Department of Environmental Conservation

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Research

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)

Research at the Reserve focuses on understanding the aquatic habitats of the Hudson River Estuary. We also perform research projects to inform management and protection of the estuary.

Research protocols are adapted primarily through the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) (leaves DEC website) System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) to:

Analyze Water Quality

We use protocols of the NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program to analyze the long-term change and short term variability of conditions in marsh habitat. Parameters collected include water quality, meteorological, and nutrient data. Water quality information is collected using dataloggers that collect information on dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and conductivity. Water quality data have been collected at Reserve sites since 1995. Meteorological data complements the water quality data to better understand relationships between weather and aquatic environments.

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

Mapping habitat types and vegetation cover allows researchers and managers to understand key marsh habitats. Some mapping projects include:

  • Vegetation maps that document 20 vegetation categories within the four reserve sites in 1991, 1997, and 2005, with a 2018 update and change analysis to be completed in 2020.
  • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) maps analyze the vegetation coverage of native SAV and invasive water chestnut (Trapa natans) from Troy to Hastings-on-Hudson in 1997, 2002, 2007, 2014, 2016, and 2018.
  • The creation of 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. This uses the above two mapping products.
  • Tidal wetland maps from 2007 aerial photos that break tidal marsh habitats into 13 vegetation categories.

These mapping projects are in partnership with Cornell University.

Assess the Impacts of Climate Change Stressors

The Reserve conducts long-term studies in Tivoli Bays and Piermont Marsh to assess the ecological impacts of sea level rise and storm surges on tidal marsh habitats. The sampling for these studies consists of:

two scientists in a marsh with a measuring device
Reading a surface elevation table (SET)
to monitor changes in marsh elevation
  • Vegetation monitoring to analyze where specific emergent and submerged aquatic plant species occur.
  • Analysis of tide station data to study how plants respond to changes in water levels (both daily tidal inundation and long-term changes in local water levels).
  • Surface Elevation Tables (SETs) monitor changes in the elevation of the marsh surface to assess if marsh sediment accretion can keep pace with projected sea level rise.

Elevation surveys were performed to provide vertical control of all vegetation, water level, and marsh surface elevation data.

All NERRS datasets, science products, and results are available through the Centralized Data Management Office (leaves DEC website).

Research Opportunities for Students

Funding for student research is available through the Tibor T. Polgar Fellowship (leaves DEC website) and the Margaret Davidson Fellowship (leaves DEC website). Polgar Fellowships support undergraduate and graduate students to conduct summer research in the Hudson River estuary, and have generated well over 200 student research projects since 1988. The Davidson Fellowship began in 2020 and supports graduate students to conduct research for two-year projects in all National Estuarine Research Reserves, focused on management priorities of each reserve.