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Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve

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  Archived Posts From: 2012


Graduate Research Fellow Conducts Sediment Research

Written on: April 24th, 2012 in Research

Understanding coastal marsh development is an important part of determining their future. Brandon Boyd, a University of Delaware graduate student,  has been conducting research on Delaware’s coastal marshes – from saltmarshes near the bay mouth to tidal fresh farther up river. In conjunction with his advisor, Dr. Christopher K. Sommerfield, Brandon is studying sediment cores to determine the rate of sediment accumulation (collection) on the marsh surface. As shown in the picture, these cores are collected by pushing a five foot PVC pipe into the ground and removing it with a metal tripod. The collected soil is processed and radioactivity in the sediment layers is measured at the University of Delaware’s lab located in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment in Lewes, Delaware. The radiation measured is naturally occurring.  The chronologies or date-assigned depths from these sediment cores are used to understand how sediment moves in the coastal system. Other researchers use the sediment core date data  for measuring nutrient burial or tracking pollutants.

As a NERR graduate research fellow for the Delaware NERR, Brandon is looking at the variability in the development of the marsh surface over the past 100 years. The development of the marsh can vary greatly from water front to high marsh.  Analyzing the differences in marsh surface development will assist in determining how well the marshes will adapt to sea level rise. So, the next time you’re out in one of Delaware’s marshes, watching the waterfowl or kayaking down a tidal creek, remember to be grateful for all that mud that sticks to you and your gear…without it, we wouldn’t have marshes!

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