Coastal State Discussion Series


The Coastal State Discussion Series is a forum dedicated to highlighting current scientific research, finding solutions, and building partnerships centered around coastal communities and environments.

The goal of these events is to bring together scientists, resource managers, professionals, students, and interested stakeholders to learn about ongoing marine and coastal-related research efforts throughout the state, and to generate ideas and collaborations that utilize this knowledge in a way that best serves coastal communities and the environment now and in the future.

This series is sponsored by Rhode Island Sea Grant with the support of the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Institute, College of Environment and Life Sciences, and the Graduate School of Oceanography.






“Tracking Quahogs”
March 28, 2017

Quahogs by Jessica Langlois

The hard clam, also known to Rhode Islanders as the quahog, supports more than 500 active shellfishermen and has a market value in excess of $5 million annually.

It is suspected that parts of Narragansett Bay act as sanctuaries for adult clam spawning, while other regions act as settlement areas for the next generation of quahogs. Both areas are important to identify for the long-term sustainability of the species.

On Tuesday, March 28, researchers Scott Rutherford (Roger Williams University) and Chris Kincaid (URI Graduate School of Oceanography) will discuss their work investigating how current flow through Narragansett Bay influences where quahog larvae go when released from a specific place, along with Conor McManus, a biologist at RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM), who will discuss how DEM is applying this research to management as part of the Coastal State Discussion Series at the Coastal Institute Auditorium from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the University of Rhode Island’s Bay campus in Narragansett. >> Directions

Understanding dispersal of quahogs, specifically, is of particular interest to researchers because quahogs do not move much once they settle as larvae. They may move only a couple meters in their whole lifetime. To better target harvesting efforts, “knowing where the quahog larvae move to is incredibly important for fishermen,” says Azure Cygler, an extension specialist from Rhode Island Sea Grant.

One management strategy that has been used to a limited degree in Rhode Island is to create “spawning sanctuaries” by prohibiting fishing in areas where large numbers of quahogs are located. “The idea is that they maintain a population of reproductively active quahogs where they will spawn and broadcast larvae out for distribution about the Bay,” said Dale Leavitt, a biologist and aquaculture specialist at Roger Williams University working with Rutherford and Kincaid.

This free event is part of the annual Coastal State Discussion Series. Light refreshments will be served. RSVP requested.


April 10, 2017

What impacts do aquaculture operations have on Rhode Island’s salt ponds?

Join us on Monday, April 10 as University of Rhode Island researcher, Mark Stolt, will be discussing work evaluating whether oyster aquaculture benefits ecosystem functioning in southern Rhode Island’s coastal salt ponds – specifically, Ninigret, Winnapaug, and Potter Pond – to compare sites with to those without aquaculture activities as part of the Coastal State Discussion Series at the Coastal Institute Auditorium from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the University of Rhode Island’s Bay campus in Narragansett. >> Directions

“We’re trying to get a picture of what’s happening to these soils as a reflection of the aquaculture that’s going on,” said Stolt, explaining that the condition of the soils are indicative of the water quality, the tidal fluctuation, and how much energy (food) is coming in. “The ideal is high productivity with no environmental impacts.”

This research will provide information for specific regulatory decisions in regards to shellfish aquaculture, and the capacity of the environment to sustain increased production.

This free event is part of the annual Coastal State Discussion Series. Light refreshments will be served. RSVP requested.


“Mining Offshore for Future Coastal Restoration”
February 2017

Two years after Superstorm Sandy scoured Misquamicut Beach in 2012, the state trucked in 84,000 cubic yards of sand to restore the beach at a cost of $3.1 million in federal relief funds. If it happens again, or as lesser storms cause more gradual erosion, where will more sand come from? And at what cost?

Berm at Misquamicut Beach in Westerly being replenished in 2014.

Geologists John King (University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography) and Bryan Oakley, (Eastern Connecticut State University), discuss their collective research on available offshore sand resources, as well as the amount needed to sustain Rhode Island’s southern shore.

Recognizing that Rhode Island’s beaches are a major economic driver, and that to maintain them will require further nourishment, the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council sought an assessment of offshore sand resources for their potential for future beach replenishment.

“The first step is figuring out what’s out there,” says Grover Fugate, executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council, regarding offshore sand. “Then we move into the discussion phase about who gets impacted, what are the impacts, and should we be doing this?”

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“Perspectives of Aquaculture and the Impacts of Climate Change on Recreation in Coastal Salt Ponds”
April 2016

Dr. Tracey Dalton, professor of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island, shared findings on what influences people to support or oppose aquaculture in Rhode Island waters. Her team’s findings will help to minimize conflict where possible, and help guide aquaculture practices.

Emily Patrolia, graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, has been working with Dr. Dalton to study the various uses of Rhode Island’s coastal salt ponds. She will be discussing the short- and long-term fluctuations in coastal recreation to help state managers and business owners better utilize resources and plan for the future.

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“Ship Graveyards & Uncovering Our Maritime Heritage”
March 2016

A look at Rhode Island’s largest ship graveyard and parallels with Mallows Bay.

SS Mount Hope, largest passenger steamboat

SS Mount Hope, largest passenger steamboat

David Robinson, a marine archaeologist at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, discussed the historical and environmental values of 29 historic vessels discovered off Bold Point in Providence Harbor – including two iconic steamships, Mount Hope and Bay Queen and the implications for Providence Harbor.

