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RIC Professor Gets Grant To Study Warming in Narragansett Bay

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

 

RIC Senior Sara Moore documents some of her findings along the shore of Narragansett Bay.

A Rhode Island College biology professor has been awarded a grant to study the effects of pollutants and global warming on the ecosystem of Narragansett Bay. This is the second of two research grants Breea Govenar, an assistant professor of biology, has received in the past year from the Rhode Island Science Technology Advisory Council. The first grant for $93,000 enables Govenar’s team of researchers, along with a team from the University of Rhode Island, to study greenhouse gas emissions from coastal marshes impacted by “nitrogen loading” in the Bay.

Wastewater has increased nitrogen levels in waters in the Bay, which may be causing the marshes to release elevated levels of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, Govenar said. This impacts the entire ecosystem there, affecting water quality and marine life.

Evaluating circumstances

The most recent grant for $199,000 was awarded to Govenar, in collaboration with researchers from URI and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It will enable them to study the effects of ocean acidification on the bay’s ecosystem, in particular the plankton that serve as the base of the ocean’s food chain.

This is a two-part study that includes examining the interaction of different plankton at different levels of acidity that results from the increasing levels of carbon dioxide absorbed into the bay. Govenar’s team will then help to develop a model to investigate how the environmental conditions and biological interactions affect the food web at larger scales.

Changes in the temperatures and pH levels of the water affect the entire ecosystem, including the production of calcium carbonate that mussels, quahogs and other shellfish need to build their skeletons and shells, Govenar explained. So global environmental changes ultimately can impact Rhode Island’s economy by affecting the water quality and the shell fishing industry.

A valuable experience

Govenar, a marine ecologist, joined RIC’s biology department in 2010. “My goal is to provide students with diverse opportunities to take an active role in research of ocean science," she said.

Her team currently includes two students pursuing master’s degrees and four undergraduates. “Although not of all of them are going to pursue ocean science as a career, each of them will take from this experience something they can use in the future,” Govenar said.

Sara Moore, a RIC senior who is on Governar’s research team, said she previously never paid much attention to the coastline, even though she grew up in the Edgewood neighborhood of Cranston, just a few blocks from Narragansett Bay.

“Now when I go to the Bay, I notice a lot more things. I’m looking at things in a different way,” said Moore, 21, a biology major who hopes to study medicine after she graduates.

Janis Hall, 24, of Burrillville, who is pursuing her master’s degree in biology, said she’s excited to be part of the team. “It’s really opened my eyes as to what’s going on in this state–how we’ve been impacting our ecosystems and what we’re doing about it….It impacts all of us.”

 

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Comments:

Why are we spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these studies?

After all, more than a decade ago, the RI Department of Environmental Management told us definitively that it was the Brayton Point Generating Station that was causing the environmental damage in Narragansett Bay.

And they forced all us electric rate-payers to spend money building those monstrous cooling towers at Brayton Point.

Why are we still spending public money to study the causes of environmental damage in Narragansett Bay?

If the real purpose is to support worthwhile basic scientific research and student education, that is fine, but don't try to justify it based on an issue that was officially resolved years ago.

Comment #1 by Charles Beckers on 2013 07 31

The problems in the bay may be cause by a lot more than the warm water from the Brayton Pt power plant. The oxygen level in the bay if often too low to support fish. Is that just from the power plant or something more. I'm glad RIC is studying it and doing something to help its home state, rather than taking the money like URI does to study the squid mating habits in the Sea of China. Ok, I made that part up, but it's good to see some RI research money spent in a way that might improve RI environment.

Comment #2 by Katy Sloop on 2013 07 31

Clearly the Bay is both an important RI asset and a complex system that does need scientific understanding. Low oxygen is a threat, as it is in the expanding "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico thought to be due to too much fertilizer runoff, which could be an issue in RI too. Also, runoff from all the paving being done in all the coastal towns might be of concern.
Those who only see the costs of doing science may be doing our country a disservice. We need science to save us in so many ways.

Comment #3 by barry schiller on 2013 07 31

Study conclusion:
"We find that global warming and pollution are indeed detrimental to Narragansett Bay. We recommend cutting down pollution and reducing greenhouse gases."

There...saved $93k

Comment #4 by Odd Job on 2013 07 31

Gawd...you people are missing the point. I wasn't criticizing the RIC study; I was pointing out that, despite the prognostications of the RI environmental bureaucracy, Brayton Point wasn't the only thing affecting the environment of Narragansett Bay...maybe wasn't even the most important thing. Nonetheless, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and here we are, a decade or more later, with the "problem solved" and still chasing the causes of the "problem".

Comment #5 by Charles Beckers on 2013 07 31

Conservatives lemmings believe that climate change, a reality recognized by every single significant scientificacademy in the world is a liberal conspiracy conjured up by Al Gore and other leftists who want to destroy America.
The far right's aversion to science has become legendary, they appear proud to be dumb. Smoking don't cause cancer, asbestos can't harm you, evolution is a lie and climate change is a hoax,
A Gallup poll found "68 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in the present form just within the last 10,000 years -- despite a wealth of anthropological evidence to the contrary the poll results are at www.gallup.com ...LOL

The right-wing anti-science movement is the most dangerous political force in the country. today cutting edge of neo-fascism,

Comment #6 by Sammy Arizona on 2013 07 31

Oh please. Spare us. How do you study something which has been proven not to exist?

The science is settled vis-à-vis globaloney warming? Anyone who tells you there's a problem and the only way to solve it is to surrender your wealth and liberty is a charlatan.

Brayton Point is not likely doing anything beyond warming water temperatures. So what? Manatees flock to the waters around Florida power plants in winter because believe it or not, we have seasons here as well. But eco-freaks of course hate that they do, they'd rather the manatees freeze to death so they could blame that on some other imaginary problem.

Fish do just fine in warm waters. If they didn't the Caribbean and equatorial oceans would be lifeless. But instead, they're teeming with life.

Judging by the hysterical, scripted leftist comments, seems the eco-rads are nervous, knowing that citizens are on to the gag and the days of endless cash for perpetual bogus 'studies' will soon be at an end.

Comment #7 by paul zecchino on 2013 08 02




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