Research priorities within the Jacques Cousteau Reserve program include investigations on eutrophication, habitat loss and alteration, effects of climate change on coastal communities and resources, sea level rise, and resource conservation. Key research areas conducted within the reserve are outlined below, as are the sources of funding to conduct them.
External sources of funding awarded to researchers at Rutgers University have been and are likely to continue to be the primary source of research support for Reserve projects. More specifically, research in Reserve waters has been largely conducted by Rutgers scientists at the Institute of Marine Sciences; Center of Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis in New Brunswick; and at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station in Tuckerton. Future research in the Jacques Cousteau Reserve will continue to be closely linked to activities of these researchers, as well as researchers in the Reserve who receive research grants from external sources.
Sources of external funding for the research program have included the Barnegat Bay NEP as well as state (NJ Department of Environmental Protection) and federal government agencies such as the EPA and the US Department of Agriculture. The research and monitoring staff will continue to seek support from diverse sources including Rutgers University (Academic Excellence Awards) and external competitive grants programs, such as those of the National Science Foundation (NSF), EPA, and NOAA. Funding or in-kind support may also be sought from other partners that may want to work with the Reserve's research and monitoring scientists. Examples include Cooperative Extension and Sea Grant.
Phytoplankton studies are ongoing in the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary as part of the assessment of escalating nutrient enrichment impacts from coastal watershed areas on this important coastal bay system. Chlorophyll-a data are being collected estuary-wide as a measure of phytoplankton biomass. The occurrence and abundance of the toxic-bloom-forming species Aureococcus anophagefferens are being surveyed, particularly as they relate to alteration of vital seagrass habitat in the estuary. The development of A. anophagefferens blooms (HABs) are being investigated in respect to short-term nutrient loading and estuarine availability. Long-term field surveys will target phytoplankton communities and changes in species composition in response to climate variation and other environmental stress factors.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Science, Research and Technology, in partnership with its collaborators at the New Jersey Marine Science Consortium/New Jersey Sea Grant, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2, and the Rutgers University Center for Remote & Spatial Analysis (CRSSA) conducted a three-year study of harmful brown tide algal blooms, caused by the minute pelagophycean alga (~3 mm in size) Aureococcus anophagefferens. The NJDEP funded and managed the study; NJMSC/NJSG and USEPA collected the field data on brown tide occurrence. CRSSA conducted the mapping and data analysis for the BB-LEH Estuary. Brown tide studies will continue in the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary during the 2009-2011 period.
Benthic Habitat Mapping
Benthic Habitat Mapping within the Reserve involves the inclusion of several research projects in a Geographic Information System to create a more complete picture of the benthic habitat. Analysis of side-scan sonar images of Great Bay has been conducted to characterize the seabed morphology and benthic habitats of a swath of estuarine floor near a long-term water quality monitoring station (Buoy 126 in Great Bay, New Jersey) of the Reserve using high-frequency (600 kHz) side-scan sonar imaging.