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The Reserve's research staff supports and conducts high quality research and monitoring with a focus on NOAA's mission to protect, restore, and manage use of coastal and ocean resources through an ecosystem approach to management. The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve serves as a living laboratory site for use by on-site staff, visiting scientists and graduate students. The Reserve serves as a platform for long-term research and monitoring, through long-term protection of Reserve resources. It can also be used as an undeveloped reference site for comparative studies.
Current Local Estuarine Research
Below are some examples of ongoing research at or in cooperation with the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve.
To help us understand more about coastal Delaware, we monitor various environmental parameters. This data provides a better understanding of the complex estuarine ecosystems. Some of this data is posted real-time and long term data sets are available for download.
Horseshoe Crab Research
The Reserve, in cooperation with the Coastal Management Program and several other partners, has supported various research efforts on horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay including: horseshoe crab spawning habitat assessments, the integration of habitat considerations in beach replenishment projects, egg availability to migratory shorebirds, and since 2001, has coordinated monitoring efforts on 3 Delaware Bay beaches for the Annual Delaware Bay Horseshoe Crab Spawning Survey.
Ecological Restoration Research
The Reserve will be performing research on various restoration techniques at the Blackbird Creek Reserve. This research will include evaluating various types of hedgerows for both screening and habitat use, reforestation, wetland restoration, and headwater stream morphology.
The rational for a coastal inventory is to provide information to inform policy development and regulation of coastal resources. Three watersheds were initially targeted to begin developing a shoreline inventory for the watersheds of Delaware Bay including the St Jones and Blackbird Creek. The Comprehensive Coastal Inventory Program (CCI) at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has applied the same mapping and reporting techniques used in Virginia, Maryland, and portions of North Carolina.
The data inventory developed for the Shoreline Inventory is based on a three-tiered shoreline assessment approach. In most cases this assessment characterizes conditions that can be observed from a small boat navigating along the shoreline. Hand-held GPS units are used to log features observed. The three tiered shoreline assessment approach divides the shorezone into three regions: 1) the immediate riparian zone, evaluated for land use; 2) the bank, evaluated for height, stability, cover and natural protection; and 3) the shoreline, describing the presence of shoreline structures for shore protection and recreational access.
Environmental Cooperative Science Center (ECSC)
ECSC is a partnership with Delaware State University along with other minority serving institutions and their respective NERR partner with four primary and interrelated goals to 1) increase the number of scientists, particularly from under-represented minority groups in the environmental, coastal, and oceanic sciences; 2) Enhance the scientific understanding of human interactions with the coastal environment, particularly through integrated assessments in support of NOAA’s place-based management, to understand the response of coastal ecosystems, including humans, to human activities and stressors, and to develop tools to characterize, evaluate, and forecast critical attributes of ecosystem health; 3) Improve the scientific bases for coastal resource management through applications on systems of interest to NOAA; and 4) Facilitate community education and outreach relating to the function and significance of coastal ecosystems.
Graduate Research Fellowships
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System's Graduate Research Fellowship provides master's degree students and Ph.D. candidates with funding to conduct research of local and national significance that focuses on enhancing coastal zone management. A list of current and past DNERR fellows and research topics can be found here.
The DNERR occasionally has internships available for undergraduate students to assist in monitoring and other research projects. For more information contact the Reserve at (302) 739-6377.
For more information on these research efforts or any other research inquiries, please contact the DNERR Research Coordinator at (302) 739-6377.