NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office-funded Research

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office has been a leader in fisheries research in the Chesapeake Bay since 1985. NOAA has provided funding support for Chesapeake Bay fisheries stock assessments, monitoring, modeling, and related research to inform fisheries management and decisionmaking.

This multispecies research program is building understanding of how species interactions, disease, habitat, climate, and other factors affect fish health, populations, and sustainability. This information is essential for addressing critical fishery management issues facing the Bay. For example, the NOAA-funded Center for Independent Experts review of the menhaden research program is leading to refined research priorities to more specifically answer management questions. Also, NOAA-funded assessment of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab stock facilitated a pivotal bistate agreement to reduce female catch 34% in 2008, leading to increased population in 2009. Further, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office-funded research in response to the proposed introduction of a non-native Asian oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis) supported a recent decision to focus oyster restoration efforts in the Bay on only using the native oyster (C. virginica).

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office's occasional Fisheries Science Symposium provides a forum for discussion among world-renowned fisheries managers, scientists, and Congressional representatives. This Symposium is an opportunity to showcase the numerous research activities being funded through the program.

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office posts information on current funding and grant opportunities. Information on previous grant programs and research topics is also available.

Fisheries research is critical in providing the best fisheries science to inform management and decisionmaking in the Chesapeake Bay. The following projects have been funded competitively under the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office’s Fisheries Research Program since 2011. If final reports are available, they are linked to via the project title.


Project Title: The Value of Shallow Tributary Habitats of the Upper Chesapeake Bay to the Summer Flounder Paralichthys Dentatus
Organization: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Grant Number: NA18NMF4570255
Overview: Using an integrated approach, the PIs will quantify the value of shallow tributary habitats of the upper Chesapeake Bay as nursery and foraging habitat for summer flounder. They also plan to identify associations with environmental variables, key prey species, and connectivity to offshore habitats. Trawl surveys will be conducted during early summer (June/July), late summer (August/September), and fall (October) to determine abundance and size distribution of summer flounder. Time series analyses correlating summer flounder abundance data from SERC and Maryland Department of Natural Resources trawl surveys with other coastwide abundance indices, environmental data, and climate indices will allow researchers to ascertain patterns of abundance. In each tributary sampled, the PIs will tag 10 individuals using VEMCO V9 or V13 acoustic tags and tag 100 individuals using Visible Implant Alphanumeric Tags to determine if individuals sampled during early summer trawl surveys are resampled during subsequent sampling trips. In Year 2, 25 fish per tributary, across a range of sizes, will be used to quantify the diet and sources of nutrition for summer flounder with innovative methods. Data will also be integrated to understand the importance of upper Chesapeake Bay tributary habitats to the summer flounder population. This project will fill data gaps and allow for further incorporation of ecosystem considerations into summer flounder management. Advancing the understanding of summer flounder population dynamics, trophic relationships, environmental factors and climate change, and habitat use and connectivity in the Bay fits under the NOAA Fisheries Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management guiding principles.
Duration: February 2019-January 2021
NOAA Funding: $119,858

Project Title: Examining the Movement Ecology and Habitat Utilization of Black Sea Bass (Centropristis striata) in the Chesapeake Bay Using Telemetry Techniques
Organization: Coonamessett Farm Foundation
Grant Number: NA18NMF4570257
Overview: This project is a pilot study that falls under NCBO Fisheries Research Program Priority #1 – Examining the role of inshore habitat in offshore productivity for black sea bass. Researchers will examine the movement ecology and habitat utilization of black sea bass in the Chesapeake Bay through dedicated rod and reel sampling surveys and tagging trips. PIs will document biological and environmental parameters of all black sea bass captured and affix all fish with an appropriate tag, including Floy-Tag spaghetti tags, VEMCO V9 predation acoustic tags, and Lotek Wireless PSATGEO tags. Collections of black sea bass will take place inside the Chesapeake Bay and offshore at a known congregation site with the assistance of charter boat captains. In addition, a citizen science component is present, as Floy-Tag spaghetti tags will be left behind with captains to continue tagging. Using the existing array of acoustic receivers on the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS), the movement and habitat utilization patterns of the electronically tagged black sea bass will be determined. The pop-up satellite archival tags (PSAT) will pop up at a predetermined date and transmit data on temperature, depth, and light level, as well as record any inshore or offshore movement of the fish. The spaghetti tags will help to monitor any recaptures of fish that do not get deployed with an electronic tag and can be used to estimate abundance by region, season and size class.
Duration: January 2019-December 2020
NOAA Funding: $75,000
Nonfederal Match: $19,194

