A major component of the NBC 10-year plan is fostering scientific research that will assist in adaptive management of Upper Newport Bay (UNB) and its watershed. To help accomplish this, NBC established a “mini-grants” program to provide funds to university and other scientists to allow them to initiate new research projects of benefit to the Bay. Seven research proposals were accepted in 2009 in the first round of funding under this exciting new program. Several of the funded projects will contribute to the development of the Back Bay Science Center (BBSC) as an active research site.
Danielle Zacherl, an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fullerton, received funding for a promising new component of her long-term research into the performance of native and non-native oysters in UNB under changing environmental conditions.
Peter Fuhrer, a NBC Naturalist and research chemist, received funding for DNA barcoding of tissue samples of fish and invertebrates caught during Marine Life Inventories at the BBSC. This hopefully will lead to more effective detection of the appearance of non-native species.
Brian Goo, an undergraduate student at University of California, Irvine (UCI) is undertaking a pilot project to measure rates of filter feeding of invertebrates in UNB. This is anticipated to develop into an ongoing BBSC research program involving students from UCI. A fluorometer was purchased for the BBSC and made available for use in the project.
Another project using equipment purchased by NBC is the study being undertaken by Robert Hamersley, an Assistant Professor at Soka University, of nutrient and toxic metal compound removal by wetlands fringing UNB. The funded research will also contribute to management of freshwater and terrestrial habitats around UNB.
Tracy Magrann, a graduate student at Loma Linda University, is studying the prevalence of algal toxins in various lakes and ponds in southern California, including those at Big Canyon and Newport Valley which feed into UNB. This is a follow-up study to Tracy’s previous work at Mason Lake in Irvine showing high levels of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) producing toxins capable of causing liver damage in fish, birds, and humans. Tracy is concentrating on the relationship between cyanobacteria levels and the nitrate and phosphate contamination in the water. NBC partially funded the cost of water sample analysis by a specialist lab in order to identify the specific strains of bacteria present. UNB is listed as an impaired body because of high nitrate and phosphate concentrations that have led to large algal blooms in the past.
Jessica Pratt, a graduate student at UCI, is comparing growth rates of California sagebrush plants obtained from different locales from San Diego to San Francisco, when they are grown under standard conditions. This will help to determine whether transplantation (“assisted migration”) can help speed up the adaptation of plant communities to climate change. The NBC funds cover the costs of research supplies and plant chemical analysis costs associated with this research.
Margaret Royall, President of the OC Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology (SBC), received funding on behalf of the SBC volunteers who are restoring habitat at what is known as Bayview Slope on the north side of UNB. The money paid pay for temporary fencing and other supplies for use in field research to determine the best methods for the removal of invasive mustard plants. This work ties in with the efforts of the UNB Restoration Team which is gradually developing Best Management Practices for community and contractor-based restoration projects and programs.
The results of this exciting and diverse research were shared in the poster session at NBC’s 1st Annual Newport Bay Research Symposium in November 2010.