News Archive 2013

October 15, 2013

Brown tide returns, threatening shellfish
By Patricia Kitchen
NewsDay Long Island

Brown tide algae has returned to Long Island's South Shore at a time of year that helps set next spring's hard-clam reproductive season, according to a report from the Marine Science Research Center at Stony Brook University.

The algae blooms -- toxic to marine life but not humans -- "has intensified this month to nearly 1,000,000 cells per milliliter in central Great South Bay," center officials reported. "Densities exceeding 200,000 cells per milliliter were also present in western Great South Bay, Moriches Bay, Quantuck Bay, and Shinnecock Bay."

Concentrations of more than 50,000 cells per milliliter can be harmful to shellfish, especially clams, according to the center.

"The occurrence of a fall brown tide is not uncommon, particularly after a summer with a dense and widespread brown tide," said Christopher Gobler, professor of marine biology at Stony Brook University's Southampton campus. "We knew that the summer brown tide would end when the bays heated up above 75 degrees. We also knew it could return once the bays cooled down in the fall."

Brown tides hit the same areas in May, June and July. Such algal blooms have been forming in South Shore bays for at least the past 25 years, Gobler said. The growths largely result from residential cesspools and septic tanks draining into groundwater, which eventually makes its way into the Great South Bay.

Algal concentrations are at safe levels in ocean inlets, including the breach cut through Fire Island by superstorm Sandy a year ago. The breach is flushing Bellport Bay with ocean water and has kept brown tide densities below 20,000 cells per milliliter, according to a news release issued by the center Tuesday.

Suffolk County Senior Public Health Sanitarian Michael Jensen said the last two "substantial" brown tides in the Great South Bay occurred in 2008 and 2011. The 2011 algal bloom started in the fall and ended in November. "Data collected at this point suggests that this year's fall bloom mimics that of the 2011 fall bloom," Jensen said in a statement.

When he checked two locations this week, Jensen said, he saw dense blooms about 2 feet deep. When he visited the same spots on Sept. 24, he saw no significant brown tide.The blooms diminish when water temperatures reach the mid-70s, Gobler said, with the possibility of a return in the fall when temperatures cool down.

"This is disappointing but not surprising," said Carl LoBue of The Nature Conservancy, which is working to restore the Great South Bay hard-clam population. Earlier experience shows "that back-to-back brown tide blooms not only impacted survival and growth of young clams, it also impacted spawning of adult clams the following season."

Read the article at NewsDay Long Island

October 2, 2013

group photo
SoMAS Dean Minghua Zhang, Prof. Chris Gobler, Prof. Ellen Pikitch, Co-chair Roz Edelman, Committee member Nancy Hebert, and Co-Chair Maureen Sherry Klinsky enjoy an evening at the new Marine Sciences Center at an event to benefit the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program.

"Clams for Clams" Raises $55,000 for Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program
Sag Harbor Online

More than 50 friends of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) took part in the first annual “Clams for Clams” fundraiser on September 7 to support its Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP), launched with a $3 million gift in 2012 from the Laurie Landeau Foundation and the Simons Foundation.

Proceeds from the event will develop five new clam spawner sanctuaries in the Bay, which have been proven to increase water quality and control harmful algae while strengthening the clam population.

Event co-chairs Roz and Richard Edelman, and Maureen Sherry and Steve Klinsky, both of Southampton, hosted the event at Stony Brook’s new Marine Sciences Center at the University’s Southampton campus, raising more than $55,000 in tickets and sponsorships to fund five spawner sanctuaries.

“The water here is like nowhere else, whether you like to simply look at it, paint it, play in it, or make your living fishing it,” said Maureen Sherry Klinsky who with her husband Steve funded two clam spawner sanctuaries. “I don’t want to look out across Shinnecock Bay 20 years from now, the tipping point, and wish I’d done something.”

