Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory

Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory

PEARL Mission

The mission of the Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory  (PEARL) is to provide society with the knowledge to solve its environmental challenges through research, education and economic development.

Position Announcements:       Facilities Coordinator
                                               Summer 2018  Internship Program

Featured Research:
Dr. Elka T. Porter, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Baltimore has been a Visiting Researcher at PEARL during each summer since 2015. Dr. Porter studies the effect of bivalves in interaction with water flow on water quality and ecosystem processes. She recently published a paper on the design and performance of the Shear Turbulence Resuspension Mesocosm (STURM) facility located at PEARL (Porter et al. 2018a). The STURM system produces realistic shear and turbulence for benthic-pelagic coupling studies and mimics tidal or episodic resuspension in studies to address physical-biological-chemical interactions. PEARL seawater access, facilities support, and summer student research allows 6-week long mesocosm studies in the STURM systems at PEARL.

(a) STURM Facility (b) Summer intern Eric Robins sampling

In addition, Dr. Porter just published an experiment with researchers from PEARL and undergraduate summer students studying the effect of oyster biodeposit resuspension on water quality and ecosystem processes in the STURM systems (Porter et al. 2018b). This kind of research helps to better assess oysters as a Best Management Practice (BMP) for the Chesapeake Bay. Further studies in collaboration with Dr. Lawrence P. Sanford, Dr. Jeffrey C. Cornwell, both Horn Point Laboratory, UMCES, and Mr. Richard Lacouture, PEARL, are ongoing. In addition, Dr. Porter is a participant in the Chesapeake Bay Program STAC* workshops (Water Clarity Group) and her research with the STURM systems has led to insights on water clarity issues for the management community.  

Porter ET, Sanford LP, Porter FS, Mason RP (2018a) STURM: Resuspension mesocosms with realistic shear and turbulence for benthic-pelagic coupling studies: Design and Applications. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 499:35-50.

Porter ET, Franz H, Lacouture R. (2018b) Impact of Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica biodeposit resuspension on the seston, nutrient, phytoplankton and zooplankton dynamics: A mesocosm experiment. Marine Ecology Progress Series 586:21-40.

Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for the Chesapeake Bay Program

Ihde CBP Dr. Thomas Ihde has been heavily involved in recent advances toward the development of measures of forage availability in the Chesapeake Bay system as a whole, and greater awareness of the importance of forage species to our highly-valued populations of crabs, fish, and oyster in the Bay.  Dr. Ihde co-led with Dr. Edward Houde a large team of researchers in a STAC* workshop on forage at the end of 2014.  That workshop report has been the roadmap for much of our recent progress toward understanding our current forage dynamics and longer-term trends.  That workshop identified the most important forage groups for predators in the mainstem of the Bay.  A recent article describes the survey work that the workshop analysis was based on -- it can be read here.  The workshop also identified an urgent need to integrate the wealth of information that we already have on those forage species and develop "metrics" (or measures) of these important animals to better understand if there are enough available to feed the animals that people like to catch.  Bay AnchovyThat need was recognized by our fishery managers in the Bay jurisdictions (Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River), who identified funding for two consecutive projects to develop those metrics. Two research teams at UMCES received those grants, see the first year project report here , and the second project is finishing up now.  The report by Ihde et al. (2015) also recommended that the Chesapeake Bay Program partners produce a short educational video that describes what forage is, and why it is so important.  Dr. Ihde helped direct the production of that video with colleagues at the Chesapeake Bay Program. That video can be viewed here.

* Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for the Chesapeake Bay Program