The function of the Division of Science and Research is to help ensure that the department’s decision-making is based upon the best possible scientific and technical information. The role of this division is to provide the department with, and access to, expertise and information that supports its technical and policy needs. In addition, the division performs research to meet the information and problem-solving needs, identifies and understands emerging issues that require the department’s attention and advocates/integrates the multi-disciplinary perspective into the department’s identification, analysis and resolution of environmental issues.

Request for Proposals

Analytical Services- Contaminants of Emerging Concern– Bids are due by January 31, 2023 11:59 PM EST

Recent Reports

Rationale Document | Guidance Document

The Bureau of Safe Drinking Water requested that the Division of Science and Research develop a rationale to explain whether predictive modeling is as effective as other methods to locate drinking water service lines made of lead. The location of lead service lines can be determined by different methods, including screening records (such as municipal codes, plumbing codes, and construction specifications), visual examination of plumbing, water quality sampling, excavation of water service line, and predictive modeling (Hensley et al. 2021). However, each of these methods provide differing levels of accuracy for predictions and differing levels of costs. In most cases, predictive models can both improve the accuracy of locating lead service lines and reduce the costs associated with replacing lead service lines by excavating fewer unnecessary (i.e., non-lead) service lines.

Addendum to the 2020 NJ Scientific Report on Climate Change | Science Advisory Board Peer Review Comments

This addendum explains how human health is likely to be directly and indirectly impacted by climate change. The impacts of climate change on human health and communities are anticipated to exacerbate existing environmental and public health disparities. The Public Health Standing Committee of the Science Advisory Board was charged with a peer review of the addendum and that is now posted online as well.

Full Report

Gonionemus vertens (Clinging Jellyfish) is a species of small hydrozoan native to the Pacific Ocean. In 2016, it appeared in New Jersey with the first individual being documented from the Manasquan Canal and subsequent individuals collected in the Shrewsbury River Estuary. Research regarding the distribution of G. vertens was conducted during the summers of 2016 and 2017 in northern Barnegat Bay, the Manasquan River, and the Shrewsbury River Estuary. While the first individual G. vertens confirmed was from the Manasquan Inlet, no other individuals were ever collected from this region nor in the northern reaches of Barnegat Bay. All individuals, including recruiting polyps, were identified from the Shrewsbury River Estuary (54 individual G. vertens medusae were collected in 2016 and 218 collected in 2017). In both years, individual polyps were collected on JADs (Jellyfish Attracting Devices), but no large-scale larval recruitment of polyps was observed, as only one single individual polyp was on a JAD during 2016 and 2017. Subsequent laboratory observations of polyp development from larvae suggest it often takes 3 to 4 months for polyps to fully develop, so it is probable that the polyps from the field JADs likely had merely climbed onto the JAD surface and were not actively recruiting there. It is clear that a well-defined population exists in the Shrewsbury River and continued blooms in the late spring and early summer are expected in the future. Since no other individuals were collected in the Manasquan and Barnegat Bay estuaries after the first individual was observed, it is unclear as to whether that observation was anomalous or whether another population remains in this area, but is not actively blooming. During surveys of the Manasquan River a large, viable eelgrass (Zostera marina) bed was identified near the original collection site of the first G. vertens, so the preferred habitat for G. vertens is present, however the abundant populations in the Shrewsbury River are using macroalgae as habitat, so both algae and seagrass are viable habitat for G. vertens.

Full Report | Research Project Summary

Salt marshes, such as those found along Barnegat Bay, play an important role in removing pollutants and cycling nutrients from aquatic ecosystems, as well as serve as a vital link between terrestrial watersheds and coastal waters. Biogeochemical processes transform nutrients during transport through the marsh complex altering the form, concentration, and fate of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus entering the bay. In some cases, water quality models do not adequately account for marsh habitats in the assessment of the watershed flux of nutrients to coastal waters. Additional data on nutrient concentrations and their transport in marsh habitats will improve estuarine water quality models in New Jersey and similar habitats elsewhere on the eastern seaboard. This research project collected nutrient data along the Westecunk Creek through the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary to determine the approximate flux of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other measured constituents. Dissolved nitrate exhibited substantial non-conservative behavior as the marsh complex served as a source of nitrate to the creek in the spring and as a sink during the summer months.

