Award Recipients in 2018
Johnny Quispe, a Ph.D. student at Rutgers University, will conduct a two-year ecological experiment that seeks to understand the survival of marsh wetlands under two 2050 sea level rise (SLR) scenarios (1.4ft - probable and 2 ft - less probable) by researching the resiliency of Common Reed and Smooth Cordgrass. Small dam-like objects (weirs) will be installed in marshes along the Raritan River. The weir will change the tidal time and capture water at high tide, mimicking projected SLR, and enabling data collection and analyses of the modified ecological processes.
Serina Wittyngham, a Ph.D. student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has noted that in Virginia, there are marshes where herbivorous crustaceans have removed large areas of vegetation. Unexpectedly, smooth cordgrass has revegetated these areas, yet it is unclear why this new vegetation remains ungrazed by herbivores. Her research will examine if alterations in plant chemistry have made the plants unappetizing to herbivores, thus allowing revegetation and increased contribution to sediment build-up and salt marsh persistence in the face of sea-level rise.
Katherine Culatta, a Master’s student at North Carolina State University, will conduct a taxonomic and population genetic analysis of the aquatic plant Nuphar sagittifolia (Nymphaceae), endemic to the Southeast. It is potentially threatened by range contraction in the face of climate and community changes, and the ultimate goal of the study is a status assessment to inform its federal listing status.