National Science Foundation/USGS Internship Opportunities

A tale of two coasts: tidal marsh persistence with changing climate and sea-level rise (Internship Opportunity)

The overall goal of this project is to improve our understanding of the combined effects of inundation, due to sea-level rise and storm surges, and other climate factor on tidal marsh physical and biological processes to provide guidance to natural resource managers to reduce these threats and increase resilience.

Link to PDF Version.

Project Hypothesis or Objectives:

Tidal wetlands are an important management concern because of their ability to attenuate storm surges, sequester carbon, improve water quality, and provide habitat for tidal marsh-dependent species. The overall goal of this project is to improve our understanding of the combined effects of inundation, due to sea-level rise and storm surges, and other climate factor on tidal marsh physical and biological processes to provide guidance to natural resource managers to reduce these threats and increase resilience. Specifically our objective is to determine if tidal wetland vulnerability from climate change varies across estuaries along the Pacific and Atlantic coastal zones. To understand climate impacts to tidal wetland ecosystems and assess the scope of physical and biological change to coastal regions the USGS (WERC and Patuxent) have established a network of sites along the full latitudinal gradient of the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, with the desire to provide insight into how variation in tide range, sea-level rise, water temperature and salinity, and other climate variables impact the vulnerability of these critical coastal habitats.

We propose to develop a comprehensive assessment to (1) assist resource managers in anticipating ecological impacts of sea-level rise, storms, and other aspects of climate change on the tidal wetland ecosystems, and (2) use this information to rank vulnerabilities across space and time for Pacific and Atlantic coast estuaries which will help with the design, and implementation of management actions that respond to these threats. Our work will take advantage of existing data sets, models of tidal marsh evolution in response to sea-level rise, spatial distribution of wetland plants, tidal inundation, and accretion rates. Predictive, spatially-explicit models could be developed using this information. The proposed study will guide resource managers in implementing and evaluating climate change impacts to their estuaries and a detailed coastal comparison will also provide insight into local and regional mechanisms that build tidal wetland resiliency with climate change[

Project Title: A tale of two coasts: tidal marsh persistence with changing climate and sea-level rise.

Duration: 12 months

Internship Location: San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station – Vallejo CA, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center – Laurel, MD

Expected Outcome:

This project and information can be used by resource managers and decision makers to prioritize vulnerabilities, habitats and key ecosystem properties, based on changes in the future conditions due to climate change. This analysis has been identified in both estuaries as a key science need by DOI partners and other land managers. The expected outcome includes 1-2 peer reviewed journal articles that assess and quantify the risk of inundation for wetland habitats on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

Area of Discipline: Biological and physical science disciplines that include topics in: ecology, biology, climate change, geography, modeling

Special skills/training Required:

We are looking for a highly motivated and independent applicant whom has an interest in participating in collaborative research that focuses on how climate change will alter ecosystems. Fellow should have the skills needed to help develop and evaluate large databases statistically and spatially. Fellow should be proficient in Microsoft Excel and Access, statistical programs, and have experience analyzing data. Candidates with experience using ArcGIS are a plus. Fellow will be expected to write up results in peer-reviewed journal articles. Candidates with experience in publishing scholarly research articles are encouraged to apply. Fellow should be comfortable on small boats and conducting field work in tidal wetlands.

Duties/Responsibilities:

To provide professional development to a NSF Graduate Research Fellow he/she will be given the opportunity to interact with USGS and University scientist within the capacity of this project and also meet and work with land managers such as DOI U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserves, and State Fish and Wildlife Agencies. This Fellow will facilitate data synthesis, analysis, and collection for tidal wetlands on the Pacific and Atlantic coast. In addition, the Fellow will also be responsible for conducting additional field work in both San Francisco and Chesapeake Bays to supplement existing data sets when needed. The Fellow will also be expected to help produce peer-reviewed journal articles summarizing results from this effort. The Fellow will work as part of a research team that will provide opportunity to collaborate with peers and learn from USGS mentors.

Contacts

Karen Thorne

Research Ecologist
Western Ecological Research Center
Phone: 916-502-2996