Project Title: Characterization of Nursery Habitats Used by Black Sea Bass and Summer Flounder in the Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Lagoons
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA18NMF4570254
Overview: This study will use complementary approaches at two spatial scales to characterize habitats and environmental conditions that support production of juvenile black sea bass and summer flounder in coastal marine and estuarine ecosystems. In order to delineate nursery habitats used by black sea bass and summer flounder in the Chesapeake Bay and the coastal lagoons and identify the relationship between habitat conditions in nursery areas and annual recruitment of black sea bass and summer flounder, a time series of monthly trawl observations will be examined. Using catch and fish length information from the VIMS Juvenile Fish Trawl Survey, Maryland Blue Crab Trawl Survey, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Survey, along with existing GIS data and dynamic habitat features, PIs will be able to better understand the effects of habitat conditions on annual recruitment. A small-scale field study will evaluate the quality of habitat types in seaside and bayside nursery areas used by these two species. Early and late juvenile black sea bass and summer flounder will be collected with standard monitoring units for the recruitment of reef fish (SMURFs) and fyke-nets from four habitat types. PIs will calculate a condition factor for the juvenile fishes to serve as a metric of habitat quality and also remove a subset of otoliths for recent growth analysis. The fish-habitat relationships that will be explored in this study can be used to evaluate the ability of the Chesapeake Bay and seaside lagoons to support healthy and sustainable fisheries for black sea bass and summer flounder. In addition, this research will characterize critical habitats for black sea bass and summer flounder, and may allow resource managers to focus protective measures on areas with important habitats or areas that support high abundances of these important species.
Duration: January 2019-December 2020
NOAA Funding: $124,826

Project Title: Habitat Utilization and Ecosystem Connectivity in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA18NMF4570256
Overview: This project seeks to quantify habitat preferences for summer flounder, black sea bass, and an array of other benthic and pelagic fishes, elasmobranchs, and invertebrates in the Chesapeake Bay, the nearshore coastal ocean, and Delaware Bay. In addition, researchers will consider the effects of climate change by evaluating how environmental factors in Chesapeake Bay influence the degree to which selected species inhabit this estuary relative to the coastal ocean. A third objective is to assess the role of Chesapeake Bay environmental conditions in driving the utilization of this ecosystem as compared with Delaware Bay. This study will examine data from three fishery-independent bottom trawl surveys, namely: the Chesapeake Bay Multispecies Monitoring and Assessment Program (ChesMMAP), Northeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (NEAMAP), and Delaware Bay Adult Trawl Survey. Analyses of survey data from 2008-2017 will be conducted using general linear and additive mixed-effects models (GLMMs/GAMMs). By establishing a baseline understanding of ecology in the system, research on future changes will be facilitated. PIs will take a relatively novel approach that may support management efforts in transitioning from single-species management to ecosystem approaches to fishery management (EAFM).
Duration: September 2018-August 2020
NOAA Funding: $89,855

Project Title: Integrative Assessment of the Quality of Shallow-Tributary Forage Habitats for Striped Bass in the Chesapeake Bay
Organization: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Grant Number: NA17NMF4570157
Overview: The project will quantify the quality of shallow-tributary habitats of the Chesapeake Bay as foraging habitat for striped bass and identify key prey species in those habitats across life-history stages. Researchers will use an integrated approach that combines traditional and innovative approaches to gut content and food web analysis (morphological analysis and genetic metabarcoding) and leverages the sampling effort to relate diets to assessments of body condition, parasitism/disease, and growth to paint a comprehensive picture of the relative quality of foraging habitats in different regions of the upper Bay. Comparisons among sampling seasons (early summer, late summer, and fall), and locations are expected to provide insights into the importance of anthropogenic impacts on tributary forage habitat quality including environmental conditions (temperature and dissolved oxygen) and nearshore/shoreline habitat types (natural versus hardened shorelines).
Duration: February 2018-January 2020
NOAA Funding: $240,011

