Coastal Carolina University has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the ecosystem of North Inlet Estuary.
Richard Dame and Rob Young of Coastal's Department of Marine Science and Dennis Allen of the University of South Carolina-Belle Baruch Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences have been awarded the grant to study the roles of nekton (fishes and crustaceans) within a marsh-estuarine ecosystem. The study will focus on how these marine animals process and transport materials as they move within and between other systems.
"Previous studies indicate that these mobile organisms are a major source of dissolved nutrients," said Dame. "This large-scale study will help determine the important role these creatures play in maintaining the well-being of our marine environment."
The research project will take place in the North Inlet estuary near Georgetown, a nearly pristine ecosystem that is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Coastal marine science students will participate in the project, working closely with the professors.
The scientists and students will observe and measure nekton activity in a variety of marine settings and conditions. Most of the fish and crustaceans in this study are also economically important to area fisheries, according to Dame.
Dame is recognized internationally as an expert on the ecology of coastal systems, particularly oysters, reefs and mussel beds. He began work as the principal investigator of an extensive research project in 1996 examining oyster reefs in tidal creeks at North Inlet. He joined the Coastal faculty in 1971 and is founder of Coastal's Marine Science major. He was named the first Palmetto Professor in the state in 1989 and has helped Coastal secure more than $8.6 million in research funds for the study of ecological systems in coastal waters.
Young, associate professor and chair of the Department of Marine Science, joined the Coastal faculty in 1992. He has served as president of the South Carolina Marine Educators Association and has previously received grants for the study of fish and dolphin populations in Georgetown's Winyah Bay and surrounding waters.
Allen is the director of the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory on North Inlet, and he is the immediate past president of the Estuarine Research Federation. He is well known for his work on the ecology of fishes, shrimps and crabs.