Full Report | Fact Sheet | Science Advisory Board Comments

In recent decades the frequency of extreme rainfall has increased in New Jersey and across the Northeast. These changes affect the magnitudes of the published extreme rainfall statistics that are used in engineering design specifications, environmental and stormwater regulations, and resiliency planning. The current extreme rainfall values used in New Jersey are based on a data record ending in 2000. With 20 years of additional precipitation data now available, this report assesses the magnitude by which design rainfall extremes have changed in the state.

Full Report | Fact Sheet | Science Advisory Board Comments

Projections from 46 downscaled climate model simulations were used to project the change in magnitude of extreme rainfall events used in engineering design and planning. A methodology analogous to that used in NOAA Atlas 14 was used to calculate annual average return period precipitation amounts from the model data to allow the computation of future change factors that can be applied to the Atlas 14 precipitation data to simulate future extreme rainfall conditions. Across the state the calculated change factors (CF) are >1 indicating an increase in extreme precipitation amounts. In general, CF values are larger in the northern part of New Jersey and smaller in central NJ and along the coast. Under a high RCP8.5 emissions median CF values range from between 1.10 and 1.30 by the end of the century, indicating a 10-30% increase in extreme precipitation amounts. Under more moderate RCP4.5 emissions, the CFs for 2- and 10-yr annual recurrence interval (ARI) precipitation amounts by the end of the century are typically 1.05-1.15. The CF for 100-yr ARI are more variable ranging from little change (i.e. CF = 1.00) in the vicinity of New York City to larger 20-25% increases in northern NJ.

Mapping Tool

Potential Lead Exposure Mapping (PLEM) project provides a publicly available mapping tool to show potential sources of lead exposure. While Phase I of this tool looks specifically at lead paint in housing as a source, future phases will take a deep dive on other potential NJ lead sources. The tool can be used by local health officers, community groups and other members of the public to help identify the potential environmental sources of a child’s lead exposure.

Project Summary and Lessons Learned | Monitoring Plan

 

The salt marshes of the New Jersey coastline are at severe risk of drowning due to a synergistic combination of subsidence of underlying peat layers and rapidly rising sea levels resulting from global climate change. Along with the degradation of habitat, invaluable ecosystem services and functions are vulnerable to loss. From 2014 to 2017, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) initiated three beneficial use of dredged material enhancement projects within three sites: (1) Ring Island in Middle Township (Cape May County), (2) the Cape May Wetlands Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Avalon (Cape May County), and (3) the Fortescue WMA in Fortescue (Cumberland County). Beneficial use of dredged material in this context consists of the application of benthic sediments retrieved from the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterways (NJIWW) and State maintained navigation channels on stressed marshes to artificially increase the elevation of the marsh platform in accordance to tidal datum-based biobenchmarks. Several methods of sediment application were employed at these sites, including thin layer sediment placement (TLP) in Fortescue, Ring Island, and Avalon; filling in of expanding pools and pannes in Avalon; the establishment of an elevated nesting habitat (ENH) for threatened and endangered fauna in Ring Island; and the enhancement of two beaches at Fortescue. As a result of this project, we have synthesized a Lessons Learned document that includes the final designs, cost, and construction timeline of the project, as well as guidance for similar future efforts. Additionally, since the project’s initialization, there has been annual monitoring of multiple facets of tidal marsh functioning to determine the success of the construction work. The data collected from the annual monitoring from 2014 to 2021 has been compiled into a single Monitoring Document and is expected to be released soon.

Wetland Reference Tool

Wetland condition assessment data collected across a range of watersheds and landscapes are useful for evaluating wetland function, designing restoration projects, and setting realistic goals for improvements at both existing sites and during the creation of new wetlands to offset losses or degraded function at other locations.

Because it is often time and cost prohibitive to collect ecological condition assessment data at local reference sites as part of a restoration project, the Reference Wetland Database, developed by Riparia at Penn State, is being augmented specifically for New Jersey’s wetlands as part of a project funded by an EPA Region 2 Wetland Program Development Grant reviewed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Metrics specific to tidal wetlands were added to the database to provide ecologically relevant condition information to practitioners. Metrics and scores from extensive wetland monitoring and assessment efforts conducted within New Jersey, including the National Wetland Condition Assessment, Mid-Atlantic Coastal Wetland Assessment, Ecological Integrity Assessment, and other research were aggregated and summarized in the publicly accessible tool. The New Jersey Reference Wetland Tool displays information on physical, chemical and biological characteristics of wetlands across the state, and includes a summary statistics download feature.