Project Title: Quantifying Habitat Suitability for Forage Fishes in the Chesapeake Bay: A Coupled Modeling Approach Using Fishery Surveys and a Hydrodynamic Model
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA17NMF4570156
Overview: Researchers will develop habitat suitability models for forage species in the Chesapeake Bay by combining information from fishery surveys with a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model and model of temperature and dissolved oxygen that incorporates space and time information. The project’s objectives are to quantify suitable habitat for forage species in the Chesapeake on seasonal and annual bases and to assess the relationship between the amounts of suitable habitat and forage.
Duration: August 2017-August 2019
NOAA Funding: $248,530

Project Title: Trophic Dynamics of Blue Catfish in Maryland
Organization: Smithsonian Institution
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570231
Overview: Principal investigators will explore forage habitats in Maryland tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, focusing on the upper Bay/mouth of the Susquehanna River, Nanticoke River, Tangier Sound, and the Choptank, Patuxent, and Potomac rivers. Researchers will work to quantify the quality of shallow tributary habitats as foraging habitat for striped bass; they will also identify key prey species in those locations across the life cycle of the striped bass. They will use gut content and food web analysis and will explore how environmental conditions like temperature and dissolved oxygen, as well as nearshore and shoreline habitat types, affect habitat and the forage species that depend on it.
Duration: February 2012-January 2015
NOAA Funding: $165,097
Non-Federal Match: $0

Project Title: Estimating Population Size and Survival Rates of Blue Catfish in Chesapeake Bay Tributaries
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570222
Overview: This project proposed to estimate the abundance of blue catfish in the James River, Virginia, from a multiyear mark‐recapture study. The researchers aimed to capture and tag 100,000 blue catfish with coded wire tags; fish will be captured by electrofishing, tagged, and released. In addition, to better understand movement of individual fish between estuarine and freshwater reaches, a smaller number of fish from oligohaline and mesohaline regions of the James and Potomac Rivers were planned to be tagged with dart tags (by anglers and by researchers). Researchers planned to use Pollock’s robust design model to analyze the tagging data and provide managers with an estimate of population size and movement rates between the areas sampled.
Duration: September 2011-August 2014
NOAA Funding: $573,757
Non-Federal Match: $131,512

Project Title: Estimating Abundance of Atlantic Menhaden in Chesapeake Bay: Comparing and Evaluating Methods and Retrospective Analysis
Organization: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570229
Overview: This research addressed the stock monitoring and biological reference point priorities for Atlantic menhaden. Additionally, it undertook a synthetic, retrospective analysis of data on YOY menhaden from the existing Maryland Department of Natural Resources seine-survey data to evaluate factors that contribute to recruitment variability. Successful recruitment of juvenile menhaden was hypothesized to be in part related to growth histories and variability in environmental/ hydrographic conditions during the juvenile production period. Research cruises in spring-summer 2012 were proposed in the Choptank and Patuxent Rivers and the Upper Bay. Midwater trawl, bottom trawl, and seine surveys were planned at the same sites and times. Catches, catches per unit effort, and variability in catches and sizes of menhaden and other pelagic fishes were evaluated. Ages and growth rates of YOY menhaden were estimated from otolith microstructure analysis. Growth rates and models were compared with rates and models from our earlier research. The research sought to evaluate present methods to estimate recruiting abundances of YOY menhaden and provide potential alternatives to improve the methodology.
Duration: October 2011-September 2013
NOAA Funding: $135,000
Non-Federal Match: $0

Project Title: A Retrospective Analysis of Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Growth and Abundance of Juvenile Anadromous Fishes in the Maryland Chesapeake Bay
Organization: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570219
Overview: Under this project, researchers planned a retrospective analysis of long-term monitoring data to develop resource management products. They analyzed length and abundance data collected by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Juvenile Striped Bass Seine Survey data to compare size, biomass, and growth rates of young-of-the-year striped bass, white perch, yellow perch, and alosines across tributaries and the upper Bay. The survey began in the late 1950s, which allowed detection of temporal trends and comparisons among tributaries through time. Also included in the analysis were water quality, zooplankton, and benthic organism monitoring data collected by the Chesapeake Bay Program since 1984 to compare Maryland’s tributaries and upper Bay in an evaluation of temporal trends in potential productivity with respect to YOY anadromous species.
Duration: October 2011-September 2013
NOAA Funding: $52,000
Non-Federal Match: $0

