Waves

SOCAN &
Coastal Carolina University 

SOCAN is collaborating with researchers from Coastal Carolina University (CCU) to assess the potential for acidification at pier sites in Long Bay and Murrell's Inlet. This project, funded through South Carolina Sea Grant, is the first of its kind in South Carolina. During 2022 and 2023 the team will be collecting water samples for carbonate chemistry and analyzing existing data with the goal of determining short-term changes in acidification variables and decadal scale trends. The final outcomes of the project will include formal and informal educational materials for High School through Graduate levels and valuable information for State and Local level water quality management planning. For more information about this project check out the links below.

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Coastal and Estuarine Acidification in Long Bay, South Carolina

This project is run by Coastal Carolina University through South Carolina Sea Grant funding.

The proposed project seeks to provide a characterization of coastal ocean acidification (COA) using the waters of Long Bay, South Carolina (SC) where hypoxia (low oxygen) and acidification (in the form of low pH) have already been documented. Data from this local characterization will be used in informal and formal education settings to increase public awareness of COA as a statewide coastal concern. The project will serve as a pilot effort to guide future expansion to the rest of the state’s coastline.

 

The project meets Objective 1.2 of SC Sea Grant’s Strategic Plan with regard to Program Area I, Healthy Ecosystems to,

 

“generate and deliver science-based information on the effects of changes in water quality and quantity on coastal and ocean ecosystems and communities to support land, water, and living resources management decision-making.”

 

Additionally, the proposed project addresses Program Area V, Scientific Literacy and Workforce Development, which envisions the advancement of a,

 

“scientifically literate public, at both youth and adult levels, understands the value and vulnerability of coastal and marine resources, makes wise decisions regarding these resources, and supports the development of a well-trained and diverse workforce in coastal-and marine-related careers”.

 

The goals of this project seek to determine the impacts of COA on water quality in Long Bay, SC, provide information to stakeholders, and create opportunities for education and future COA monitoring efforts.

October 2022 Project Update

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Photo credit: Danielle Viso

Since July 5th, the team from Coastal Carolina University has been taking water samples for dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity at the Cherry Grove and Apache Piers and two sites within Murrell's Inlet every other week. These water samples are essential for determining how acidification is affected by changes in water chemistry, environmental factors (temperature and salinity), by water currents, and by extreme weather events like hurricanes.

Hurricanes can greatly affect water chemistry by altering salinity. In the Southeast, the Gulf Stream current, which has a high salinity, usually acts to buffer or increase, the pH of the water. The excessive rainfall and resulting freshwater river outflow from hurricanes can act to decrease the salinity and therefore, the pH. 

Our team of experts was able to take water samples from before and after Hurricane Ian so that we see how much this hurricane impacted acidification. Short-term events like hurricanes could become more important in long-term predictions as the climate changes.

Unfortunately, on September 30th, Hurricane Ian caused damage to the mid-section of the Cherry Grove Pier. The damage means that we can not reach our equipment that continuously monitors pH until the pier is restored. Our other station at the Apache Pier made it through the Hurricane and we will continue to take water samples there through the end of January as week as at our other stations. Stay tuned for further project updates.

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Ongoing hypoxia research in Coastal South Carolina waters and the link to coastal acidification 

Long Bay Hypoxia
Monitoring Consortium

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The Long Bay Hypoxia Monitoring Consortium is supporting water quality and biological monitoring at three fishing piers on the Grand Strand.  The consortium was established by a resolution of the Coastal Alliance signed in August 2011.  The Coastal Alliance is comprised of the mayors from the coastal municipalities of the Grand Strand, including the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, the towns of Surfside Beach and Atlantic Beach, and the unincorporated areas of Horry County.

The link between hypoxia and acidification is likely important, especially in coastal waters where large quantities of organic matter are decomposed back into their inorganic components via bacterial processes that consume dissolved oxygen in the water. CO2, which is released by the bacteria during this process, contributes to decreasing the pH and causing more acidic conditions.

