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Four SoMAS Research Projects Receive Funding from New York Sea Grant

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New York Sea Grant (NYSG) has awarded approximately $1.3 million to support eight research projects — four of which are based at Stony Brook University — that will directly address multiple high-priority community, economic and environmental objectives.

The projects — administered by NYSG and funded through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Sea Grant’s federal parent agency, represent a range of stakeholder-driven topics across a number of New York’s coastal geographies. 

Below are the four Stony Brook research projects that will receive funding.

Against All Odds: Development of Bay Scallop Strains That Resist Temperature and Disease Stress
Lead PI: Bassem Allam, Marinetics Endowed Professor in Marine Sciences, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

Research allam scallops madl
Scallop specimens await examination at SBU’s Marine Animal Disease Laboratory; (Inset) Under a microscope, two parasite cells appear like the number 8. Scientists now designate these parasites ‘bay scallop coccidia’ (BSC). You can just make out the membrane of the scallop cell surrounding the two parasite cells. Credit: Bassem Allam

The bay scallop fishery on Long Island faces challenges from pathogens and climate change. This was made evident after large adult scallop die-offs in the Peconic Estuary 2019 and 2020 that hit the industry hard. This project will assess which genetic traits in naturally occurring scallop populations provide improved survival under changing temperature and pathogen stress. The results will identify genotypes of resistant scallops that can facilitate recovery of bay scallops in New York waters and serve future development of selective breeding programs that support the bay scallop fishing industry.

“The main objective of the project is to evaluate if resistance to the parasite bay scallop coccidia and temperature stress is a heritable trait so that selective breeding strategies can be developed and implemented,” said Allam.

Evaluating the Changing Biogeography of American Shad in a Changing Hudson River Ecosystem
Lead PI: Yong Chen, Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

Research chen hudson americanshad
Justin Herne, a fisheries technician in the Hudson River Fisheries Unit of the NYSDEC, holds an American shad taken during annual sampling to monitor the spawning stock and recruitment of the species in the Hudson River Estuary; (Inset) After weighing and measuring the fish, Herne pauses before releasing the fish to the water. Credit: NYSDEC.

The American shad is an important recreational and commercial fishery species in the Hudson River that has become severely depleted. In an effort to help restore the stock, a moratorium on shad fishing was established in 2010. Despite this action, to date the Hudson River American shad stock has not rebounded. This study aims to identify factors limiting recovery. Results are expected to help inform policies and other measures to help rebuild the population and the revitalization of this important historic fishery. 

“We’d like to analyze all the information available to figure out why the Hudson River American shad has not recovered after more than 10 years’ moratorium on fishing,” said Chen.

Diversifying New York’s Marine Aquaculture Industry: Safely Integrating the Red Summer Macroalgae, Gracilaria, into Oyster Farms and Other Systems
Lead PI: Christopher Gobler, Endowed Chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation and Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

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Cultivated Gracilaria hangs from a rope set up in Long Island Sound. Credit: Christopher Gobler

To help diversify and improve the resilience of New York’s marine aquaculture industry, researchers are assessing the potential of a new aquaculture species that can be cultivated as a crop alongside of Eastern oyster shellfish farm operations. For this project, the research team is looking into the viability of growing Gracilaria tikvahiae as a summer seaweed crop to complement the winter seaweed crop of sugar kelp in the waters off of Long Island. 

“Our project will seek to advance the aquaculture of the red seaweed, Gracilaria, in New York,” said Gobler. “Advancing the cultivation of Gracilaria will provide environmental protection against hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, and acidification in summer and fall, as well as a year-round supply of seaweed if coupled with kelp.”

Quantifying the Carbon Sequestration Stocks, Sources and Accumulation Rates of Eelgrass (Zostera marina) In the Southshore and Peconic Estuaries of Long Island
Lead PI: Bradley Peterson, Associate Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

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Eelgrass (Zostera marina) can be found in the Long Island South Shore Estuary. The seagrass canopy (made up of the leaves of the plants) soaks up CO2 from the water column as it photosynthesizes. Credit: Kaitlyn O’Toole

Increased carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in marine waters can lead to Ocean Acidification (OA) that can have adverse impacts on fisheries, especially shellfish. Seagrass meadows are recognized to be among the most significant blue carbon sinks, capturing CO2 out of the water column. This carbon sequestration by eelgrass (Zostera marina) could be a potential OA mitigation strategy for New York. This project is aimed at understanding the spatial variability of carbon storage in eelgrass sediments across the Long Island South Shore and Peconic Estuaries. The estimated carbon accumulation rates from the project will help assess the potential of eelgrass ecosystems to help address impacts of OA.

“Resource managers recognize the potential consequences of ocean acidification for coastal waters,” said Peterson. “They are striving to ensure that the best available science is used to assess and respond to this emerging threat.”

The other four projects in NYSG’s most recent research suite, which are led by principal investigators at Hofstra University, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, University at Buffalo and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, focus on Long Island waters, New York Harbor and Lake Ontario and spotlight issues including rip currents education, shellfish aquaculture, oyster restoration and fish spawning habitat. For more, read the complete NYSG press release.

New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant, a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

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