Project Title: Expansion of the Blue Catfish Fishery as a Population Control Strategy: Influence of Ecological Factors on Fish Contaminant Burdens
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570220
Overview: This study sought to develop a model that characterizes contaminant levels in blue catfish to better protect human health. Blue catfish from the James, Rappahannock, and Potomac Rivers were examined to evaluate geographical variability in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Contaminants proposed to by analyzed included mercury, legacy organic pollutants (i.e. PCBs and organochlorine pesticides), and emerging chemicals (i.e. polybrominated flame retardants) that have previously been found to pose risks via consumption of some mid-Atlantic region fish.
Duration: September 2011-August 2013
NOAA Funding: $91,216
Non-Federal Match: $50,960

Project Title: Predation by Introduced Blue Catfish as a Potentially Important and Novel Source of Mortality for Selected Fishery Resources in Chesapeake Bay Waters
Organization: Virginia Commonwealth University
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570216
Overview: Objectives of this project included:
1. Quantifying seasonal and spatial occurrence of selected prey types, representing ecologically and economically important species such as American shad and Atlantic menhaden, in blue catfish diets for major riverine and estuarine habitats, including tidal freshwater and polyhaline reaches of Chesapeake Bay
2. Generating expanded estimates of predation mortality by blue catfish populations on anadromous clupeid fishes, including American shad and blueback herring, for specific river systems in Virginia and Maryland
3. Developing specific management recommendations regarding the current and future impact of blue catfish predation on restoration programs for anadromous fishes in Virginia and Maryland, including tactics to mitigate those impacts where feasible
Duration: August 2011-December 2012
NOAA Funding: $54,126 
Non-Federal Match: $12,809

Project Title: Characterizing the Growth Dynamics of Blue Catfish in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570221
Overview: This research was intended to document blue catfish growth patterns in several primary tributaries of Chesapeake Bay. These results would aid attempts to quantify the productivity of blue catfish populations and begin to formulate a scientific framework that can facilitate effective management. The objectives of this study were to: (1) develop a master database of existing and newly collected data on the growth of blue catfish in (but not limited to) the James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac River systems, and (2) analyze those existing and newly collected data to formally describe the growth patterns and dynamics of blue catfish in the aforementioned tributaries of Chesapeake Bay.
Duration: August 2011-July 2013
NOAA Funding: $45,649
Non-Federal Match: $6,341

Oyster Reef Ecosystem Services


Two ORES projects funded in FY13 (work carried out primarily in 2014 and 2015) have developed comprehensive reports on their findings (the research started in these two projects is being expanded on in two current projects):


Project Title: Ecosystem Services of Restored Oyster Reefs in Lower Chesapeake Bay
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA14NMF4570288
Overview: This project seeks to determine finfish and blue crab utilization of oyster reefs in relation to reef characteristics, environmental conditions, geographic location, and prey availability in the Great Wicomico, Lynnhaven, and Lafayette Rivers of the lower western shore of Chesapeake Bay. Restoration reefs in these systems encompass the full range of reef types in the lower Bay, including high-relief, low-relief, natural, and harvest ground reefs, as well as unrestored bottom. Specific objectives are to (i) quantify finfish and blue crab use of differing oyster reefs using underwater video (baited and unbaited) and baited trap surveys, (ii) quantify benthic prey availability at the reefs, (iii) assess bias of baited traps in estimating use of reefs by finfish and blue crabs, (iv) characterize the diet of finfish and blue crab at the reefs, and (v) quantify variability in the use of oyster reefs by finfish and blue crabs as a function of reef height, reef type, geographic location, and prey availability. The project is multifaceted and collaborative in that it uses information from (a) bottom side-scan surveys by NOAA and the Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District (ACEN), (b) monitoring surveys by VIMS, VMRC and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, (c) upcoming reef manipulations by ACEN, (d) hydrographic information by VIMS and NOAA, and (e) volunteer assistance from citizen groups such as Lynnhaven River Now.
Duration: October 2014-September 2017
NOAA Funding: $199,735
Non-Federal Match: $101,686

