Barnegat Bay Restoration Science

Science Center Objects

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and other partners, is conducting an extensive, coordinated study of physical, chemical, and biological processes in the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor estuary.  The study integrates findings of teams from the USGS New Jersey Water Science Center and USGS Coastal and Marine Science Centers in St. Petersburg, Florida and Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Results of the study will help inform resource managers as they evaluate plans and actions designed to improve water-quality conditions and restore the estuarine ecosystem. The study is funded primarily by the NJDEP.  Federal funding is being utilized to match some of the state funding from the NJDEP.


Flow is measured continuously at strategic locations, providing detailed information on freshwater inputs to the estuary and the circulation of brackish water through the estuary.  USGS water-quality monitoring stations measure spatial and temporal variations in water-quality.  The stations are part of a coordinated monitoring network operated by several partner agencies that will provide the data needed for modeling water circulation and water-quality conditions in the estuary.


Map of preliminary Bathymetric data for northern Barnegat Bay near Mantoloking, NJ

Heat map showing the Bathymetry of Barnegat Bay near Mantoloking, New Jersey(Public domain.)


The USGS Coastal and Marine Science Centers in Saint Petersburg, Florida and Woods Hole, Massachusetts are conducting comprehensive geophysical surveys of Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor.  Boat-based mapping in deeper parts of the estuary (> 1.5 m) includes

  • Bathymetric sonar
  • Sidescan sonar
  • Subbottom seismic-reflection profiler

Aircraft-based laser topobathmetry in shaller areas (< 1.5 m) will utilize Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL).  The geophysical data and interpreted bathymetric surface will provide the framework for models of estuarine circulation and water quality.


Map showing the depths and areas of the circulation and water quality model are of Barnegat bay

Map indicating the depth of the models developed for the Barnegat Bay Restoration(Public domain.)



Models are being developed to simulate water circulation and water-quality conditions in the estuary.  The USGS Woods Hole team is developing a hydrodynamic model based on the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) to simulate water velocities, circulation patterns, mixing and dispersion, temperature, sediment distribution, and density stratification.  The USGS New Jersey Water Science Center team is using the Water Quality Analysis Simulation program (WASP) to simulate estuarine water quality, including

  • dissolved oxygen
  • oxygen demands
  • nutrient speciation
  • sediment diagenesis
  • phytoplankton dynamics

Output from the hydrodynamic model will be used as boundary-forcing conditions for the water quality model. 



Sediment plays an important role in the estuarine ecosystem. Studies are being conducted by USGS to quantify

  • sediment chemistry and associated toxicity to benthic organisms
  • sediment transport and resuspension
  • exchange of nutrients between sediment and the estuary water column
  • sediment oxygen demand


Map of Nitrogen loads to Barnegat Bay

Intensity map of Nitrogen loads entering the Barnegat Bay (Public domain.)


Excessive inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus to the estuary contribute to algal blooms, detrimental growth of macroalgae, and other related problems.  Sources of nutrients include fertilizer, septic systems, leaky sewer pipes, animal manure, natural nitrogen-fixation processes, and atmospheric deposition.  The USGS is quantifying nutrient loads to the estuary and working with other partners to understand the relative importance of different nutrient sources and the relations of nutrient loads to biotic responses in the estuary.



USGS Barnegat Bay Restoration Science Team

New Jersey Water Science Center

Ronald Baker, Vincent DePaul, Jacob Gibs, R. Edward Hickman, Anthony Lopez, Anthony Navoy, Robert Nicholson, Timothy Reilly, Frederick Spitz, Andrew Watson, Christine Wieban, Timothy Wilson

Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Brian Andrews, William Danforth, Neil Ganju, Zafer Defne

Saint Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Jenifer Miselis, William Pfeiffer