Paul A. X. Bologna
Stinging Sea Nettles: Population Biology and Impacts on food webs in New Jersey
Impacts of Invasive Sea Nettles (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) and Ctenophores on Planktonic Community Structure and Bloom Prediction of Sea Nettles Using Molecular Techniques.
This research project aims to evaluate sea nettle populations at early pelagic life history stages through molecular identification, to assess medusa stage distributions within the bay, and then predict the development of adult blooms. This process will use real-time PCR to quantify early pelagic stages and understanding the time lag between early appearance of ephyra and onset of juvenile and adults which will provide us with a temporal predictive model on the extent and severity of sea nettle blooms. Real-time PCR will allow us to not only determine and quantify the abundance of early medusa stages (ephyra), but also identify gametes and larval stages to assess sexual reproduction. Perhaps more importantly, standard collection of gelatinous zooplankton of this size damages ephyra and make it difficult to quantify abundance. Additionally, as sea nettles and other gelatinous zooplankton populations have increased, their distribution and abundance has the potential to shape planktonic food webs and larvae of benthic organisms (e.g., oysters and hard clams). Through our research, we will be able to determine the impacts of gelatinous zooplankton on pelagic communities and assess the relative contributions of Chrysaora compared to ctenophores in terms of their top-down impacts in this important New Jersey coastal system.
Assessing Seagrass Restoration and Mitigation in New Jersey
Zostera marina (eelgrass) is one of the most widely distributed seagrasses in the world. It serves as essential fish habitat for many commercially and recreationally important species and provides stability to coastal systems through reductions in water velocity, increased wave attenuation, and stabilization of sediments. However, due to coastal eutrophication, Z. marina has undergone significant declines in spatial coverage throughout much of its range. Along the mid-Atlantic Coast, Z. marina declines have been linked to disease and changes in water quality and the problems facing many coastal managers relate to minimizing losses and increasing coverage through restoration efforts. In New Jersey, the wasting disease outbreak in the 1930’s is thought to be responsible for the elimination of Z. marina in the southern part of the state. Since limited natural transport of seeds can occur across these distances, active restoration may lead to significant increases in spatial coverage if successfully reestablished in these regions. Essentially, once small populations are established, they can expand vegetatively and through seed dispersal. This project will provide a critical assessment of the genetic structure of Z. marina populations in New Jersey and proved guidance for future restorations efforts.