Project Title: Integrated Assessment of Oyster Reef Ecosystem Services: Fish and Crustacean Utilization, Secondary Production, and Trophic Linkages
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA14NMF4570278
Overview: Using a regression design that encompasses the continuum of reef types in Harris Creek, Maryland, from buried unrestored reefs to those with the greatest oyster biomass, researchers will compare finfish and crustacean utilization of restored oyster reefs to unrestored sites. Specifically, they will sample two sites that have received no restoration (one completely buried in sediments and one with some surface shell but very few or no oysters) and six sites that have been planted with juvenile oysters set on oyster shell and that encompass the broadest possible range of oyster biomass densities in Harris Creek. All eight sites will be sampled during each of five sampling periods distributed throughout year (April, June, August, October, and January) for three years. Researchers will assess abundance, diversity, total length (or carapace width), and biomass of finfish and crustaceans using a combination of baited crab pots, baited fish traps, and gill nets. This combination of sampling gear has been chosen to sample a broad spectrum of organism sizes and feeding habits and to complement NCBO plans for sampling at other sites in the Choptank River complex. Finfish diets will be assessed by examining gut contents of each species during each sampling event. For resident species, secondary production will be estimated using the mean annual biomass of each taxonomic group combined with published production to biomass ratios. Annual rates of nutrient sequestration will be calculated based on secondary production and nutrient composition.
Duration: March 2015-February 2018
NOAA Funding: $195,046
Non-Federal Match: $117,549

Project Title: Integrated Assessment of Oyster Reef Ecosystem Services: Quantifying Denitrification Rates and Nutrient Fluxes
Organization: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Grant Number: NA14NMF4570275
Overview: Researchers will carry out measurements of the fluxes of oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus in Harris Creek, Maryland, using the ex situ technique we developed to assess fluxes on a restored oyster reef in Choptank River (Kellogg et al. 2013). This work will be a continuation of our NCBO-funded work at Harris Creek in 2014 that will begin in spring 2014. Intact subsections (0.1 m2) of the oyster reef and associated communities will be brought into the laboratory, sealed in stirred microcosms, and a time course of the concentrations of ammonium, nitrate plus nitrite, N2 (denitrification), O2, and soluble reactive P will be used to estimate net fluxes of these biogeochemical components. For samples from shallow, illuminated environments researchers will employ both dark and illuminated incubations. The abundance, biomass, and diversity of the benthic community in each microcosm will determined. Working with our NCBO partners, UMCES will utilize an adaptive management approach to ensure that their experimental design will meet project objectives throughout the three-year time frame of this assessment. Using the data from this project, researchers will determine the increase in the rates of denitrification that occur as oyster reefs mature and assess whether the ecosystem services provided by oyster reef restoration and subsequent development can change the nitrogen balance of a tributary.
Duration: March 2015-February 2018
NOAA Funding: $219,981
Non-Federal Match: $133,323

Project Title: Integrated Assessment of Oyster Reef Ecosystem Services: Macrofaunal Utilization, Secondary Production, and Nutrient Sequestration
Organization: University of Maryland-College Park
Grant Number: NA14NMF4570287
Overview: Researchers will estimate the utilization, productivity, and nutrient sequestration capacity of the macrofaunal communities associated with oyster reefs across a range of oyster biomass density. Harris Creek was chosen because of an large-scale ongoing restoration effort in this tributary and the extensive dataset available on the oysters and substratum characteristics in this tributary. For this project, researchers will select eight reef sites including six restored reef sites, one “substrate addition” control, and one “seed only” control = unrestored site suitable for planting spat-on-shell directly on the bottom. At each site one month prior to each of five annual sampling periods, divers will fill four wire mesh baskets (0.1m2 surface area x 15 cm depth) with material from the site and embed them so that the surface is flush with the surrounding substratum (4 baskets x 8 sites x 5 sampling period = 160 samples/yr). Five times each year, divers will collect baskets and return them to the laboratory where the abundance, diversity, and biomass of all macrofauna will be quantified. Using these data, secondary production rates will be calculated for major taxonomic groupings at each site. Secondary production rates combined with existing and new data on the nitrogen and phosphorus content of oyster reef macrofauna will be used to estimate rates of nitrogen and phosphorus sequestration in the tissues of oyster reef macrofauna in relation to oyster biomass density and other easily measured oyster reef characteristics.
Duration: March 2015-February 2018
NOAA Funding: $188,808
Non-Federal Match: $111,188