Research by Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences faculty shows that increasing the clam population in Shinnecock Bay can reinvigorate this fragile ecosystem. What makes the ShiRP project unique is its emphasis on collaboration among all stakeholders: area residents, Southampton Town Trustees, local fishermen and even other community non-profits. In fact, the Peconic Baykeeper also donated a clam spawner sanctuary at the fundraiser.

“The event was a great success and hopefully it is the first of several,” said Bradley Peterson, SoMAS Associate Professor and one of the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP) researchers.

“A number of people voiced their surprise about how clams can help with the Bay’s restoration, and left excited about how the clam sanctuaries will improve water quality in western Shinnecock Bay.”

Read the article online.

September 25, 2013

group photo
SoMAS Dean Minghua Zhang, Prof. Chris Gobler, Prof. Ellen Pikitch, Co-chair Roz Edelman, Committee member Nancy Hebert, and Co-Chair Maureen Sherry Klinsky enjoy a perfect evening at the new Marine Sciences Center.

Stony Brook University To Improve Shinnecock Bay With Clam Sanctuaries
Posted by Erica Jackson (Editor)
Southhampton Patch

$55,000 raised through a fundraiser is making the project possible.

A program through Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences aims to help improve the water quality in Shinnecock Bay through the placement of clam sanctuaries in the waterway.

The plan for the sanctuaries is being brought to fruition after a Sept. 7 fundraiser that raised $55,000 for the project, according to the school of marine and atmospheric sciences, which runs the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program that was launched in 2012 through a $3 million grant.

All of the proceeds raised from the “Clams for Clams” event, which was held at Stony Brook’s new Marine Sciences Center at the University’s Southampton campus, will be used to develop five new clam spawner sanctuaries in the bay.

According to the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, increasing the clam population in the Shinnecock Bay can reinvigorate the fragile ecosystem.

In recent years, the Shinnecock Bay has been plagued by brown tides that detrimentally affect the clam population.

"The water here is like nowhere else, whether you like to simply look at it, paint it, play in it, or make your living fishing it," said Maureen Sherry Klinsky who with her husband Steve funded two clam spawner sanctuaries. "I don’t want to look out across Shinnecock Bay 20 years from now, the tipping point, and wish I’d done something."

Read the article on

July 28, 2013


The brown tide that has plagued Long Island's shores has retreated, thanks to the recent stretch of hot weather, a report from Stony Brook University has found.

Samples taken last week from Southampton to Bay Shore indicate an overall sharp decline in algae levels, officials reported.

"Brown tide has an upper temperature threshold; it can't withstand when the water goes above 80 degrees," said Chris Gobler, a professor at the university's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. "The extreme heat we've had this month has caused the brown tide to die off."

Density levels in the algae-causing brown tide have dropped from millions of cells per milliliter to tens of thousands, according to the report. Brown tide concentrations of 50,000 cells per milliliter or more can be harmful to marine life, the report indicated. It doesn't pose a threat to humans.

Shinnecock Bay and Moriches Bay had less than 10,000 brown tide cells per milliliter -- the lowest concentrations in the area. Parts of the Great South Bay, however, still recorded more than 100,000 cells per milliliter, the report found.

"Areas near ocean inlets had cleared up the fastest, and the areas that received the least amount of flushing still had high densities," Gobler said.

Gobler said brown tide also causes problems for commercial fishermen.

"Fish are visual predators and, essentially, when the brown tide moves in, fish will often move out," he said. "The other alternative is that the fish are there, but they can't see the bait."

But Kathy Heinlein, president of the Captree Fleet -- one of the largest fishing fleets on Long Island -- said the brown tide this year hasn't been a problem.

"Fishermen have not been able to fish through it in the past," she said, "but now they've been able to fish through it."

Brown tide appeared in Moriches Bay and Shinnecock Bay for the seventh consecutive year, the report from Stony Brook said. Spurred by heavy rainfall in mid-June, the algae spread in the Great South Bay -- the first time brown tide was spotted there in five years.

Gobler predicted algae levels will remain lower for the rest of the summer.