Some initial results at several locations around Long Bay show that pH decreases (top left graphic) and the water gets more acidic when dissolved oxygen (bottom left graphic) decreases. This generally happens over the summer when there are greater amounts of phytoplankton and other organic plant matter in the water (growing season), whereas in the winter the pH and dissolved oxygen increase again.

Since the summer of 2008, a volunteer monitoring program has been collecting water samples for various dissolved nutrients, oxygen, phytoplankton biomass, and pH. 

Project Goals and Objectives

The primary scientific goal of this research project is to determine if acidification is occurring at the study sites in Long Bay and Murrell's Inlet.

SOCAN will also partner with CCU to develop educational materials on acidification in South Carolina waters. 

By the end of the project, there will be a teacher think-tank meeting in South Carolina to help develop and promote formal and informal high school and college educational materials on acidification. Check back here for meeting dates and registration information.

 

SOCAN will also host a stakeholder Townhall virtual meeting in 2023, give South Carolina Science Café webinars, and participate in creating new signage to be displayed at pier study sites explaining acidification to the public. 

Sign up for SOCAN emails to be notified of dates and events associated with this project.

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Photo Credit: Danielle Viso

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Project Publications

In October 2022, Graduate student Mary Olsen, presented the poster entitled Characterizing Temporal and Spatial Scales of Coastal-Ocean and Estuarine Acidification in Long Bay, South Carolina at the South Carolina Water Resources Conference. Click here to view a PDF of the poster.  

Coastal Carolina University Project Personnel 

Angelos Hannides, Ph.D. Associate Professor | ahannides@coastal.edu

Angelos' current research activities center on sandy shores, land-ocean exchange of pollutants, specifically nutrients, and the biogeochemical implications of coastal engineering interventions such as beach nourishment and channel realignment. He has a keen interest in sensors for biogeochemical parameters on static, ship-borne, and autonomous platforms. He is invested in the process of science informing policy, based on prior experience as an EU-member-state government scientist, policy maker, and consultant for the private environmental consulting sector.

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Susan M. Libes, Ph. D. Professor/Director, Waccamaw Watershed Academy | susan@coastal.edu

Susan Libes is the director of CCU’s Waccamaw Watershed Academy and its state-certified Environmental Quality Laboratory. She engages in research, teaching, and public outreach to meet regional needs for protecting water quality in the rivers and coastal waters of Horry and Georgetown counties. This includes deployment of real-time water quality, physical and meteorological sensors at three fishing piers on the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Other monitoring programs that provide data online include four volunteer water quality monitoring programs located in the Waccamaw River, Murrells Inlet and Surfside Beach and Briarcliffe Acres.

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Danielle Viso, Director, Environmental Quality Laboratory | dviso@coastal.edu

Danielle Viso presently serves as the technical director of the Environmental Quality Lab at Coastal Carolina University. Viso has been with the EQL for 11 years, prior to which she was a Geologist with a large private sector consulting company for 5 years. Her research interests involve environmental impacts on developing watersheds and methodologies to monitor environmental quality parameters at a variety of scales in coastal environments. Viso manages operations and projects associated with the state-certified EQL, educates and mentors student interns, and also teaches environmental monitoring methods in a graduate course at CCU.

Mary Olsen, Master's Student at Coastal Carolina University funded by South Carolina Sea Grant

Mary Olsen graduate student in the Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies Masters program at Coastal Carolina University. Mary is a master's student in the Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies Program. She is from Delta, Pennsylvania, and is interested in the Chesapeake Bay and water quality. She received her bachelor's degree from Coastal Carolina University with a major in Marine Science and an Applied Mathematics minor. She is interning with the Environmental Quality Lab (EQL) as a field and lab technician. She is also working with her graduate advisor, Dr. Angelos Hannides and the EQL on her Coastal Ocean Acidification thesis project. 

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