Festschrift to Fred Short
What an honor to be invited to the special symposium honoring Fred Short. I knew Fred Short is the seagrass guru (of the East Coast) when I went out to interview him July 5, 2016 for my first Seagrass blog at UNH. However, I never knew the extent of his Eelgrass influence. Between setting up seagrass monitoring stations all over the wold with SeagrassNet for monitor the health of our oceans to helping shape future Eelgrass experts, Fred Short has truly been a beacon of light to many including my self.
Tay Evans and Phil Colarusso helped organize this event with NEERS to give an overview of seagrass research in the US. Many of Fred Short’s former PhD student’s continue to work on Eelgrass research, monitoring, restoration, and investigations into water quality. Fred’s colleagues in the field including Hillary Neckles ( USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, ME) and Pam Morgan( Department of Environmental Studies, University of New England, ME) also shared their work in Seagrass outreach and research.
What was wonderful was seeing how Fred’s three tier monitoring system for mapping seagrass was incorporated into many scientists work, including Jeff Geackles’s projects in Washington State Department’s research.
It was fascinating to see how scientists in different areas were monitoring eelgrass beds from using shoot density, to precent cover, disease, water quality and epiphytes as variables. I loved how they are also combining sensor technologies with sonar, video imagery, ariel geo-mapping of sites too.
Some of the major concerns with seagrass & habitat loss was related to water quality and nutrient overload.
-most problems connected with nutrient overload (nitrogen/sulphate)
Where septic tanks overflow/need for updated waste management
– too much nutrients result in algae blooms that block light.-mitigation( replanting) helps solve part of the problem there is a need for continued nurturing ( projects only funded for 2 years)
-warming waters are adding extra stress to seagrass esp. in South more issues with wasting disease
-need for better communication between different stakeholders
Pam Morgan spoke about the urgency needed for education & programs like the Gulf of Maine Institue where science and preservation plays a key role in preparing future citizen stewards. In the face of challenges of sea level rise, nutrient loading, ocean acidification, eroding, shorelines, and extreme weather events we really need future thinking generations.
By the end of the evening, I couldn’t help but think that there needs to be a better way to bridge all this great eelgrass science, conservation efforts, with volunteers and stakeholders. Restoration sites need funding to have continued monitoring. The “plant it and go” method is short term, and there is a need for long term mitigation with additional funding. Seagrass’ are so sensitive to many variables and take 100 years to really get establish.
I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet Kathy Short, Fred’s wife who helped write my beloved book “World Atlas of Seagrass” with Fred’s research. It was hang out with Fred and see how he has been an amazing inspiration to so many including myself.