Saving Barnegat Bay

If you’ve ever explored a marsh flat at low tide or boated across a bay, you’ve been among sea grass beds—vital ecosystems that support a wide range of marine life, serving as food, habitat, shelter, and spawning grounds. In coastal areas worldwide, sea grass is on the decline, choked by an explosion of algae that thrives on, among other things, the nutrients in fertilizer runoff that reach coastal waters. Algae obscures sunlight and saps oxygen; this, combined with increasing water temperatures, inhibits the grasses’ growth.

In New Jersey, sea grass decline affects the people and industries that depend on Barnegat Bay for recreation and income. Faculty, students, research assistants, and others from Rutgers’ Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences study sea grass and its inhabitants in the bay in order to understand more about algae and other threats to this delicate and important coastal Jersey ecosystem.
 

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Marine technical assistant and public outreach coordinator Gina Petruzzelli, center, steers the Mullica Bay Explorer into Barnegat Bay. The boat is one of several active research vessels based at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station in Tuckerton, New Jersey. The field station is operated by Rutgers’ internationally renowned Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Covering more than 53,000 acres, Barnegat Bay is an ecologically sensitive shallow water estuary in Ocean County. Pollution, fertilizer runoff, algal blooms, temperature rise, and other human impacts threaten its once-abundant sea life.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Under the National Science Foundation-funded Research Internship Ocean Sciences (RIOS) Program for undergraduates, Chris Huch and Jessica Kurth, both in the water, studied the relationship between water temperature and species hardiness in the bay.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    A depth pole with an attached Secchi disk measures water transparency; the more opaque the water, the less sunlight can reach vital plants like sea grass.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Rutgers partners with statewide and local entities to monitor the bay’s oxygen levels, which are often depleted by large mats of decomposing macroalgae.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    As Jessica Kurth and Chris Huch examine their findings, Barnegat Light is visible between them in the far distance.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Creatures in the bay’s ecological chain depend on eelgrass, Zostera marina, for food, shelter, and spawning grounds. Chris Huch’s RIOS project focused on temperature rise that causes photosynthesis failure in eelgrass.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Researcher Gregg Sakowicz and the team look over macroalgae; algal blooms—which can be fed by nutrients from fertilizer runoff—choke out the oxygen and sunlight sea grass needs to thrive.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Sea lettuce, left, and a seastar, middle, live among the stifling algae, right.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Jessica Kurth’s RIOS fieldwork looked at temperature effects on two main blue mussel beds; results showed a general decline in mussel cover with increasing temperatures.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    With Gregg Sakowicz at the helm, the Mullica Bay Explorer heads back to the marina at Waretown, New Jersey.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    Proper boat handling is essential to the researchers’ safety.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    A smooth docking at South Harbor Marine.

  • Saving Barnegat Bay
    A Day of Research on the Bay

    After a productive day, the team will return to the Rutgers University Marine Field Station in Tuckerton, New Jersey.

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