2021-2022 Academic Year

News and Highlights in December 2021

Lisa Auermuller
Lisa Auermuller, assistant manager at the Jacques Cousteau Reserve and RCI affiliate

Lisa Auermuller, assistant manager at the Jacques Cousteau Reserve and RCI affiliate, has been bestowed the NERRS-NERRA Award For Outstanding Contribution, given out at the 2021 NERRA Annual Meeting. At the Reserve, Ms. Auermuller assesses the needs of coastal decision makers and provides training opportunities. These programs are designed to better inform decision makers of the research that is being conducted in the reserve, the competing uses of New Jersey's coastal zone and the impacts that decisions have on watershed quality. Most recently, Ms. Auermuller's primary areas of interest have been in stormwater management, climate change and coastal community vulnerability as it relates to sea level rise. Ms. Auermuller has been working with a variety of partners to develop tools and protocols to help communities understand their risks, plan for those risks and put adaptation measures into place.

stephanie murphy                      Mark Robson 1
Stephanie Murphy, a co-author of the study            Mark Robson, Professor of Plant Biology
and director of Rutgers Soil Testing Lab                  and an RCI affiliate

A new report by Rutgers University- New Brunswick and the University of Maine, titled “Ecosystem Service Valuation Approaches and Carbon Mitigation Considerations for Garden State Agriculture”, explores how New Jersey’s plants and soils can help store carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. Rutgers Today reports that the study found that New Jersey’s farmlands, forests, and wetlands have the ability to offset 8 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. “Our study focused on understanding the current state of knowledge regarding the storage of carbon in agricultural soils, and on identifying the types of programs, barriers and opportunities to further carbon sequestration on ag land, with a particular emphasis on New Jersey,” said Marjorie Kaplan, co-director of the New Jersey Climate Change Resource Center at Rutgers and co-director of Rutgers Climate Institute. Stephanie Murphy, a co-author of the study and director of Rutgers Soil Testing Lab, as well as an RCI affiliate, said, “It is well-documented that loss of soil carbon has been occurring over many decades from certain farming practices, affecting soil health and sustainability, but modifying these practices can address some of the deficit while also using the land as a carbon sink.” There is debate about how potent carbon storage is, but the practices of cover cropping and improved grazing management also improve public health and create green jobs. “The strong farmland preservation program in New Jersey has saved over 241,000 acres of farmland from development,” said Mark Robson, Professor of Plant Biology and an RCI affiliate. “These preserved farms and other working farmland provide an important opportunity to mitigate climate change and keep agriculture viable in New Jersey.”

Yair Rosenthal, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences and RCI affiliate

A team that included Rutgers New Brunswick researchers has traced the evolution of coccolithophores over 2.8 million years, reports Rutgers Today. Their findings indicate that evolutionary cycles of marine phytoplankton are related to changes in tropical seasonality. This might indicate a link between biological evolution and climate change. Scientists previously thought that climate change, which occurred in shorter cycles, had little effect on longer-term evolutionary trends because an organism would simply adapt to the point in the climate cycle. But the researchers’ new study shows that evolutionary cycles in coccolithophores are attributed to changes in tropical seasonality related to shifts in the Earth’s orbit that occur about every 400,000 years. “The production of calcium carbonate by these prolific coccolithophore species likely impacted the chemistry of seawater and the oceanic carbon cycle, which in turn could have significant consequences for Earth’s climate through the ocean influence on the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide,” said the study’s co-author Yair Rosenthal, a Distinguished professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick as well as an RCI affiliate. The researchers examined the shape of nine million coccoliths across 8,000 samples. The size and weight of the coccoliths corresponded to the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit. The extremity of the eccentricity affects tropical seasons, with a circular orbit resulting in less seasonality and a less circular orbit resulting in more seasonality. After modelling these effects on the coccolith shape, the researchers became confident of a link between eccentricity and coccolith size and shape.