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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - Past Research Initiatives

Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

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Past Research Initiatives 

The studies listed below comprise the research initiatives funded by APNEP since 2002. For a list of all research publications funded by APNEP, click here.  APNEP is currently developing an online interactive map and comprehensive and searchable database of all APNEP-supported initiatives that have taken place since the founding of the program.  This map and database are expected to be available in late 2017.


Project Title


Research and Restoration: East Carolina University 


Research and Restoration: University of North Carolina


Research and Restoration: Appalachian State University  


Research and Restoration: Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc.


Research and Restoration: North Carolina Coastal Federation 


Research and Restoration: The Nature Conservancy


Virginia Institute of Marine Science Ecosystem Assessment


River Herring Sampling





Research and Restoration: East Carolina University  

Amount Awarded by APNEP: $58,440

Professors Dr. Corbett and Dr. Walsh at East Carolina University have proposed a project that will study the specific effects sea-level rise and storms have on the landscape and its ecosystems. Through their research, they hope to determine how the landscape responds to resulting sea-level rise events such as flooding, accelerated erosion, and loss of wetlands. More specifically, the researchers are interested in studying the effects of sea-level rise on shoreline and shore zone changes in the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System (APES). 

The researchers are studying the dynamics of wetland erosion to attempt to determine the eventual distribution, fate and management of these vital habitats in the APES. Their research will address the following questions: 1) Can we predict the rates of wetland loss across the APES based on previous research? 2) Do major hurricanes appear to be causing wetland losses? How do “event” and “hurricane-period” rates of erosion compare to erosion rates measured over longer timescales? 3) And, based on field observations, what events and key processes (ex: waves) appear to be driving observed wetland losses?  

By selecting 11 research sites and recording the starting conditions, the scientists will determine rates of wetland loss, erosion, and shoreline changes. They will also monitor wave data and sediment transport to calibrate a wave model for the region. The data obtained will then be compiled into websites, Google maps, and educational posters to communicate management possibilities and information regarding the rate of change in the physical features of the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System.  Such information will be vital in maintaining the health and function of the coastal ecosystem, especially as sea-level rise and potentially increased storm incidences occur. 

Project Administrator: 

Dr. Reide Corbett and Dr. J.P. Walsh

Department of Geological Sciences & Institute for Coastal Science and Policy

East Carolina University 

101 Graham Building

Greenville, NC 27858

(252) 328-6360 and 


Research and Restoration: University of North Carolina  

Amount Awarded by APNEP: $67,364

Total Cost of Project: $115,773.04

Dr. Niels Lindquist’s Research and Restoration Project titled “Evaluating Restoration Success for Newly Constructed Oyster Reefs Spanning a Critical Intertidal Elevation” will study and monitor constructed oyster shell reefs at three different intertidal elevations. Oyster reefs serve a variety of critical purposes as ecosystem engineers that enhance the clarity and quality of water, provide habitats for important crustaceans and finfish, and stabilize shorelines against storm damage and erosion. In addition to their role as ecosystem engineers, oyster reefs are also constructed to restore and create suitable oyster settlement substrates in various estuarine locations to support the oyster population. However, due to a variety of physical and biological processes (mechanical harvest, storms, boat wakes) oyster reefs are not always successful. 

This Research and Restoration project will monitor oyster reefs in intertidal waters in order to design restoration practices that maximize oyster recruitment and minimize any destructive incidents such as disease or parasite infections. Determining the critical level (below which biofouling and sponge infestation occur) will help maximize reef health and maintenance. The study will measure and monitor oyster reefs at three different intertidal elevations based on biotic surveys, reef size, and community structure. The data obtained from these studies will assist in understanding oyster reefs’ ecosystem services and habitat values in intertidal settings, as well as aiding in the development of best restoration models. Understanding these components could lead to improved oyster, crustacean, and finfish populations vital in the fishery industries, as well as improving species diversity and expanding species’ habitats in the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System. 

The project will allow many student technicians to gain hands-on experience in the natural sciences, and outreach displays and presentations will be set up at the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Office. 

