At the annual Eelgrass Conference , March 28th, USA EPA, Boston
My first Eelgrass conference was just fantastic! Most of the scientific terms went above my head so the images helped with the powerpoint presentations. I never knew that there were so many different components to Eelgrass habitats. There were more than 100 scientists at the event with several of them giving different talks from how the rise in water temperature effects eelgrass populations to different practices in eelgrass restorations. I only have snippets of the event here and plan to interview each of the scientists separately over the summer.
Tay Evans spoke about her work in 13 different sites in and around the Boston area where her team used this Burlap disk method to plant eelgrass. They successfully restored 24 acres of eelgrass to three sites by 2016.
Holly Plaisted spoke about eelgrass monitoring data and factors the distribution and abundance in the Northeast. She spoke of how eelgrass forms the foundation of coastal food webs, promotes water quality, protects shorelines and cycles nutrients and many more benefits. However, the Eutrophication of coastal waters, physical disturbances and Temperature are all negatively impacting these amazing habitats. There is higher eelgrass reliance in cooler waters and warmer temperatures indicate more eelgrass loss.
Melisa Wong, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Canada
Melisa Wong explores how diversity affects the functioning of eelgrass populations in Nova Scotia. Interesting to here how both external movements in air and internal movements in the water affect eelgrass. Also never thought about the sediment, how different it can be from close to shore line and out more. Melisa also studies eelgrass that are in deeper waters too fascinating.
Alyssa Novak, Boston University
Alyssa spoke about Blue Carbon Sequestration, how Eelgrass is an important natural storage system underground. She spoke of many variables affecting this process. By studying components in sediment traps, checking sediment cores and looking at plant parameters they can create parameters for their field studies. The variability of data at various sites was interesting. Also, I had never thought of Environmental conditions(temperature), Sediment characteristics(sediment grain size, % silt clay), Plant parameters & wave exposure being a predictor for bulk carbon at some of the sites.
Dante Torio, UNH – Zosterain Hudson Bay: Research with Cree trappers
Dante Torio’s goal in his study was to quantify, documented support traditional knowledge on Eelgrass, water quality and the impacts this has on geese and fish. His goal was also to train local researchers and provide the Cree government with needed information on resource planning and management. Some of Dante’s challenges were as follows:
One of the findings from his study indicates that eelgrass in Hudson Bay are not as healthy. That the reduced salinity and water clarity are impacting the populations. Loved that these monitoring tools they used for the study:
Keene State University
Cynthia Hays studies pollen movement and outcrossing rates in Zostera Marina ( Eelgrass). Eelgrass can self fertilize as well as cross-pollinate. Shots, spathe, seeds..I really need to chat to this lady, so not getting this genotype science. I know she is studying patterns of diversity in eelgrass but thats about it, potential interview..stay tuned!
Mass Water Resources Authority
This was easier to understand, the reduction in wastewater = eelgrass population coming back and even expanding in Boston Harbor!
Remember seeing those egg shaped funny structures as you are landing in to Boston? That waste water project flushes out all the gunk and treats it I believe 9 miles out. This brilliant idea to move it out of our harbor has meant that when there were no eelgrass to be seen with dark murky water, now we have clear water with eelgrass returning to our bay! I also know that Phil Colarusso also played an important role in this project that we now take for granted.
Forest Schenck, Northeastern
Forest Schenck share with us his experimental test of the effects of temperature and eelgrass genotypic diversity on wasting disease infection prevalence and intensity. He was looking at many variables such as if diversity lead to stronger populations, or more resilient eelgrass in relation to stressors such as wasting disease.
Juliet Simpson on Wetland Protection, MIT
Juliet Simpson spoke about regulatory options and opportunities in MA. She gave an overview of jurisdiction, bylaw examples, mitigating impacts and resource info. She highlighted that municipalities may adapt additional bylaws to the Wetland Protection Act that helps address the needs of local communities. She gave this example of how a town could adopt a new set of bylaws that help protect declining eelgrass populations:
Also loved these other re-imaginations of smarter ways to protect eelgrass beds:
Just being mindful of how we shade eelgrass with the piers, or how to slow down boat traffic to reduce turbidity. Or even thinking about eelgrass friendly moorings that don’t scape away at the roots of established eelgrass beds. Love the thinking..I guess the question would be how do you create policy in coastal towns that these fabulous ideas are adopted more.
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Nedret Andre is an internationally acclaimed artist who works from Studio 224 in Boston’s premier Design and Arts District, at SOWA. Nedret’s art is inspired by oceanic seagrass and is a passionate advocate for ocean conservation.