NOAA's Dr. Jane Lubchenco Visits NYSG

Meet and Greet for Dr. Jane Lubchenco with New York Sea Grant and Partners at Stony Brook University

On May 24, 2011, New York Sea Grant held a “meet and greet” event in honor of Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Undersecretary of Commerce for the air and oceans. She came to Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences where she met New York Sea Grant staff and many of the faculty members and their Graduate students and got a first-hand glimpse at some of the exciting research and outreach projects New York Sea Grant and its partners are undertaking to address some of the critical issues that face New York’s coastal waters. She also had an opportunity to meet some of the staff and researchers as New York Sea Grant celebrates its 40th year of “Bringing Science to the Shore”

“NOAA’s focus is on oceans and atmosphere, and so that’s a really nice fit for the areas of expertise that many of you bring,” said Dr. Lubchenco, addressing the crowd. “Our mission for creating and using science to develop services and to provide stewardship responsibility makes it really important that we have good partners. Sea Grant is clearly one of our very important partners, but other parts of the academic community are as well. So, I welcome any opportunity to learn about the latest, coolest, most intriguing or puzzling things that you all are working on.”

SoMAS  Ph.D. researchers and their students (some of whom are Sea Grant Scholars) have been recently or currently funded by New York Sea Grant, or other NOAA federal funding administered by NYSG such as for the harmful algal bloom brown tide, hard clam, or lobster. Some are working on Long Island Sound projects which are funded primarily by the USEPA’s Long Island Sound Study and jointly with NY and CT Sea Grant programs.

“New York Sea Grant’s NOAA funding enables us to address the important economic and environmental issues confronting New York marine and Great Lakes coastal communities,” said New York Sea Grant director Dr. Jim Ammerman.  “Important problems like water quality, hazard resilience, and sustainable fisheries and coastal development will all benefit from New York Sea Grant's research, education, and outreach efforts.”

Dr. Lubchenco circulated like a “beautiful swimmer” among the researchers and students:

Over the last several years, the Sea Grant programs of New York and Connecticut awarded Long Island Sound Study research grants valued at over $2 million nearly a dozen projects that look into some of the most serious threats to the ecological health of Long Island Sound, a water body designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an Estuary of National Significance.

Dr. Gordon Taylor, a marine microbiologist, and Dr. Kamazima Lwiza, a physical oceanographer, are looking at the biological and physical factors controlling hypoxia in Long Island Sound. Working on the project is Sea Grant Scholar Elizabeth Suter, who explained the research to Dr. Lubchenco using the poster for which she won the Dean Prize at the May meeting of the New England Estuarine Research Society held in Port Jefferson, NY.

Dr. Malcolm Bowman, part of the Stony Brook Storm Surge Team, discussed his NYSG-funded research about the feasibility of using retractable barriers, already used in other parts of the world, to protect New York City from damaging floods caused by storm surges. He was recently interviewed about this concept in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Ms. Cornelia Schlenk, New York Sea Grant Assistant Director discussed some of NYSG’s past and current research and outreach projects. They address important problems and opportunities related to coastal-dependent businesses, fisheries, seafood products, coastal hazards and processes, coastal water quality, and coastal habitats. New York Sea Grant also provides graduate students with financial support through the Sea Grant Scholar Program, and sponsors conferences, seminars and workshops on a variety of coastal issues.

Ms. Antoinette Clemetson, New York Sea Grant’s Marine Fisheries Specialist spoke to Dr. Lubchenco about sponsored research that helped shed light on the causes of the Long Island Sound lobster die off of the late 1990s. Ms. Clemetson’s role was to translate and transfer scientific findings to the lobster fishing community. She is also involved in sponsoring life saving “safety at sea” workshops for commercial fishermen on eastern Long Island. Mr. Ken Gall, New York Sea Grant’s Seafood Safety Specialist, is a nationally recognized trainer in the area of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points or HACCP. He works closely with seafood processors large and small, from the Fulton Fish Market to the corner fish market helping businesses comply with federal safety regulations designed to keep seafood fresh and safe.

Dr. Bassem Allam is a shellfish pathologist who directs Stony Brook’s Marine Animal Disease Laboratory. Allam and his research team has conducted breakthrough research on a pathogen known as QPX or Quahog Parasite Unknown, a disease in one of New York’s most important commercial shellfish species, Mercenaria mercenaria or the hard clam. His current project is the development of mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of QPX disease on New York’s economically important hard clam transplant fishery, a multi-million dollar industry that supported nearly 200 direct jobs up until the fishery was suspended in response to the first QPX disease breakout in New York State. Graduate students, Ewelina Rubin and Kailai Wang, part of his new research team, will combine field data and laboratory studies to develop new protocols to optimize transplant operations, promote the healing process and limit the impact QPX disease on the hard clam fishery

Dr. Christopher Gobler and Dr. Jackie Collier are plankton ecologists whose recently published paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed for the first time the details of the brown tide genome that give this harmful algal bloom the ability to outcompete other algae.

Dr. Collier used a FLOWCAM to demonstrate presence of Harmful Algal Blooms and other plankton in local waters. Using a map of Long Island, Dr. Gobler showed Dr. Lubchenco the pattern of recent red tide outbreaks . Speaking with Dr. Lubchenco, too, were their grad students Mr. Matt Harke, Yuan Liu and Sea Grant Scholar Sheryl Bell.

Sea Grant Scholar Sean Bratton used a PowerPoint presentation to explain to Dr. Lubchenco how weather patterns in the Sound can affect seasonal hypoxia. He is studying under Drs. Robert Wilson and Brian Colle.

Mr. Mark Tedesco, Director, USEPA Long Island Sound Study and Dr. Sylvain deGuise, Director Connecticut Sea Grant are both on the Long Island Sound Cable Fund Steering Committee. They and Ms. Larissa Graham, New York Sea Grant’s Long Island Sound Outreach Coordinator and graduate student Christine O'Connell discussed aspects of marine spatial planning and the NOAA partnerships arising from the Long Island Sound Cable Fund.

Dr. Lubchenco also discussed research with Dr. Anne McElroy, an aquatic toxicologist, whose funded research has focused on estrogen mimics in Jamaica Bay and the effect of pesticides on lobster mortality.  Dr. Robert Cerrato, a benthic ecologist has been funded for work on hard clams, lobsters and benthic mapping. Working with him on his current habitat mapping project is graduate student Alison Jones.

Other researchers in attendance were Dr. Darcy Lonsdale, a plankton ecologist who has studied brown tide and estuarine food webs, and Dr. Dong-Ping Wang who specializes in coastal ocean dynamics, and Mr. Larry Swanson, Associate Dean of SoMAS who studies hypoxia in Long Island Sound.

New York Sea Grant, now in its 40th year, is a statewide network of integrated research, education, and extension services promoting the coastal economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness about the State's marine and Great Lakes resources. One of 32 university-based programs under the NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, NYSG is a cooperative program of the State University of New York and Cornell University.

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