MATES Students Receive Grant, Present Findings to Public

Students offer a presentation at the MATES Building at 195 Cedar Bridge Road

The recent multi-million dollar bill signed by Christie addressing quality management can be used to fix what recent water testing has found.

Water quality due to stormwater runoff has been raising some eyebrows lately. More and more water sources are showing elevated levels of pollution and fecal waste. Students at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Sciences (MATES) have been working on a project to monitor the bay’s water quality.

On Friday, Aug. 5, five students from the program gave a PowerPoint presentation to display their results at the MATES Building at 195 Cedar Bridge Road in Manahawkin.

Four students received the Barnegat Bay Student Grant Program and worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and MATES testing storm water runoff for bacteria and other pollutants at Beachwood Beach and Toms River, said Dr. John Wnek, Supervisor of the MATES program.

A Richard Stockton College student offered a presentation on an eelgrass mapping study he and his mentor, Dr. Jessie Jarvis, conducted in Barnegat Bay.

All of the students involved in the presentation are graduates of the MATES program, and have been working in conjunction with the DEP Bureau of Marine Water Quality Monitoring. 

Sean Towers, a student at Richard Stockton College, spoke after his presentation about what his eelgrass research has uncovered.

“The process of data collecting is [when we] go out once a month to each of our sites, we run our hydroacoustic mapping system over our 10 transects, which takes about an hour a day,” said Towers. “The rest of the day, about seven hours, is diving in the water doing observational data; collecting samples and collecting sediment and that’s all brought back to the lab and analyzed.”

Towers is working on a project called “Monitoring and Quantifying Zostera marina (common eelgrass) in response to popular decline using new hydroacusotic mapping technology.”

This study examines the connection between human interaction and the declining eelgrass population.

“The top result that we came out with is that the newer, more inexpensive equipment can be used, and is accurate enough to show popular small and large scale trends and changes in the grass beds," Towers said. "It can pick up both acute and chronic disturbances in the grass beds if the beds are monitored for a long enough period of time.”

Towers said the program he used to collect his data might not be able to distinguish between certain covers of algae and the eelgrass itself. It is an issue that has to be worked on with the Army Corps in the future.

The second project presented at the event was with four former MATES students. They researched stormwater quality in the Toms River and came up with some interesting results.

Joe Conbery and Kevin Dillon spoke about the process of collecting data. “We were monitoring two locations,” said Conbery. “Beachwood Beach and Pine Beach, to look for optical brighteners" – contaminants found in laundry detergents and other substances – "and bacteria levels specifically to see if the levels were possibly dangerous after a storm. We also wanted to see if the levels had any correlation between each other.”

At one location in Beachwood, the team had readings of 41,900 colonies of E. Coli per 100mL of water – around two drops of water. Anything over 200 colonies of E. Coli per 100mL of water warrants a beach closing.

Danielle Clancy and Lauren Mae Henry also worked on the stormwater water tests. Henry’s role was to videotape all the testing and results while Clancy analyzed the data collected. Clancy commented about what the possible sources of contamination could be.

“The storm pipes are all linked to the sewer drains down the roads that are connected right to where the bathing water is,” said Clancy. “Anything can flow into the storm drains. Fertilizers on your lawn, septic systems overflowing, laundry water and even sewage. They can possibly leak into the storm drains. These could all be possible sources.”

The team said one of the hardest elements of testing stormwater runoff is the actual storm. Some of the testing had to be done during or after a storm in the area, they said.

For more information about the presentations or the MATES program, visit http://www.ocvts.org/htm/mates/mates-academy.html



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