CSI researchers revisit the Currituck Sound every 6 months in the Fall and Spring to continue their ongoing surveying. Over the course of two years, the CSI and ECU scientists goals’ have been recording the changes and distribution of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). SAV is imperative to coastal ecosystems because it provides critical habitat while helping to slow erosion along coastal shorelines. Therefore, researchers have been observing possible factors that affect their growth. This fall, I had the opportunity to advance my photography skills and assist in the documentation of the project.
The SAV project is funded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), and directed by the executive director of CSI, Dr. Reide Corbett. In addition to monitoring SAV distribution and growth in the Currituck Sound, researchers are monitoring shoreline change over the duration of the project.
We traveled to 15 SAV sampling sites that were all monitored long-term. Along with CSI researchers orchestrating the process, intern Madison Sawyer assisting with the data recording, and field researcher Erin Hodel, who assisted CSI researchers on the identification of SAV samples taken along the transects, everyone did their part in collecting data that would eventually come together to one conclusive inference.
CSI researchers will be able to determine short-term changes in distribution associated with seasonal growth. Layman placed transects at these sampling sights and collected sediment samples. Using quadrats, researchers sampled along a transect charting the percent of SAV surface cover and identifying different species. Many other characteristics like water quality, temperature, and salinity are also recorded. Each monitoring platform contains light sensors that determine and measure the amount of sunlight needed for the growth of SAV. The platforms also measure currents and water quality.
Although the visibility was murky, and taking underwater photos proved to be difficult, researchers brought samples of the species to the surface for me to snap photos. On this trip, analyzers found that one type of SAV, Rupia, dominated the transects compared to other types of aquatic vegetation.
Researchers will further study sediment and water samples back at the research facility (CSI). By looking at data from over the years, they will be able to monitor the overall changes of the shoreline and the amount of SAV. This is important for researchers to be able to oversee but also extremely helpful to resource managers. The predicting of shoreline changes will benefit resource managers with their management decisions.
I am very grateful to have opportunities to go out in the field and document, as well as further sharpen my writing skills. As my internship progresses at CSI, I hope to continue assisting and documenting additional projects. Also, I look forward to advancing my photography and writing skills, participating in additional experiences in the field, and taking part in more hands on activities.