National Estuarine Research Reserve

NERR - Research

Student Research Projects

The ACE Basin NERR provides an ideal situation for student research. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Graduate Research Fellowship program provides funding for master’s degree students and Ph.D. candidates to conduct research of local and national significance that focuses on enhancing coastal zone management. Information about the Graduate Research Fellowship is available at the NERR website. The ACE Basin also provides funding from graduate students from local colleges to conduct research of interest to the Reserve.

Currently there are three graduate students conducting research in the ACE Basin NERR.

Aaliyah Green, a Graduate Research Fellow, is a master’s student at University of Georgia in Athens. She began a study in summer of 2006 to investigate the maternal transfer of mercury in Carolina terrapin turtles. Mercury levels will be measured in the blood, scutes, and eggs of adult females, and the hatchlings of these females will be measured for physical and developmental abnormalities.

Rebecca Gregory, a master’s student at the College of Charleston, is examining the effects of the shape of marsh hammocks on plant diversity. Ms. Gregory selected eight marsh hammocks, ranging from 10 to 15 ac in size, in the Charleston and Colleton counties. Comparisons between islands will be based on width and availability of interior habitat. During 2005, vegetation presence, richness, and percent cover were measured for all species, and woody stem diameters were recorded in each quadrat. In addition, a 10-cm soil core was collected randomly from each quadrat to determine soil composition and layer depths. She is currently analyzing the data and she plans to complete her thesis by fall 2006.

Kevin Ho, Graduate Research Fellow, is a Ph.D. student at the University of Houston in Texas. He began a study of plant-herbivore interactions in summer of 2004. The objective of the study is to use an existing suite of 13 reserves and 3 Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites along the Atlantic Coast as a network to examine latitudinal variation in plant-herbivore interactions.

Other students who have conducted research in the ACE Basin NERR are: Jeanette Klopchin, a graduate student at the College of Charleston, conducted a two-year master’s thesis study (2003-2005) on Morgan Island. The objective of her study was to determine if the continuing presence of a large colony of rhesus monkeys has had measurable impacts on the vegetation on the island and on the water quality, primarily fecal coliform, in the surrounding tidal creeks. Ms. Klopchin determined that the environmental impacts of the monkeys on Morgan Island appear to be localized and minimal, with little effect on overall water quality in the tidal creeks.

Student working on fishSusanne Hauswaldt, a Graduate Research Fellow, conducted her study (2001-2004) entitled Use of Diamondback Terrapins, Malaclemys Terrapin, as Biological Indicators for Chemical Pollution in South Carolina Estuaries. The objective of her study was to develop techniques to isolate six polymorphic microsatellite DNA loci that may reveal provide genetic information about the turtles. A detailed analysis of this region revealed high levels of size heteroplasmy and homoplasy in terrapins rendered the loci not suitable as population genetic markers based on allele size.

Paige Vollmer, a Graduate Research Fellow, conducted her study (2004-2005) entitled An Interdisciplinary Synthesis of Information about the ACE Basin for the Development of a Comprehensive Land-Use Planning Tool. The objective of the study was to develop a land-use planning approach for the Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin.

Research being conducted in fieldMr. Nietch, a Graduate Research Fellow, conducted his study (1997-2000), entitled The Relationship between Carbon and Nutrient Dynamics in Tidal Marsh Sediments and Surface Water Quality in Non-impacted and Impacted Regions of South Carolina Estuaries. The objective of his three-year study was to evaluate the relationship between surface water quality, and carbon and nutrient cycling in tidal marshes. Mr. Nietch determined that marsh nutrient availability was significantly higher in the rural ACE Basin estuary in the ACE compared to the urbanized Charleston estuary. He also discovered that greatest assimilation of carbon occurred in brackish marshes, accounting for 57 to 71% of total marsh plant production in two estuaries.

Student gathering information in fieldP.V. Sundareshwar, a Graduate Research Fellow, conducted his study (1998-2001) entitled Phosphorus Dynamics in Non-impacted Coastal Wetlands of South Carolina: Are There Linkages Between Natural Processes and Anthropogenic Influences?. The objective of the three-year study was to evaluate the causes and effects of natural and anthropogenically-induced changes in the nutrient transformation processes within salt marshes. Mr. Sundareshwar results indicated that concentration of pyrophosphate, a species of phosphorus, in the marsh sediment is related to the degree of human activities around the marsh.


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