a different, still just as serious threat that COVID-19 has graced us with. MERI scientists have been equipping strategic tide gates in the Hackensack River estuary to predict flooding caused by storm surge in the 14 towns of the Hackensack Meadowlands District.

MERI has been building a network of tide gauge sensors, that provide continuous water level readings on both the landside and riverside of the tide gates every 15 minutes.

  1. East Rutherford – Berrys Creek
  2. Rutherford – Berrys Creek
  3. Franks Creek – Kearny off the Passaic River
  4. East Riser – Carlstadt
  5. Moonachie creek – Carlstadt
  6. West Riser – Carlstadt
  7. Losen Slote – Little Ferry
  8. DePeyster Creek – Little Ferry

Please refer to the thematic map for locations of the tide gauge sensors.

These self-sustaining stations are equipped with Campbell Scientific’s CR300 data loggers explicitly designed for long-term remote monitoring and powered by solar panels. The built-in Wi-Fi option ensures instant communication with MERI’s environmental server. It has also allowed us to build a real-time alert system, that would trigger an alarm whenever the water level reaches 4.5ft at the riverside. At that point, a text message goes out to the subscribers to prompt them to monitor the progress of the storm, should the water level further increase, and the risk of flooding arise. Also on this page, static flood risk maps provide further information on potential flood hazards for each of the 14 municipalities. Subscription is free upon request.

The water depth data is also displayed on MERI’s website powered by VISTA Data Vision. Graphs for each tide gate show the changes in water level and temperature every 15 minutes. The charts update hourly, and can be viewed by the public. The current data – up to a calendar year – is available for download from the website by hovering over the “Scientific Data” menu in the navigation bar and selecting “Environmental Monitoring Data”. Historical records may be requested.

(Please click on the embedded site map photo to view the full resolution of the site map)


MERI Continuous Air Quality Monitoring During COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Improved air quality has been the silver lining of the pandemic. We see a big change in air quality as less people are driving and industrial activity is down about 60%. Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute continuously measures air quality from sensors located on the roof of 1 Dekorte Park Plaza in Lyndhurst. We observe a significant drop in greenhouse gases when we compare April 2019 with April 2020. During this period, carbon dioxide (CO2) in our area decreased 18%, Carbon monoxide (CO) decreased 14%, and Nitrous Oxides (NOx) decreased 37%. However, surface ozone (O3) can be destroyed by NOx, so when nitrogen dioxide pollution goes down, the ozone level increases. As a result, although air quality has largely improved during COVID-19 shutdown, surface ozone can still be a problem.

 


Salt Marsh Carbon Sequestration Study

 

As the 2020 growing season kicks in and the Meadowland marshes gear up for the spring, it’s time to deploy MERI’s carbon flux sensors.

As part of a grant agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, CD- 96284501-0) MERI scientists measure carbon sequestration potential of three major habitats of the lower Hackensack River Estuary: mudflat, low marsh and high marsh habitats.

Low marsh habitats are dominated by the tall, dense stands of the smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), while at the high marsh habitat saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) and desert saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) share dominance.

The study aims to explore the differences in carbon uptake between the vegetated habitats and the mudflat by utilizing open path CO2/H2O gas analyzers (one LI-7500A: LiCOR Inc., and 2 IRGASON: Campbell Inc. sensors) mounted on eddy covariance towers. The sensors capture CO2 fluxes on the vegetation-atmosphere interface based on air CO2 and water vapor concentration, ambient temperature and pressure at a 20records/sec rate, 24/7.

The raw data is collected monthly at the stations and converted into .dat files at MERI’s GIS lab. CO2, and H2O fluxes are then calculated and averaged into an hourly dataset using EddyPro open source software. Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE) and annual Gross Ecosystem Production (GEP) are calculated at the end of the annual data collection, and those values serve as a basis of the habitat comparison.

The ultimate goal of the project is to capture the marsh canopy’s annual carbon uptake rate at each of the three habitat types and to better understand their carbon sequestration potential and the role they play in the region’s carbon footprint.

(Please click on the embedded site map photo to view the full resolution of the site map)


Water Sampling of Hard to Reach Places Using Drones

 

MERI has been experimenting with water quality sampling using drones. In a complex urban/industrial/estuarine area there are many hard to reach water bodies. The challenge is to collect a sample of at least 400 ml in an acid washed bottle using a drone. A 3D printer was used to make the bottle attachment mechanism.