Research opportunity: Impacts of coastal acidification on the ecological health of shellfish in Southern New England

Research Participation Program

Office of Research and Development
National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Narragansett, RI


Project Description:

A postgraduate research project training opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL), Atlantic Ecology Division (AED) in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Research at AED focuses on ecological effects of human activities on coastal waters and watersheds of the Atlantic seaboard, with particular emphasis on effects of these activities on populations of fish, shellfish, and aquatic-dependent wildlife. This project will investigate relationships between coastal acidification, nutrient enrichment and the settlement and survival of larval shellfish.

Coastal acidification is a complex problem with drivers that differ substantially from the more widely known problem of ocean acidification. Namely, there is a significant impact on carbonate chemistry that results from nutrient enrichment and the subsequent decomposition of surplus organic matter. This creates a potential link between coastal acidification and management of nutrient inputs. This research project is involved in addressing scientific questions that may inform management’s response by investigating links between nutrient enrichment, carbonate chemistry, and the response of important aquatic life.

The research participant will be involved in the design and execution of field studies that focus on the settlement and survival of shellfish along gradients of water quality. Other collaborators are collecting samples for analyzing carbonate chemistry (acidification) and conducting controlled shellfish experiments in the laboratory. The research the participant will be involved in will compliment these collaborators’ efforts by adding field biological sampling. Since nutrients are often a dominant driver of acidification in the coastal environment, this research will help provide a nutrients perspective to the larger study by engaging in water quality sampling efforts.

Through this project, the research participant will learn about: the biology and ecology of shellfish and their sensitivity to CO2- and eutrophication-induced changes in carbonate chemistry; field sampling techniques, including the use of oceanographic technologies such as bottle samplers and sensing instrumentation, documentation of field observations, methods for instrument calibration and quality control of measurements; and, mathematical modeling. The mentor for this ORISE project is the lead on this modeling and can provide optional learning opportunities in that research for the interested participant as time allows.

Occurring in a vibrant research environment where biologists, chemists, and ecologists work together to solve environmental problems associated with acidification, this research project is intended to improve the responsiveness of the larger study mentioned above to decision-making needs under the Clean Water Act. Thus, AED collaborates with EPA’s Office of Water in Washington, D.C., and with the EPA-New England regional office. The research project will provide opportunities for interaction with these EPA partners as well as with academic partners and NOAA colleagues.


Applicants must have received a bachelor’s degree in a life science within five years of the desired starting date, or completion of all requirements for the degree should be expected prior to the starting date.

The program is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, sex, religion, color, age, physical or mental disability, national origin, or status as a Vietnam era or disabled veteran. U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent resident status is preferred (but can also hold an appropriate visa status, however, an H1B visa is not appropriate).

The participant will receive a monthly stipend. Funding may be made available to reimburse the participant’s travel expenses to present the results of his/her research at scientific conferences. No funding will be made available to cover costs for pre-appointment visits, relocation costs, tuition and fees, or a participant’s health insurance. The participant must show proof of health and medical insurance. This can be obtained through ORISE. The participant does not become an EPA employee.

Technical Questions:

Jason Grear will be the mentor for this project. He can be contacted at grear.jason(at)

How to Apply:

The Research Participation Program for EPA ORD is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. Please reference Project # EPA-ORD/NHEERL-AED-2013-03 when calling or writing for information. For additional information and application materials contact: Research Participation Program/EPA-ORD, Attn: Betty Bowling, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, P.O. Box 117, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-0117, Phone: (865) 576-8503 FAX: (865) 241-5219 e-mail: betty.bowling(at)

An application can be found at

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