Initial post: abstract and description of summer work

Project title: Sustainability in Chesapeake Shorescapes: Variation between spp. Palaemonetes populations in created and natural fringe marshes

This summer, I will be working under the guidance of Professor Randolph Chambers at the Keck Environmental Field Lab on campus. I will be comparing freshwater grass shrimp populations (crustacean genus Palaemonetes spp.) between natural fringing marshes and created living shorelines in Chesapeake Bay marshes. A living shoreline is a marsh made from natural materials that is designed to protect from land erosion.  My project is related to the larger-scale ongoing four-year Coastal SEES project (Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability) that is looking to determine the effectiveness of these created marshes as a sustainable shoreline protection approach. The field research will be used to inform conservation strategies in coastal areas, and will be incorporated with studies on social, economic, and political factors that relate to management decisions.

My research on the grass shrimp will be a small element helping to inform whether there are differences between selected natural and created marsh sites. I will focus on quantifying the abundance, species diversity, population composition, and average size of each shrimp sample collected. I will also be analyzing shrimp gut content to determine what the shrimp feed on and whether there are different feeding patterns between the sites. Differences between shrimp populations could indicate if human interaction and intervention in wetland ecosystems effect how species use and benefit from their habitat. My data on the nature of these shrimp populations will help to characterize the habitat provision capacity of the marshes, or the functions and processes that sustain the marsh ecosystem. Ultimately, this project aims to determine if the shrimp population data are effective factors in a marsh function model, which will be used in the Coastal SEES project to forecast future outcomes and the efficiency of both natural and created habitats under varying climate change and management scenarios.

Yesterday, I met with Professor Chambers, and learned that I will also be helping with various other projects occurring at the Keck Lab this summer, such as studies on turtles, water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to my main project on shrimp populations. I am excited to gain experience by working on multiple projects this summer, and also to learn from the other researchers on the Coastal SEES team. On Monday I will start working on a greenhouse gas (GHG) project that is looking at methane emissions from the Crim, Grim, and Swem Dells on campus. I have previous experience working on water quality studies in our campus ponds, and I am excited to continue this work by looking at whether or not the fountains recently added to the ponds are affecting emission rates, and whether or not they are effective at aerating the ponds. This study, like my main project, will look at comparing data between two habitat types or conditions (aerated ponds versus non-aerated) to see if there are differences, and will involve both field and lab work throughout this summer.