Current Research Programs
Each year the Coastal Conservation Research Program seeks applications for summer research interns. As always, our researchers represent a wide variety of colleges and universities from the United States and abroad. All of our researchers share a common enthusiasm and energy that make them fun to interact with.
Coastal Conservation Research Program
Program Director: Dr. Lisa Ferguson
The Terrapin Conservation Project was established at the Wetlands Institute in 1989. The project assesses the impact of human activities on diamondback terrapins and ways to reduce those impacts. Using terrapins reared in our “turtle farm” we evaluate the impacts of our head-starting program on the local terrapin population. We also determine the distribution, movements and abundance of terrapins using several different approaches (mark, release, recapture and telemetry). Finally, we conduct basic and applied studies on terrapin life history, reproduction and ecology.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Roger Wood, Wetlands Institute and Richard Stockton College
Research Scientists: Dr. Rosalind Herlands, Richard Stockton College
Dr. Patrick Baker, The Wetlands Institute
Research Coordinator: Katie Sellers, Wetlands Institute
Bald Eagle Prey Project
The Wetlands Institute, in collaboration with The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, initiated a study of skeletal remains collected from bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests scattered throughout New Jersey. Preliminary analysis of this material has provided insight into the food preferences and ecological impact of the rebounding bald eagle population in New Jersey.
As in previous years, we continue to participate in a large population study of spawning horseshoe crabs along the New Jersey shore of Delaware Bay. We have been participating in this project for many years, helping to develop information about the status of the world’s densest concentration of horseshoe crabs. Beginning in May and lasting through June, horseshoe crab spawning surveys occur on Delaware Bay beaches during new and full moons, at high tide and at night.
Beach Nesting Bird Project
A new initiative in 2011, the Beach Nesting Bird Project involves student researchers and Institute volunteers as they assist biologists from The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey in their monitoring of Stone Harbor Point for beach nesting birds. We will also participate in ancillary conservation activities regarding local beach nesting bird populations, such as public outreach, courtesy fence installation, and setting up predator exclosure cages over nest sites.
Past Research Projects
Innovative Use of Dredged Materials and Disposal Sites to Reduce Diamondback Terrapin Mortality & Enhance Nesting Habitat
The Wetlands Institute, in partnership with the Richard Stockton College Coastal Research Center and Ocean Coastal Consultants Inc., has developed a research project with support from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s “I Boat New Jersey“ grant program. The primary objective of the project was to identify locations that are suitable for restoration and enhancement of diamondback terrapin nesting habitat with an emphasis on beneficial use of dredged material. Priority areas for terrapin habitat restoration and mortality reduction were identified using spatial analysis techniques (GIS and remote-sensing) and field visits. For more details about the program, please see our fact sheet.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Roger Wood, Wetlands Institute
Dr. Dan Hernandez, Richard Stockton College and Wetlands Institute
Dr. Patrick Baker, Swarthmore College
Research Coordinator: Ilene Eberly, Wetlands Institute
Delaware Bay Horseshoe Crab and Migratory Shorebird Project
Research focused on conservation of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs of Delaware Bay. The major goal was to establish baseline data for behavior and habitat use of laughing gulls and other non-priority shorebird species. Red knots, ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, and semipalmated sandpipers have been the focus of large research and conservation efforts. But our study focused on other shorebirds that use the Bay but have not been well studied. Other goals included conducting experiments on shorebird foraging and horseshoe crab egg biology.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Dan Hernandez, Richard Stockton College
Beach Biology Project
The Beach Biology Project studied the intertidal zone of beaches throughout Cape May County, focusing on the beaches of Seven Mile Island. Research focuses on burrowing invertebrate life and profiling of physical beach characteristics. Techniques include: use of sieve sampling, surveying, profiling, and sand sampling. The beaches are compared examining species diversity and abundance along with sand grain size and sand migration patterns. The Project compared local raked versus unraked beaches and beaches affected by filling, such as Stone Harbor Point.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Rich Hager, Richard Stockton College
Least Tern Breeding Ecology
Least terns are colonial beach nesting birds that are listed in New Jersey as state-endangered. Along the NJ coast, beaches are heavily used by people for recreation during the least tern nesting season. Disturbance from human activities and predators frequently interrupt incubation, exposing eggs to potential predators and/or potentially detrimental temperature fluctuations. Temperature data loggers (Ibuttons) were used to monitor incubation in relation to nest abandonment and disturbance. The project focused on position in the colony (e.g. edge vs. center) and the spatial distribution of nests within the colony (e.g. clustered vs. scattered). Abstract_Least_Tern
Principal Investigator: Ilene Eberly, Wetlands Institute
Colonial Waterbird Breeding Ecology
This project examined the effectiveness of conducting weekly ground surveys on nesting colonial waterbirds in comparison to aerial surveys conducted by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Point counts and nest monitoring will determine the breeding success of two heron rookeries located on Gull and Sturgeon Island. Continuous monitoring efforts throughout the nesting season may be beneficial to understanding predator activities, inter- and intra- specific competition, and the overall breeding ecology of egrets and herons.
Principal Investigator: Ilene Eberly, Wetlands Institute