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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

  • Lauren Ross
Award Date:07/21/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 607,130
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 402,866
  • FY 2021=$402,866
Start Date:08/01/2021
End Date:07/31/2026
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 R&RA ARP Act DEFC V
Award Title or Description:CAREER: What’s salt got to do with it? Linking the variability of mixing to exchange flows in real estuaries
Federal Award ID Number:2045866
DUNS ID:186875787
Parent DUNS ID:071750426
Program Officer:
  • Baris Uz
  • (703) 292-4557

Awardee Location

Street:5717 Corbett Hall
Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Maine
Street:5711 Boardman Hall
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

This award is funded in whole or in part under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2). Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems and maritime commercial centers in the world. In estuaries, the exchange between the ocean and the river water is fundamentally important to the physics and circulation as well as biogeochemical processes such as nutrient fluxes, hypoxia and contaminant transport. This makes the understanding of mixing and exchange flows vital to predicting the impact of anthropogenic change and climate change on estuarine systems and their ecology. The literature of flow exchange in estuaries focuses on partially mixed estuaries or simplified coastal morphometries. Much remains unknown regarding estuaries with complicated topography (irregular bathymetry, convergent width, headlands, and constrictions) over a wide range of stratification conditions. This CAREER project provides an organized pathway for a more comprehensive understanding of land-sea connections and exchange of fresh and salt water, as well as material transport under varied conditions, in varied settings. The PI will document and interpret spatial and temporal variations in mixing and exchange flows in Reloncavi Fjord in Chilean Patagonia (stratified), the Penobscot Estuary on the northeast coast of the USA (partially-mixed to salt-wedge) and the Gironde Estuary on the southwest coast of France (well-mixed to partially-mixed) using in-situ collected data and numerical model simulations. This approach leverages her recent research on the Gironde, Penobscot, and Patagonian Fjords. New knowledge from this CAREER project is an essential building block for better understanding how land-based freshwater flows affect exchange flows, determining timescales for transport of water borne materials such as pollutants, larvae and harmful algal blooms, and will allow for policy makers to use these findings to make science-based decisions. The results of this research will be shared with Maine-eDNA Track 1 EPSCoR researchers to help inform their Thematic Goal of improving surveillance and early warning systems for harmful or shifting taxa as they emerge in coastal waters in the northeast USA. High school citizen scientists will help measure partially mixed estuaries and the PI will work with students and teachers to develop applied mathematics/science lesson plans for grades 9-12. These lessons will highlight differences among the three estuaries, explain simple tidal and volume conservation theory, and introduce data visualization tools. Lesson plans will be shared with high school science and mathematics teachers in Maine, the US and internationally through community presentations, a tri-lingual project website and other outreach mechanisms. Through these activities, the PI will help prepare the future workforce to execute informed policy decisions regarding estuarine and coastal environments. The strategic selection of study areas on three continents will promote place-based and global perspectives, helping all project participants embrace cultural and social diversity in science and engineering education. The PI proposes to amplify a focus on STEM literacy and interest of women, and related recruitment in STEM applied research disciplines as a means of broadening participation in the estuarine science and engineering workforce. The research plan will characterize the along-channel structure of mixing and exchange flows in tidal estuaries of varying stratification. Previous work has shown that the dynamics driving exchange flows and mixing can have unexpected complexity and that tidal, density and wind forcing can be central to their development. However, much of this work has focused on volume averages of mixing and exchange flows or has considered spatial variations of these processes only in partially mixed estuaries. This project will address the gap in knowledge of how spatial and temporal variations in mixing alters exchange flow regimes in estuaries that are not partially-mixed. Spatial and temporal variations of fresh and saltwater mixing defined by the dissipation of salinity variance will be hydrodynamically linked to exchange flows quantified as total exchange flow (TEF) and Eulerian exchange flow (EEF). This coupling will provide a basis for characterization of the estuarine parameter space. This will help estuarine researchers around the world better plan field campaigns and establish appropriate methodologies for understanding mixing and exchange flows in estuaries, and thus material transport. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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