Article on

June 10, 2013


Volunteers Wanted: Become an Oyster Gardener
Westhampton-Hampton Bays Patch
Posted by Erica Jackson (Editor), June 10, 2013

Help protect the Shinnecock Bay this summer.

The Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program is looking for volunteers this summer to help raise oysters that will help filter the bay way, fighting both brown and red tides.

The restoration program, which was founded by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University and its Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, is offering the opportunity to Southampton residents.

Oyster gardeners will be responsible for raising tiny seed oysters at the Tiana Bay community oyster garden until they are large enough to be transplanted into the Shinnecock Bay.

To get started, participants pay $200, which buys 1000 baby oysters and two floating cages to protect them while they grow. In addition, the fee covers 6 Tuesday morning workshops from July through October, where oyster gardeners can tend to their cages while learning about aquaculture and the oysters’ role in the restoration of Shinnecock Bay.

An orientation session is scheduled for Tuesday June 18 at 7 p.m.

Volunteers will work under the Southold Project in Aquaculture Training program, which is a program sponsored by Suffolk County Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Southampton Town Trustees and Parks and Recreation Department.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Chris Woods at

June 8, 2013

Scientists: Brown tide threatens Long Island bays
Published: June 8, 2013 1:16 PM
By The Associated Press

STONY BROOK, N.Y. - (AP) -- Superstorm Sandy wrought terrible destruction, but it may have had at least one benefit: Healthier conditions for marine life in Long Island's Great South Bay.

Stony Brook University professor Christopher Gobler tells Newsday ( ) that a new inlet punched through Fire Island is now helping to flush septic system pollutants out of the bay.

That has led to lower levels of an algae threatening eelgrass and scallops along other parts of the south shore.

In places that can't flush out as easily, the so-called brown tide is causing big problems.
Gobler says levels of the algae have reached densities of 800,000 cells per milliliter in western Shinnecock Bay.

Densities above 50,000 cells can be harmful to marine life.

Harmful blooms have also been reported in Moriches Bay and Quantuck Bay.

Read the article on Newsday’s Web site

The article also was carried by the following media outlets:

Wall Street Journal   San Francisco Chronicle
Times Union   News 12 Brooklyn


May 1, 2013

The Independent gives front-page coverage of the ShiRP eelgrass restoration event

The Independent
Story - click to enlarge

Cover image - click to enlarge

Read the article at The Independent.

April 20, 2013

Shinnecock Bay
Shinnecock Bay PHOTO CREDIT: Brendan J. O'Reilly

Public Invited to Lend a Hand to Shinnecock Bay
Bring scissors to help prepare eelgrass for transplantation into Shinnecock Bay.
Posted by Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor)
Southmpton Patch

The Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program is asking for volunteers to come to the Stony Brook Southampton School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences marine station on Saturday to get their hands dirty in a project aimed at helping the beleaguered bay.

Between 10 a.m and 2 p.m., volunteers will prepare eelgrass to be transplanted into the bay, where vital habitats has been declining. Eelgrass habitats enable clams to grow and also provide grounds for other species to feed. Part of the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program's goals is to restore the clam population, because clams filter the water, which can go a long way toward preventing devastating brown tides and red tides.

There will be public education exhibitions on display about the bay and SoMAS' research and restoration activities, according to a statement from the restoration program. This will include touch tanks, oyster filtration experiments, and opportunities to speak with scientists, students and staff.

For more information, Volunteers must pre-register by emailing program coordinator Christine Santora at with subject line “eelgrass.” No registration is required for the education activities during the event.

Read the article online.

April 16, 2013

Dr. Gobler
Professor Gobler

Professor Gobler Testifies in Support of Water Resources Development Act

Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Christopher Gobler, PhD, testified before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment in support of passage of a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) is the ranking minority member on the Subcommittee. The WRDA would authorize projects related to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program, the nation’s largest water resources program, which includes environmental restoration projects.

