NERTO Students

Nia Rene

Nia Rene
M.S, Earth and Environmental Science, Graduate, 08/20/2019

Location: NOAA/NOS/NCOOS, Charleston, SC
Start and End Date: 06/01/2019 – 08/24/2019
NOAA Mentor: Dr. Steve Morton


Rene completed a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry. She worked as a Research Coordinator for The City University of New York Louis Stokes Alliance. While there, she managed and participated in research programs at international universities such as the University of Cartegena in Colombia and Beijing University of Chemical Technology in China. Rene's goals are to enhance weather readiness and water resource management in the United States.

NERTO Research Project Title:


NERTO Project Details :

Non-point source nutrient loading into our waterways is one of the leading causes of coastal eutrophication and subsequent harmful algae bloom (HAB) events. In Suffolk County, N.Y, septic systems treat 70% of the domestic waste and have been identified as a leading cause for degraded coastal water quality in Long Island coastal waters and an important factor contributing to massive outbreaks of HABs in the Great South Bay, Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound. The HAB Cochlodinium polykrikoides (C. poly) causes toxic algal blooms in Suffolk County as well as coastal waters worldwide, and has been found to be lethal to multiple species and life stages of fish and shellfish.

Green infrastructure (i.e. bioswales, bioretention systems, and rain gardens) has been gaining recognition as an effective low-impact best management approach for mitigating stormwater related nutrient loading into waterways and may have the potential to address septic leaching as well. However, the design of these systems is passive and as a result their water interception and nutrient removal capacity has been shown to be highly variable and inconsistent.

The project objectives are to (1) conduct controlled ecoWEIR mesocosm studies to evaluate nutrient removal efficiency from septic effluent and (2) carry out time-series incubations with the C. poly with mesocosm inflows and outflows to determine how ecoWEIR treatment offsets growth of this HAB species. This study will inform residents and coastal ecosystem managers of a cost-effective solution to groundwater contamination from onsite wastewater treatment via engineered drain fields.

NERTO Outcomes:

Rene developed a deep interest in toxin analysis via identification and quantification processes. She also developed skills with the scanning electron microscope which is a powerful tool that she would like to use to analyze samples from urban ecosystems.

Value of NERTO to the Line Office:

The National Ocean Service (NOS) provides data, tools, and services that support coastal economies and their contribution to the national economy. Their mission is to provide science-based solutions through collaborative partnerships to address evolving economic, environmental, and social pressures on our ocean and coasts. The annual occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in coastal waters are of interest to NOS and the National Center for Coastal Ocean Sciences (NCCOS) because of its negative impact on the economy, environment and our society. This research provides insight on the stressors that contribute to HABs and investigates the use of improved septic systems to mitigate HABs in coastal waters. This work also contributes vital information about the components in water that facilitate toxin production by HABs. NOS/NCCOS provides information to protect human health and coastal economies with early warnings of HABs and other health threats. The results of this work will assist NOS in working with coastal communities to develop prevention strategies that can mitigate HABs.

NERTO Skills:

Toxin quantification in water and animal tissue, Scanning using an electron microscope, Event Planning, Strategic Planning, Customer service