Urban Coast Institute Project to Improve Stewardship of Monmouth County Coastal Lakes

WEST LONG BRANCH ― The Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Jules L. Plangere, Jr. Family Foundation to establish a Coastal Lakes Community Observing Network (CLONet) focused on improving the health of five Monmouth County lakes.

Through the project, Monmouth University School of Science and UCI staff and students will partner with municipalities and community groups to organize citizen science efforts, workshops and on-campus conferences dedicated to understanding the causes of environmental problems facing Lake Como, Deal Lake, Lake Takanassee, Wesley Lake and Sunset Lake.

Monmouth County has 12 lakes along its shoreline that have historically provided a variety of recreational opportunities for residents and visitors and served as important habitats for fish and wildlife. However, intense development around the lakes has introduced pollution from stormwater drainage, litter and other sources, degrading these aquatic ecosystems. As a result, many of the county’s coastal lakes suffer from neglect, experience harmful algal blooms, and are often valued less for the natural resources and recreational opportunities they offer and more as an element of local stormwater drainage systems.

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A number of coastal lake organizations and commissions have formed to preserve and restore their local lakes. The effectiveness of these organizations in achieving their goals has varied from place to place depending on the availability of funding, local interest and scientific expertise. Monmouth and UCI staff will work alongside and train members of these organizations to monitor physical (for example, depth, sediment thickness, temperature, salinity), water quality (dissolved oxygen, pH), and biological (algae, bacteria) parameters in their waters. The University researchers will also develop standardized monitoring methods and quality assurance protocols for the community groups.

“One of the goals of this project is to create more sustained interest within the communities in continuing to monitor these lakes,” said UCI Associate Director Tom Herrington, the project manager. “We really want to build a network of citizen scientists through this grant so they can become our partners into the future.”

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Monmouth University Endowed Associate Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf and students began research in the lakes this summer. The team has exposed algae samples filtered from the lakes to nutrients in the lab, then placing containers with the samples back in the lakes to see how they respond. The experiments are intended to simulate how exposure to various inorganic nutrients found in fertilizers and storm runoff might generate harmful algal blooms in the systems.

“If you know the causes of algal blooms, you can learn to predict when they’ll happen and ultimately manage them,” Adolf said.

Community workshops will be held in the five lake areas under the guidance of University faculty, staff and students to mentor each community group on the use and applications of the project’s GIS system, analysis techniques, and future restoration plan development and implementation. Water sampling data and other resources will be shared on a publicly accessible CLONet website.

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About the Urban Coast Institute

The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) was established in 2005 as one of Monmouth University’s “Centers of Distinction.” The UCI’s mission is to serve Monmouth University and the public interest as a forum for research, education and collaboration in the development and implementation of science-based policies and programs that support stewardship of healthy, productive and resilient coastal ecosystems and communities. Visit www.monmouth.edu/uci for more information.

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