Dr. Susan Langley, Maryland State Underwater Archaeologist, joined the discussion presenting work on the development of Mallows Bay, the largest ship graveyard in the nation and on the table to be listed as the next National Marine Sanctuary. She describes the history of these watercraft and how they ended up in Maryland, as well as how the site serves the area now, which may offer ideas about what could be for Rhode Island.

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“Coming to America: The biology of marine debris from the Japanese Tsunami”
February 2016

The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011 ejected a vast debris field into the North Pacific Ocean that began drifting toward North America and Hawaii. This allowed, for the first time, to track and study how invasive species may be transported over long distances via rafting on debris.

glass-float-beachSince 2012, over 400 objects including docks, vessels, and buoys with more than 330 living Japanese species have been intercepted from Alaska to California and Hawaii. Searches for new potential invasions from tsunamis have begun in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.  More than 4 years after the tsunami, living Japanese species on tsunami debris continue to arrive.

Dr. James Carlton,world-renowned expert in aquatic invasive species and professor emeritus of marine science at Williams College and director emeritus of the Williams College Maritime Studies Program at Mystic Seaport, discussed marine life discovered on Japanese tsunami debris along the West Coast, potential bioinvasions from natural disasters, and current invasive issues along the New England coast.

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A Symptom of Modern Times
Species ‘rafting’ via marine debris


“Impacts of Climate Change on Septic Systems”
April 2015

Jennifer Cooper, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Rhode Island, will discuss how increased surface temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and sea level rise impact conventional septic systems and alternative technologies.

Cooper has been working Jose Amador, URI professor of natural resources and the team’s research leader, and George Loomis, soil scientist and director of the New England Onsite Wastewater Training Center at URI, to look at current designs and parameters for septic systems against various climate-change scenarios. Cooper, more specifically, has been investigating two types of alternative systems more commonly used in Rhode Island, which both utilize a pressurized shallow narrow drainfield (PSND) technologies that either applies an advanced treated wastewater using sand filtration or just the surface soil for treatment.

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“Ecological and Economic Benefits of Certified Seafood”
April, 2015

Guest speakers Jeremy Collie, a fisheries ecologist and professor of oceanography at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, and Hirotsugu Uchidaan assistant professor of environmental and natural resource economics at URI, will discuss the status and trends of various fish stocks, an examination of whether certification of fisheries sustainability by an organization, such as the Marine Stewardship Council, affects the sustainability of a stock, and whether a certified product commands a premium price, as expected.

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“Does Eco-Certification Improve Resource Status”

“The Economics of Seafood Certification”


“An Ounce of Prevention: Probiotics Hold Potential for Shellfish Disease”
March, 2015

Deep lacerations  scar the shells of lobsters. Entire populations of oysters die in less than 24 hours. These are the results of disease, potentially caused by bad bacteria. And although bacteria may be the cause, in it also lies potential for a solution.

Can something as simple as a probiotic, the good bacteria, like the ones found in yogurt, help prevent, treat, or even cure these diseases?

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URI Pharmacy Professor, David Rowley, studies how probiotics might be able to fight disease in shellfish.

Dr. David Rowley, associate professor of biomedical sciences and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Rhode Island, has been studying the effects of probiotics — bacteria that promote disease-resistance — for reducing mortality rates in larval oyster.

He will discuss his current work with probiotic applications in oyster hatcheries that could have implications for Rhode Island’s shellfish aquaculture industry.



Dr. Kathy Castro, a fisheries scientist specializing in lobster ecology at the University of Rhode Island and who runs the university’s Fisheries Center, has been studying the effects of lobster shell disease.

She will be discussing ongoing work testing Dr. Rowley’s probiotic hypothesis to fight lobster shell disease that is thought to be linked to a new bacterium found in local waters. If the disease expands as rapidly in Maine as it did in Rhode Island, it could also have a dramatic effect on the iconic Maine fishery.



“The Role of Nitrogen in Ecosystem Functioning and the Impacts of Climate Change”
February, 2015

The nitrogen cycle seems simple. As a gas, it’s the most abundant element in the atmosphere, but can quickly be turned into organic nitrogen, ammonium or nitrate through fixation done naturally in ecosystems by microbes, then used as fuel for plants to grow.

But there’s a catch.

“It’s a lie. A total lie,” Robinson “Wally” Fulweiler says of the readily accepted nitrogen cycle theory.

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WallyRobinson “Wally” Fulweiler, an ecosystems ecologist and biogeochemist at Boston University, will discuss her work with energy flow and biogeochemical cycling of nutrients – specifically nitrogen and it’s impacts on coastal marine ecosystems. Her recent focus has been on how climate change may influence the nitrogen cycle in estuarine and shelf systems, and how anthropogenic impacts alter coastal nutrient cycles.


CELS Faculty & StaffBethany Jenkins, associate professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, will discuss her work in understanding how marine microbes are impacted by nitrogen cycling, and her DNA sequencing technique to characterize the assemblage of genes represented in a particular environment – with respect to nitrogen assimilation gene sequences.



“The Economics of Climate Change”

February 2014

To any economist things are typically broken down into “tradeoffs.” What will I give up and what will I get in return? At least that’s what Robert Johnston, an economics expert from Clark University, said at the Coastal State Discussion Series on February 25, 2014 sponsored by Rhode Island Sea Grant] at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus.

Johnston discussed various ongoing research efforts to look more specifically at the tradeoffs of coastal management in New England communities, and the potential costs associated with climate change. He said we can’t think about hazard adaptation in a box and isolate it from all the other management tradeoffs, noting that some of the key tradeoffs will be related to coastal development regulations.

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