Project Title: Natural Engineers in Ecosystem Restoration: Modeling Oyster Reef Impacts on Particle Removal and Nutrient Cycling
Organization: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Grant Number: NA14NMF4570274
Overview: Researchers will work on improvements to an existing advection-diffusion model of particle capture on an oyster reef to incorporate processes related to nitrogen cycling such as denitrification, N remineralization, links to primary production above the reef, and oyster bioenergetics. It is envisioned that this modeling effort will be a means to integrate the biogeochemical and reef morphological studies that have been ongoing in the Choptank River estuary. The model will be used to explore the large-scale implications of changed N remineralization rates and denitrification measured by Kellogg, Cornwell, et al., with other efforts to describe the fine-scale topographical heterogeneity of reef structure, density, and resultant rugosity across the reef surface. Model output will provide quantitative predictions of ecosystem services related to N removal and biomass production in response to measures of restoration projects such as reef size and oyster planting densities. These estimates can be compared with ecosystem model output that does not include restored oysters to evaluate the role of these ecosystem engineers in mediating water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Participatory modeling efforts will engage the end-user community from the beginning of the project to insure the development of a useful and practical numerical modeling tool.
Duration: October 2014-September 2017
NOAA Funding: $215,061
Non-Federal Match: $71,056

Project Title: Pathways to Production: An Assessment of Fishery Responses to Oyster Reef Restoration and the Trophic Pathways that Link the Resource to the Reef
Organization: Virginia Commonwealth University
Grant Number: NA14NMF4570280
Overview: This research project is designed to quantify the colonization and use of restored oyster reef habitats by economically and ecologically important fish species in the Piankatank River, Virginia. The unique combination of established reefs (greater than eight years postconstruction) and ‘before’ areas to be developed (2015 reef construction) will allow for a BACI (Before-After, Control-Impact) design to quantify how the fish community responds temporally and spatially to habitat manipulation and enhancement from unstructured area to structured reef, and later to structured/biogenic reef as oysters colonize. Researchers will also follow immigration/emigration dynamics of fishes from nearby reefs to resolve the current Attraction-Production debate about the role of restored reefs (Lindberg 1997, Lowery et al. 2014; Pierson and Eggleston 2014). The integration of hydroacoustics, to better quantify fish distribution, with diet and stable isotope analyses, to estimate energy pathways and food sources, addresses some of the inherent sampling bias of previous studies and affords researchers the opportunity to better quantify the oyster reef contribution to fishery resource productivity (economically and ecologically important species) in the Piankatank River, Virginia.
Duration: October 2014-September 2017
NOAA Funding: $107,848
Non-Federal Match: $193,000

Project Title: Application of Dual-Frequency Imaging Sonar to the Study of Oyster Reef Ecosystem Services
Organization: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Grant Number: NA14NMF4570279
Overview: Researchers will use two DIDSON imaging sonar units ($150,000 total value) to evaluate trap encounter and capture efficiency rates of ORES sampling gears in Maryland (Choptank River Complex). This work will enhance the interpretation of data collected by NCBO’s ORES project and related NCBO-funded projects by providing correction factors for sampling gear bias. The project will also use DIDSON to conduct trap-independent fish and crab abundance surveys in restored and control sites in Maryland (Choptank River Complex) and Virginia. DIDSON surveys will be especially useful for estimating the abundance of larger fish (e.g. striped bass, cownose rays, American eels) that may be least effectively sampled by traditional sampling methods. In Virginia, DIDSON and video surveys will be conducted simultaneously in collaboration with VIMS to evaluate the comparability of methods. This project builds on and enhances the ORES and related projects and will improve the data for quantifying the ecosystem services of large-scale oyster restoration in Chesapeake Bay.
Duration: February 2015-March 2018
NOAA Funding: $185,303
Non-Federal Match: $0