The goal of this User Guide is to inform data providers and the public of the features in the newly created New Jersey Reference Wetland Tool including the upload/download process, how to select and filter data, and link users to data partners for additional inquiries. Currently, this tool only includes data from tidal wetlands, but we anticipate including data from non-tidal wetlands in future updates. Groups interested in partnering with the current data providers can request information from Riparia at Penn State.

Full Report | Research Project Summary

The data generated from this research were used to characterize the seasonal and spatial variation in community composition and relative abundance of structure-associated species on artificial reefs along the coast of New Jersey. These results also provided the information necessary to design a statistically robust trap survey for three targeted recreational and commercial important fish species (Black Sea Bass, Tautog and American lobster). This research provides immediate utility for New Jersey fishery managers through a characterization of seasonal changes in the fish and invertebrate communities inhabiting two existing artificial reefs (Sea Girt and Little Egg Inlet Reefs) and one artificial reef site from pre-construction through construction (Manasquan Inlet Reef). In addition, data on the targeted species and other species (Scup, Jonah crab and rock crab) were generated for a comparison of fish and invertebrate abundance that utilize different artificial reef material, including metal, concrete, and sand. These data are necessary in the development of reliable and efficient trap surveys that can stand up to the rigorous peer review process associated with stock assessments.

Full Report | Research Project Summary

This project engaged Stockton University faculty, staff, and students to collect year-round haul seine data and a local commercial fisher (stakeholder) to supply seasonal fyke net data over a 3-year period (2016–2019) to record the aquatic species present in the Mullica River-Great Bay (MRGB) estuary (NJ) for the NJDEP Marine Fisheries program. In total, 485 haul seine samples were collected, and 170,375 individual finfish/invertebrates were inventoried representing 95 unique species. During the winter/spring sampling efforts, 212 fyke net samples collected by a commercial partner inventoried 14,667 individuals from 39 species leading to a comparison of the sample method effectiveness for generating a more comprehensive inventory survey. The dominant species collected were Atlantic Menhaden (n=81,968), Atlantic Silverside (n=41,234), Bay Anchovy (n=15,796), and White Perch (n=14,641). Young-of-the-year (YOY) tracking from length frequency and seasonal “split” timing (spring, summer) data for Bluefish (n=1,252) showed age/size differences. White Perch were tracked from low salinity, shallow nursery grounds in summer (seine nets) to deeper bay environments in winter (fyke nets). Several Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) managed species were collected. Striped Bass (n=272) appeared in both gears and provided YOY-age 1 samples for otolith microchemistry. Winter Flounder (n=740) and Summer Flounder (n=1,244) exhibited similar settlement patterns (inlet-bay, bay-river respectively) and reliably appeared in both gear types. Weakfish (n=3) was almost completely absent from both gear types. Of managed herring species, Alewife (n=426) dominated the winter/spring migration (fyke) and YOY summer recruitment (seine). Surprisingly, seine collections did not reveal an abundance of southern and/or expatriated species. However, winter fyke catches highlighted species that typically out migrate during the fall to offshore water or to warmer waters south, such as Summer Flounder and Atlantic Menhaden, respectively. Data obtained from utilizing fyke nets shows the importance of pairing collection methods and partners to sample suboptimal, data-poor time periods.

Full Report | Research Project Summary

Estuaries are important spawning, nursery, and harvest areas for fish and invertebrates of recreational, commercial, and ecological importance along coastal New Jersey. Data about these systems is in increasing demand by many segments of the public. Resource managers, as well as recreational and commercial fishermen at all levels, are beginning to play a larger advisory role where fish habitats and fish survival are concerned. Fish constitute one of the largest portions of animal biomass and thus they are important to estuarine ecosystems. Data were collected between 2016 and 2018 to determine the spawning and nursery areas of fishes and crabs with emphasis on those of commercial, recreational, and ecological importance in the Mullica River – Great Bay estuary. The researchers evaluated how changes in water quality and habitat contribute to the distribution and abundance of fishes, as well as ecologically important invertebrates such as crabs and jellyfishes. The variation in habitat use of fishes and crabs were noted across life history stages with focus on larvae, juveniles, and adults using a variety of gear types.

Mailing Address:

PO Box 420
Mail Code: 428-01
Trenton, NJ 08625

Office Location:

428 East State Street
1st Floor
Trenton, NJ 08625

Phone Number:

609-940-4080

Fax Number:

609-292-7340