Project Administrator: 

Dr. Niels L. Lindquist, Professor 

Institute of Marine Sciences

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

3431 Arendell Street

Morehead City, NC 28557

(252) 726-6841 ext. 136  


Research and Restoration: Appalachian State University  

Amount Awarded by APNEP: $64,009

Total Cost of Project: $113,300

Dr. Michael Gangloff of Appalachian State University is working on a project called “Assessment of Small Dam Impacts on Freshwater Mussels and Fishes in the Tar, Roanoke, Neuse and Chowan River Drainages, North Carolina and Virginia”. In the Albemarle-Pamlico Basin (APB), there are many more low-head dams, meaning those that are less than 5m in height, than there are hydroelectric dams and thus may have a significantly greater impact. Research surprisingly shows that low-head dams may actually benefit native mussel species due to various habitat components like sediment accumulation and other fish populations. 

Dr. Gangloff’s project aims to understand how exactly small dams are affecting the aquatic resources in the APB to better implement and prioritize habitat conservation and restoration projects, especially for at-risk freshwater fish and mussels. The goals of his study are to quantify effects of small dams on mollusk and fish populations, and stream habitats across the APB, provide baseline estimates of mollusk and fish populations near small dams, and provide resource managers with an empirical ranking system for evaluating and prioritizing dams for removal in the APB. By gathering this census data on freshwater fish and mussels, as well as understanding the effects of dams on these populations, more efficient conservation practices and programs can be developed and put into use. 

Project Administrator: 

Dr. Michael Gangloff, Research Assistant Professor 

Appalachian State University

Biology Department, Rankin Life Sciences

572 Rivers Street

Boone, NC 28608-2027

(828) 262-7790  


Research and Restoration: Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. 

Amount Awarded by APNEP: $49,000

Total Cost of Project: $59,000

The Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. is designing a Research and Restoration project at Manteo High School titled the “Manteo High School Constructed Wetland and Outdoor Environmental Education Classroom”. The project will consist of constructing and planting a wetland between the high school and Dough’ s Creek, constructing a boardwalk over the wetland to Dough’s Creek, and developing environmental education curriculum for high school students. The wetland will serve as an outdoor classroom, and the boardwalk will facilitate observation, water quality sampling, and environmental education for the high school students. 

Construction of the wetland will take place at a key stormwater outfall and will subsequently improve the water quality of Dough’s Creek. Two other objectives of the project are to provide environmental education to the public and a learning environment for Manteo High School students and faculty. The boardwalk and wetland will help students and the community better understand the natural environments and the cause-and-effect relationship development and stormwater runoff have on natural systems. 

The Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. is partnering with the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, Manteo High School science teachers and students, The Natural Resources Conservation Service, Dare Soil and Water Conservation District, and students from the UNC Institute for the Environment. 

Project Administrator: 

Linda Peterson, Program Manager 

Albemarle RC&D Council, Inc.

730 N. Granville Street, Suite B

Edenton, NC 27932

(252) 482-7437 ext. 4 


Research and Restoration: North Carolina Coastal Federation 

Amount Awarded by APNEP: $99,967

Total Cost of Project: $183,484

The North Carolina Coastal Federation has designed a project in Hyde County called “Hydrologic Restoration for Habitat and Estuarine Water Quality Improvement”. To complete this project, NCCF formed partnerships with Mattamuskeet Ventures, Hyde County drainage district, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The goal of the project is to provide vital habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl on a key portion of the Atlantic Flyway, give wildlife needed habitat, give farmers access to water they can use for irrigation, and help protect fields from salty storm surge that could hinder or prevent crop production. 

More specifically, the project will consist of a 600-acre tract of land that is being restored for migrating shorebirds and water quality enhancement. The project will redirect and retain agricultural runoff on land under a permanent Wetland Reserve Program conservation easement, and run-off water in the existing canals will be pumped to alternate locations. Such measures are being installed to prevent any further runoff from entering the ICWW or the Pamlico Sound from the project area. Additionally, the project will have a water management plan that will work in accordance with management outlines for shorebirds and waterfowl and managing agricultural runoff to keep sediment, bacteria, and nutrients from running into primary or secondary nurseries. Installing 2.8 acres of vegetation and seven water control structures will create wetland marsh habitat for plant, terrestrial and aquatic species, as well as restoring hydrology. Ultimately, the project will improve water quality in certain estuarine areas, targeted for restoration, and create much-needed habitat in the Albemarle Pamlico Peninsula. 