Oysters and Clams

Project Title: A Bay‐Wide Approach to Oyster Stock Assessment, Estimates of Vital Rates and Disease Status of the Eastern Oyster Crassostrea virginica in the Chesapeake Bay
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570226
Overview: This project originally sought to design, implement, and complete an oyster stock assessment that, using cross-calibrated methods, allows a statistically defensible estimate of the Bay-wide population, location-specific growth rate and disease status, age specific estimates of natural (M) and harvest (F) mortalities, and the vital measurements required to build estuary-specific and Bay-wide shell substrate budgets. Ultimately, this project focused on specific Terms of Reference that were developed with input from the Chesapeake Bay Program's Fisheries Goal Implementation Team.
Duration: July 2011-June 2014
NOAA Funding: $329,942
Non-Federal Match: $268,48

Project Title: Scaling Ecosystem Services to Reef Development: Effects of Oyster Density on Nitrogen Removal and Reef Community Structure
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570224
Overview: The overarching goal of this project was to develop a tool for estimating the ecosystem services provided by restored oyster reefs based on easily measured structural parameters. To achieve this goal, researchers used a manipulative experiment and science-based monitoring to quantify relationships between structural and functional habitat characteristics on replicate reefs of differing oyster density constructed both in Onancock Creek, Virginia, and in The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve within the Hillcrest Oyster Sanctuary. The experimental design and sampling methods used at the two sites were kept as similar as possible to allow for direct comparisons between the two sites.
Duration: July 2011-June 2014
NOAA Funding: $170,230
Non-Federal Match: $160,714

Project Title: Influence of Oyster Reef Elevation on the Health of Crassostrea virginica
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570225
Overview: The overall goal of this project was to generate sound scientific data that either support or refute the assertion that oyster reef architecture influences oyster health, which has not been satisfactorily addressed by previous work. Objectives were: (1) To determine the influence of position on an oyster reef on dermo disease in Crassostrea virginica, (2) to determine the influence of position on an oyster reef on MSX disease in Crassostrea virginica, and (3) to communicate results to stakeholders through the Virginia Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program and the VIMS Shellfish Pathology Laboratory website.
Duration: July 2011-June 2013
NOAA Funding: $45,825
Non-Federal Match: $38,341

Project Title: Development, Validation, and Application of Molecular Detection Tools for a Virus Infecting Mya arenaria Soft-shell Clams in Chesapeake Bay, for Evaluations of Disease Pathology, Virus Transmission, and Disease Distribution
Organization: Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570217
Overview: The overall objective of the proposed effort was to expand the suite of available assays for diseases of Chesapeake Bay clams to enable comprehensive evaluations of population-level effects of several prevalent clam diseases through development, validation, and application of novel assays for the GENH virus disease. This was proposed to occur over two years:
Year 1. Develop and validate quantitative molecular-genetic tools for detection and quantification of virus pathogen particles in Mya arenaria clam host tissues, tissues of potential vector animals, and in environmental water and sediment samples.
Year 2. Use validated molecular-genetic tools to determine the geographic and historic-temporal ranges of virus infections among Mya arenaria clams in Chesapeake Bay, and to evaluate the seasonality and dynamics of environmental virus dispersal and disease transmission events.
Duration: July 2011-June 2014
NOAA Funding: $84,843
Non-Federal Match: $30,979