Dr. Gobler’s testimony, presented April 16 in Washington, D.C., addressed ecosystem and aquatic ecosystem restoration, shoreline protection, and water quality improvement. He shared information gained from his Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program and lessons learned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Dr. Gobler described the importance of high, well-vegetated dunes on the ocean side of barrier islands to protect communities from storm surge. And, he noted that salt marshes on the bay side of the islands stabilized the islands and provided protection from flooding. In contrast, he described the devastation that communities without dune-marsh systems experienced when storm waves swept onto shore and destroyed boardwalks and other structures. He also emphasized the environmental benefits of restoring bivalve and seagrass populations in degraded estuaries.

Dr. Gobler urged the Subcommittee to invest in restoring coastline dunes and wetland systems to provide a natural protective barrier to coastal communities. He noted the critical importance of the coast not only for environmental benefit, but also for the economic benefit associated with coastal communities throughout the United States. His testimony will be considered as the Subcommittee seeks to reauthorize the WRDA in the coming months.

See the article at Stony Brook University's Government Relations site.

March 1, 2013

Breaches at the Moriches Inlet and Smith Point County Park.

Letter: Keep inlet open for Bay health
Long Island Newsday online

Regarding the new inlet in the Great South Bay ["Breach: To fill, or not to fill?" Letters, Feb. 15]: For two decades, I have investigated the coastal waters of Long Island with a focus on processes that promote harmful algal blooms and that affect coastal resources such as bivalves and eelgrass. During this time, the harmful algal blooms have intensified, and bivalves and eelgrass beds have become scarce.

Across Long Island, harmful algal blooms occur in regions that are poorly flushed and are subject to intense nitrogen loading. The new inlet in the Great South Bay, therefore, has created an opportunity to lessen the impact on this system.

The enhanced tidal exchange will be particularly important during summer months, when water quality is worst. I expect that, during summer, the inlet will introduce cool, clear, low-nitrogen and less-acidic water, and lessen the stress on bivalves and eelgrass.

It has long been said that dilution is the solution to pollution. The creation of the inlet offers a unique opportunity for nature to dilute nitrogen pollution in the Great South Bay and make it great once again.

Christopher J. Gobler, Stony Brook
See the article online at Long Island Newsday

beds and a decline in fish and shellfish populations.

In 2010, the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Project began, with the project now already moving into its second phase and third year.

"The pilot studies undertaken by SoMAS during the summers of 2010 and 2011 have provided valuable information to inform future restoration projects," Gobler said. "The goal is to eventually reach a 'tipping point' where the natural populations of shellfish will begin to recover and eelgrass beds will expand within the bay."

Friday's boat tour found Gobler and members of his team gathering data from measured and evaluated water temperatures, nutrient levels, water clarity, algal densities and more. In seeking to enhance the natural filtration capacity of the ecosystem with shellfish, the team restocked multiple species of shellfish with wild plantings, caged plantings that they monitor regularly.

The bay's nutrient levels are being measured with seaweed. The aquatic plants absorb large amounts of nutrients, and by removing nutrients, the plants can have an inhibitory effect on harmful algae, including red and brown tide.

Expanding the eelgrass beds is another important area of interest for the Stony Brook and Southampton teams.

Not only were shoots of eelgrass planted, they also focused on releasing seeds and genotyping eelgrass to ensure that specific strains of eelgrass are properly matched with the prevailing conditions of the bay. Abundant eelgrass beds also promote more sustainable habitats for fish.

Now that fall is here, it's time for assessment after the passed two year's efforts.

So far, according to Gobler and his team's findings, results show that both juvenile and adult stage oysters were more resistant to the effects of high temperature and brown tide than other shellfish. Also a water sample taken from eastern Shinnecock Bay was clear, while a water sample taken from the western Shinnecock Bay was yellow and murky, resulting from being plagued by a brown tide bloom. The samples were taken from both sides on the same day.

Since the restoration project received $3 million this year in two $1.5 million philanthropic gifts from the Laurie Landeau Foundation and the Simons Foundation, coming up with funding for the project has been less of a strain. Continuing on with the proposed five year plan for the project will no doubt be easier since funding is now firmly in place.

Read the story at The Independent.