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Consortium Awards Funding for Eight Research Projects

Apr 10, 2020 | News

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium has selected eight peer-reviewed research and outreach projects to be funded during the 2020-2022 cycle, covering topics that include stocking and enhancement of fishery species, using brewery by-product as feed in fish aquaculture, examining the impacts of climate change, tracking the microplastics in stormwater runoff, and supporting a new education effort with a musical theater component.

These projects are among the research, extension, communications, and education efforts supported by funds from the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program . The following are summaries of the 2020-2022 research and outreach proposals.

Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

Urban stormwater runoff as a source of microplastic and tire wear particles in coastal waterways: transport, cumulative impacts to biota, and mitigation. Peter van den Hurk, Clemson University, John E. Weinstein, The Citadel, and Barbara Beckingham, College of Charleston

Previous work by Consortium researchers showed black microplastic particles are common in Charleston harbor, the majority of the particles result from tire wear on highways, and black microplastic particles can have adverse effects on some estuarine organisms. This research takes that line of research forward to determine the role of stormwater runoff as a pathway for microplastics into coastal waterways.

Researchers will examine microplastics and tire debris in storm-sewer catch basins, measure the contribution of stormwater ponds in the movement of microplastics and how that contribution could be minimized, and further study the long-term responses of estuarine organisms to microplastic exposure. The researchers believe understanding how microplastics reach coastal waters is critical to informing policy and management decisions to minimize the environmental and economic impacts of this type of debris.

Sustainable Coastal Development and Economy

Climate risks, infrastructure systems, and income disparity: Impacts of sea-level rise on social inequality in South Carolina’s coastal communities. Mostafa Batouli, The Citadel, and Ismail Farajpour, S.C. State University

For generations, low-lying land was the least desirable, and thus communities of the economically vulnerable tended to form in those areas. As sea levels rise, adaptation creates unique challenges in those communities. Researchers aim to investigate the interaction of sea- level rise stressors, physical conditions of civil infrastructure, and the vulnerability of socio-economically disadvantaged populations in South Carolina. The goal is to identify adaptations that can improve resilience for low-income families.

Researchers will combine interactive sea-level rise projections with mapping of socio-economically vulnerable populations, and then suggest how design, operation, and management of physical infrastructure networks can impact resilience, with a focus on low-income communities. The information will be shared with public agencies that make infrastructure decisions, including S.C. Department of Transportation, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, and S.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority.

Weather and Climate Resilience

Charleston regional flood warning M-App. Norman S. Levine and Emma Paz, College of Charleston

Chronic flooding has become a component of life in coastal South Carolina. Business and community leaders, as well as residents, need real-time information on flooding throughout the region not only to schedule their day-to-day lives but also to plan for the future.

Researchers will develop a database of modeled tidal flooding severity for every road in Charleston County, as well as a countywide rainfall flood mapping product based on one-inch intervals. Estimated flood impacts of tidal and precipitation data then will be combined in a real-time application, called M-App, to communicate the short-term vulnerability in a specific location. M-App will be designed to pair with Chucktown Floods, a data and mapping portal built to consolidate information on flood resources.

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Developing a sex-linked DNR marker for cobia (Rachycentron canadum) using next generation sequencing technology for use in stock enhancement, aquaculture efforts, and stock assessments. Tanya L. Darden, Michael R. Denson, and Matt J. Walker, S.C. Department of Natural Resources

Cobia is a popular recreational fishery, and the species gathers in large numbers in high-salinity estuaries on the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico to spawn, including Port Royal Sound in South Carolina. Heavy fishing pressure in inshore waters has reduced the population in the past two decades, prompting harvest restrictions and seasonal closures of the fishery. S.C. Department of Natural Resources grows hatchery broodstock for a cobia stock enhancement program.

This project aims to improve the success of stock enhancement by determining the sex ratio of wild populations through a non-lethal and minimally invasive identification tool. The research goal is to use next generation sequencing to develop a sex-linked DNA marker for cobia and use that information to assess the genetic health and hatchery contribution to cobia in South Carolina.

Modeling optimal responsible stocking strategies for spotted seatrout. Tanya L. Darden and Michael R. Denson, S.C. Department of Natural Resources

Spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus) populations are vulnerable to catastrophic winter kills at least once a decade. Enhancing the wild spotted seatrout population with hatchery-raised stocks after those catastrophic kills requires a balance to ensure the ideal genetic diversity and population size for long-term species adaptability.

Hatchery managers have few established protocols for determining appropriate stocking numbers or evaluating the potential risks of stocking on the genetic health of the wild population. Researchers will compare stocking strategies at multiple population abundance levels to determine the best practices for spotted seatrout conservation efforts.

Evaluating shellfish pond potential to produce a compatible crop of marine fish, tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis). Jason Broach and Michael R. Denson, S.C. Department of Natural Resources

Tripletail, a fast-growing fish species found in tropical and subtropical oceans, is popular for its firm meat and mild flavor. Restaurants in the southeastern United States have reported a large demand for tripletail that isn’t being met by U.S. commercial fisheries, which sets up the potential for a strong aquaculture product.

The few attempts at tripletail aquaculture in the southeastern United States so far have been unsuccessful. Researchers plan to try new methods in recirculating aquaculture systems using fish food with hormones designed to induce spawning. They also will examine the effectiveness of synthetic, waterborne hormonal pheromones to improve spawning.

Utilizing local Charleston, South Carolina craft brewery by-products to fill nutritional gaps in sustainable fish feeds for juvenile red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus. Aaron M. Watson, Fabio Casu, and Michael R. Denson, S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

This project will evaluate the feasibility of utilizing dried spent brewer’s grains, a by-product of the brewing process, for use in feeds for fish aquaculture. Most craft breweries in coastal South Carolina now donate their by-product to farmers for cattle or pork feed, but the growth in the number of breweries means there’s more by-product than those farmers can use. A new use for the by-product would keep it out of landfills and offer local aquaculture operations a locally sourced, cost-effective alternative to fishmeal.

Researchers will determine if spent grains contain sufficient nutritional content to be utilized as an ingredient in fish feed formulations, is digestible for juvenile red drum, and can be incorporated into feed without negative consequences to fish growth or health. Three local breweries, Tradesman Brewing Co., LowTide Brewing, and Holy City Brewing, have agreed to assist and collaborate on this project.

Scientific Literacy and Workforce Development

Something Very Fishy: A Marine Science STEAM program for elementary schools. Michael Childress, Clemson University, and Meghnaa Tallapragada, Temple University

Clemson University researchers will team with Educational Entertainment LLC to present a musical theater and science outreach program called Something Very Fishy to K-5 students in the Upstate, some of whom have never experienced an ocean up close. This musical puppet show will be paired with hands-on science exhibits to present the struggles of marine life in a changing ocean and options for helping protect that ecosystem.

After the show, students embark on an imaginary field trip to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, with Clemson students portraying different careers in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) disciplines at each stop of the trip. The project will train Clemson undergraduate and graduate students to lead marine science outreach programs and instruct K-5 teachers on how to take the lessons of this unique science exhibit back to their classrooms.