Project Title: Population Decline and Restoration of Soft-Shell Clams in Chesapeake Bay: Role of Predation, Habitat, Disease, and Environmental Factors
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570218
Overview: This project aimed to examine the causes of the decline in soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, populations in Chesapeake Bay. The population of M. arenaria in Chesapeake Bay has been declining for several years with a severe decline in the 1990s to record low levels that have been sustained to the present. The population decline is likely due to multiple factors including: recruitment, predation, habitat loss, disease, and overfishing. This research addressed influential factors sequentially, focusing first on predation issues, and subsequently on habitat, environmental factors, and disease. It’s known that recruitment of Mya in certain systems within Chesapeake Bay has continued to be high, yet survival is low in all but those habitats with sufficient structure to protect clams from predation. It’s also known that disease may also be an important factor in population dynamics, particularly in recent years, as work has shown that Perkinsus has reached epidemic levels in Mya. A diverse team of investigators was assembled, with expertise in bivalve ecology, predator-prey, and host-parasite interactions, to address the causes of Mya population decline and make recommendations for successful soft-shell clam restoration.
Duration: July 2011-June 2014
NOAA Funding: $179,053
Non-Federal Match: $24,253

Cownose Rays

Project Title: Life History, Trophic Ecology, and Prey Handling by Cownose Rays from the Chesapeake Bay
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA07NMF4570324
Overview: This study was designed to document the age, growth, and predation for cownose ray, focusing on the population that uses the Chesapeake Bay for pupping and mating during summer months.
Duration: July 2007-June 2010
NOAA Funding: $203,384

Project Title: Oyster-Planting Protocols to Deter Losses to Cownose Ray Predation
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570227
Overview: The project focused on the value of shell overlays to oyster plantings as a ray predator deterrence mechanism. This was an academic/government/industry/non-profit collaboration wherein all parties began and ended the project with a singular commitment to stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay oyster resource for both ecological and economic purposes. The project addresses a critical issue, the potential loss of oysters to predation by cownose rays, in a controlled experimental design but at a scale commensurate with industry practices and large‐scale restoration efforts.
Duration: July 2011-June 2014
NOAA Funding: $156,297
Non-Federal Match: $113,283

Project Title: Discrimination of Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, Stocks Based on Microsatellite DNA Markers
Organization: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570215
Overview: The objective of the project was to develop and use microsatellite DNA markers to discriminate stocks of the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. The specific pbjectives that were approved were to collect neonate and/or pregnant female cownose rays from the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico; create a suite of molecular markers specific to cownose rays; screen these new markers for reliability and variability in the cownose ray; and analyze cownose ray samples collected from the nursery groups in the Chesapeake bay and Gulf of Mexico to look for evidence of stock structure and to get baseline estimates of genetif diversity.
Duration: May 2011-April 2013
NOAA Funding: $45,523
Non-Federal Match: $13,644

Blue Crabs

Project Title: Effects of Changing Population Density on Blue Crab Reproduction
Organization: Old Dominion University Research Foundation
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570228
Overview: The overall objective of this study was to examine the effects of harvest pressure on blue crab reproductive effort. Previous results for this population found: 1) a significant relationship between crab abundance and reproductive output and 2) the majority of females (>80%) mate with multiple males. In 2008-09, new management regulations significantly reduced harvest pressure resulting in increased crab abundance and increased reproductive investment in 2010. The project examined reproductive output for 2011 to determine if there was a continued increase. Using previously identified microsatellite DNA markers, individual broods were examined for multiple paternity. Evaluating the paternity of offspring in a single brood would allow researchers to determine how stored sperm from multiple males is utilized by females. This would also provide information regarding genetic diversity of the population, and overall genetic health. Reevaluating the reproductive effort of this population in 2011 would provide insight into population recovery and supply managers with essential information for future regulation of the fishery.
Duration: October 2011-September 2013
NOAA Funding: $95,816
Non-Federal Match: $14,462

Project Title: Evaluating Population-Level Impacts of Sperm Limitation on the Chesapeake Blue Crab Stock
Organization: Smithsonian Institution
Grant Number: NA11NMF4570230
Overview: The proposed work had two main objectives: (1) quantify sperm stores of mature female blue crabs in the lower Bay spawning stock across a single reproductive season and (2) construct a model to assess the current impact of sperm limitation on reproductive success of the blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay. Project objectives and outcomes would directly support the NCBO mission to support science-based management, assess the status of coastal living resources, and evaluate the effectiveness of recent management for the blue crab in Chesapeake Bay, which is now centered on the conservation of the female spawning stock.
Duration: February 2012-January 2014
NOAA Funding: $66,513
Non-Federal Match: $0