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Seminar: Rachel Noble, UNC Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS)
April 25 @ 3:35 pm - 4:35 pm
UNC Marine Sciences’ is proud to host a seminar by Rachel Noble PhD.
Presenter Affiliation: UNC Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS)
Title: Managing stormwater in a complex coastal system
Abstract: Environmental impacts related to ground- and stormwater interactions in coastal plains systems such as eastern North Carolina (NC) are poorly understood. The combined effects of increasing development, sea level rise, adverse stormwater quality, and aging infrastructure pose serious problems in coastal mitigation strategies. To better understand these relationships, a three year project is being undertaken in the coastal town of Beaufort, NC to address the ecological influence of storm and groundwater runoff on both water quality and environmentally sensitive estuarine systems. The Town of Beaufort lies directly upstream from the Rachel Carson Reserve (RCR), an environmental preserve that supports a diverse range of coastal habitats including tidal flats, salt marshes and maritime forests. One of the primary goals of the study is to measure the microbial and physical components of coastal receiving waters to help identify potential sources of fecal contamination as measured by fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) such as E. coli, and further characterized using microbial source tracking. With the aid of meteorological and flow data, along with rapid laboratory tests such as quantitative and digital droplet PCR, we hope to better understand the interactions of storm and surface waters in coastal communities. Furthermore, we wish to identify whether coastal water dynamics can serve as a predictive component of receiving water quality. Our results have already demonstrated that coastal stormwater discharge patterns do not typify published or predicted stormwater dynamics. We have observed periods where the high tides will prevent stormwater from flowing, even during strong rainfall events, causing a pulse of contamination to be released upon the drop in the tidal stage. Mitigation of stormwater-based microbial and chemical contaminants is most effective when quantification of the contaminants is made possible, generating data that can be used for prioritization of solutions. Given the complexities of stormwater discharge observed, we have identified that many of the tracking and loading quantification approaches currently used in the stormwater research arena are inherently inaccurate. To resolve this issue, we are working on three different aspects of stormwater discharge to improve our quantitative capabilities, Combined together, this research project is transforming the approach that we use to manage stormwater in coastal North Carolina.