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Katharine Grant - Benthic Laboratory

Duke University, Durham, NC

The Effects of Zostera marina Bed Location on Fouling Community Dynamics and Fouling Diversity in Eastern Long Island Sound

Eel grass (Zostera marina) plays a crucial role in the marine ecosystem of Long Island Sound. Eel grass beds serve as nurseries and shelters for a number of shellfish species, making the species commercially important for southern New England and New York. Recently, a number of scientists and managers have expressed concern about the disappearance and decline of eel grass beds in Long Island Sound. This study examines the fouling communities on eel grass beds in different locations (Bushy Point and Mumford Cove). Specifically, this study investigates the possible effects of eel grass bed exposure on the diversity of fouling communities by sampling eel grass blades in sheltered and exposed sites and by examining photographs of fouling panels inside and outside eel grass beds in sheltered and exposed sites.    Significantly more genera were found in sheltered beds than were found in exposed beds. Fouling panels inside the sheltered bed had significantly more genera than those outside the sheltered bed. Dominant species found on eel grass blades were mainly location specific and did not seem to be dependent on the exposure of the individual site. The results of this study and further monitoring of fouling on eel grass beds will be important in preserving Zostera marina and in controlling the spread of invasive ascidians.

Quote: This summer was an amazing experience for me. I had the opportunity to work with renowned marine scientists and knowledgeable graduate students. I was really able to get in there, to get dirty and do some data collection in the field, to see how scientists work as a team, and to collect and analyze data for my own research project.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation – Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)