Project Administrator: 

Todd Miller, Executive Director 

North Carolina Coastal Federation

3609 Highway 24 (Ocean)

Newport, NC 28570

(252) 393-8185 


Research and Restoration: The Nature Conservancy

Amount Awarded by APNEP: $65,538

Total Cost of Project: $216,167

The Nature Conservancy of North Carolina is planning a project called “Building ecosystem resilience to climate change and sea-level rise through restoration of an estuarine habitat complex”. The goal of the project is to use invasive species removal, re-establishment of wetland hydrology, and construction of a fringing oyster reef to restore the ecosystem function of the abandoned Point Peter waterfowl impoundment and the surrounding estuarine subtidal zone. These areas, which are part of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, lie on the easternmost side of the Albemarle Pamlico Peninsula. The Refuge is an area that is threatened by climate change and more specifically, due to accelerated sea-level rise (SLR); thus, the aim of this project is to try to protect and preserve this fragile area. 

Their plans to restore the ecosystem function include increasing ecosystem resilience to accelerated sea-level rise, creating and improving habitat for native oysters and wetland vegetation, improving estuarine water quality, enhancing habitat suitability for estuarine biota, and increasing estuarine biodiversity. Specific project components are building a high relief fringing oyster reef to lessen wave energy and provide habitat for estuarine biota, restore habitat at the abandoned waterfowl impoundment, and eradicate various invasive species. This demonstration project will also serve as a way for the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to test climate change adaptation strategies and their effectiveness at combating SLR in the ecosystems of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Project Administrator: 

Dr. Brian Boutin, Albemarle Climate Change Adaptation Project Director 

The Nature Conservancy, NC Chapter


Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences Ecosystem Assessment: State of the Chowan and Pasquotank River Basins


Amount Awarded by APNEP: $25,000

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) used existing data sets to analyze the status and trends of water quality parameters within the Chowan and Pasquotank Rivers. By evaluating the existing data, they were able to determine gaps in data and where additional investigations and monitoring is needed. This project was important in attempting to integrate data and management programs across state boundaries in shared waterways. 

This project was one of many attempts the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program is making to assess the state of the entire APNEP ecosystem using indices of environmental quality. This program was a pilot study and starting point for broader assessments in the future which will serve as a means of communicating environmental quality to the public and assist in APNEP’s monitoring program. 


Project Administrator: 


Kirk J. Havens

Director, Coastal Watersheds Program

Virginia Institute of Marine Science

PO Box 1346

Gloucester Point, VA 23062-1346

(804) 684-7386

(804) 648-7179 (fax) 



River Herring Sampling 


Amount Awarded by APNEP: $19,200


The River Herring Sampling project, conducted by the Division of Marine Fisheries was completed to gather additional information on the remaining populations of river herring. River herring, collectively referring to both blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) and alewife (Alosa psuedoharengus), are experiencing rapid population crashes throughout their native regions. 

River herring populations are crashing due to a variety of reasons including loss of access to habitat, habitat destruction, fishery pressures, and declining water quality. The goal of this project was to gather information in a scientifically, economically, and socially sound way that will help assist in restoring river herring populations. 


Project Administrator: 


Ms. Sara E. Winslow 

Northern District Manager

NC Division of Marine Fisheries

NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources

1367 Highway 17 South

Elizabeth City, NC 27909

(252) 264-3911 


Amount Awarded by APNEP: $40,000

FerryMon is a UNC-CH/Duke Ferry-based water quality monitoring program attempting to fill the informational void in data on the water quality and habitat change in the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary System (APES).  FerryMon uses ferries as cost-effective data gathering vessels to routinely gather water quality information while out on the water.  The APES is North Carolina’s most important aquatic resource and the Nation’s second largest estuary which supports a large fraction of the Southeastern U.S. fishery, as well as tourism, and recreational and sports fishing. 

Thus, the goals of FerryMon are to assess and predict the relationships between human nutrient & pollutant inputs, algal blooms and associated water quality changes, and ecosystem response; provide information critical to long-term water quality and fishery management; and develop FerryMon as a national model for real-time assessment of coastal water quality. Monitors on ferries test for temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll biomass, geographic position (GPS), nutrients and diagnostic algal pigments, colored dissolved organic matter, and total suspended solids. 

FerryMon is a partnership among NC DOT ferries, UNC-CH and Duke, and NCDENR Division of Water Quality. 

For more information, please visit: 

Project Administrator: 

Scott Blackwood, Acting Senior Director


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