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Scientists use technology to monitor water quality
Researchers monitor water quality parameters such
as dissolved oxygen, PH, and conductivity
using multi-probe dataloggers (shown above)

Reserve-sponsored research focuses on understanding the aquatic habitats of the Hudson River Estuary and on generating the information necessary for management and protection of the estuary. Research staff and partners conduct estuarine research studies of ecosystem processes, exchanges between wetlands and the Hudson's main stem, and physical, biological and chemical characterizations.

Research protocols are adapted primarily through the NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) to:

Analyze Water Quality

Protocols of the NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program were implemented to analyze the long term change and short term variability of conditions in marsh habitat. Nutrient data have been collected at all reserve component sites since 1991 and have been used to direct research and guide management decisions. Water quality has been monitored since 1995 using dataloggers (YSI 6600 sondes) deployed within the Tivoli Bays component site to assess the relative importance of stream flow and tidal exchange. Meteorological data collected since 1999 provide ancillary information to the water quality conditions simultaneously recorded, increasing the understanding of the relationships between the atmospheric conditions and aquatic environments at this site.

Map Critical Estuarine Habitats

Three scientists in a water chestnut covered pond with a collection device
Scientists sampling in a bed of invasive water chestnut
(Trapa natans) as a part of vegetation studies

The Research Reserve has partnered with Cornell University to interpret aerial photographs for vegetative cover type and to produce several habitat mapping products as ArcGIS layers. Hudson River NERR Vegetation maps document 20 vegetation categories within the four reserve component sites in 1991, 1997, and 2005. Hudson River Estuary Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) maps analyze the vegetation coverage of native SAV and invasive Trapa natans from Troy to Hastings-on-Hudson in 1997, 2002, and 2007. Hudson River Estuary Documented SAV combines these mapping layers to provide a management tool to protect areas where SAV currently exists, where it has existed in the past, and where it may return in the future. Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands maps were also produced from the 2007 aerial photo inventory and interpret thirteen vegetation categories in tidal marsh habitats.

Assess the Impacts of Climate Change Stressors

two scientists in a marsh with a measuring device
Reading a surface elevation table (SET)
to monitor changes in marsh elevation

The Reserve has initiated a long-term "NERRS Sentinel Site" study in the Tivoli Bays to evaluate the ecological impacts of sea level change and increased storm surges on SAV and emergent tidal marsh habitat. Vegetation monitoring plots along transects have been established to analyze the dynamics of species composition and spatial distribution of emergent marsh and SAV communities. Tide gauges have been deployed along these transects to study the vegetation response to long term changes in local water levels and tidal inundation patterns. Surface Elevation Tables (SETs) are used to monitor the elevation of the marsh surface relative to local water levels to assess if marsh sediment accretion can keep pace with projected sea level rise. Elevation Surveys of all study components have been performed to establish a local geodetic network and provide vertical control of all vegetation data, water level data, and marsh surface elevation data.

All NERRS datasets, science products and results are publicly available through the Centralized Data Management Office website. Additional research opportunities are provided through the Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship, which provides financial support for graduate and undergraduate students to conduct research in the Hudson River estuary, and have generated well over 150 student research projects in the past 25 years.