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Research Program Themes
Ecology and Diversity
Oregon Coast
Estuarine Ecology and Assessments of Functional Biotic Diversity
Research projects carried out under this theme address the general question:
What processes determine the composition and distribution of species assemblages and communities in the South Slough estuary, and to what extent are ecological relationships among diverse groups of organisms determined by top-down processes, bottom-up mechanisms, or environmental stress?
Examples of research projects that focus on estuarine ecology and functional biotic diversity within the South Slough NERR include:
  • Biological interactions and ecological relationships among estuarine and marine organisms along the marine-to-freshwater estuarine gradient.  
  • Development of an early warning system to detect arrival and colonization by new aquatic non-indigenous species.
  • Control of estuarine communities by top-down (predation and competition) versus bottom-up (nutrients and productivity) processes.
  • Quantitative comparison of primary production in the estuarine water column and by microphytobenthos.
  • Role of predation by shorebirds and waterfowl on populations of estuarine invertebrates.

Land-Margin Ecosystems
Investigation of Links Between Land-Margin Ecosystem Elements
Research projects carried out under this theme address the general question:
What are the fundamental transfer mechanisms that provide material, bioenergetic, and life history linkages among upland, estuarine, and marine components of the South Slough ecosystem?
Examples of specific research projects that focus on links between land-margin ecosystem elements include:
  • Hydrodynamic exchange, nutrient dynamics, and material transfer links among nearshore, estuarine, and freshwater components of the South Slough coastal ecosystem.
  • Relationships between levels of fecal coliform bacteria, contamination of estuarine shellfish, and land-use activities in adjacent upland habitats.
  • Assessment of sediment transport mechanisms, deposition, and erosion between upland sources and the estuarine tidal basin.
  • Formation, persistence, and ecological role of bull kelp, Nereocystis leutkeana, in estuarine tidal channels, and reciprocal transport of drift algae and eelgrass to marine habitats.
  • Oceanic forcing of invertebrate larval supplies and recruitment into estuarine soft-sediment habitats.
  • Transport, fate, and role of large wood in estuarine tide flats and salt marshes.

Human Disturbance
Evaluation of the Effects of Human Disturbance Within Estuaries
Research projects carried out under this theme address the general question:
What are the primary ecological impacts of chronic anthropogenic disturbance and human mediated stressors on biotic diversity, populations, communities, and habitat components in the South Slough estuary?
Examples of applied research projects that focus on evaluation of the effects of human disturbance on the South Slough NERR and other estuaries include:

  • Non-point source pollution and discharge into tidal channels.
  • Ecological role of commercial oyster cultivation on native eelgrass, sediments, invertebrates, and fish.
  • Empirical assessment of biological and economic advantages during active and passive restoration of degraded estuarine habitats.
  • Influence of shoreline structures, docks, and marinas on salt marshes, eelgrass, shorebirds, and migratory fish.
  • Ecological consequences and assessment of climate change in the estuarine and nearshore marine environment.