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Hudson River Fund


2023 Small Grants Focused on Innovation and Synthesis

Dustin Partridge of NYC Audubon:Are We Losing the Harbor Herons?

NY-NJ Harbor is the largest urban wading bird rookery on the East Coast. Waterbird populations are intrinsically dynamic, showing annual fluctuations and long-term cycles, making short term trends challenging for use in conservation management decisions. This project will synthesize nearly four decades of data on NY Harbor’s wading birds populations and subcolonies to establish if recent declines are part of a natural fluctuation or if these are true signs of loss. A first of its kind synthesis of this large dataset will provide important insights and advance our understanding of the population dynamics of wading birds. The project will also make a long-term dataset publicly available and help inform options for managers focusing on these important species.

Sebastian Klarian and Eric Schultz of the University of Connecticut: Eyes On The Past: Using stable isotope tracers to understand the effects of climate change on Hudson River fishes.

Broad evidence demonstrates long-term changes to physical properties and biotic systems in the Hudson River Estuary, but it is unclear how long-term system-wide temperature shifts may be influencing Hudson River fishes. The lens of a fish’s eye has a microstructure with chronological properties, enabling inference on an individual fish’s environmental history, potentially via quantification of isotopes δ18O and δ13C. Unlike other hard parts such as otoliths, eye lenses offer a durable record that can be retrieved from fish that have been archived in collections. This project aims to establish proof of concept for a method that potentially enables reconstruction of individual histories of temperature along with other habitat features in fishes of the Hudson River ecosystem, using stable isotope tracers in eye lenses.

Rebecca Pryor of Guardians of Flushing Bay and Erika Svendson, Lindsay Campbell, and Michelle Johnson of the USDA Forest Service’s NYC Urban Field Station:Flushing Waterways Social Assessment: Understanding the Use, Meaning and Value of Green and Blue Spaces in Environmental Justice Communities

This project will investigate how the use, meaning, and value of green and blue spaces interact with resilience planning in environmental justice (EJ) communities, using Flushing Bay and Flushing Creek (together, Flushing Waterways) as a study site. The research will include two key components. First, the mixed-method social assessment framework by the USDA Forest Service’s NYC Urban Field Station (UFS) will be used to explore the use, value, and social meaning of Flushing Waterways and neighborhood greenspaces – including how these factors vary among diverse residents in an EJ community. This social assessment will be supplemented with questions that seek to understand the impact of extreme weather and flooding these factors and how users understand and perceive green and blue spaces. Additionally, focus groups will be used to explore competing values or tensions–as well as potential for stewardship and transformation–that may exist among the diverse groups of users and watershed residents.

Daniel Stich of SUNY Oneonta and John Waldman of Queens College CUNY, Karin Limburg of SUNY ESF, and Daniel Miller, NYDEC: Assessing the Historical Role of the Upper Hudson River as a Spawning and Nursery Habitat for American Shad, Including Avenues for Restoration

This project will inform ongoing decision-making related to restoration and management of American shad in the Hudson River. Populations of American shad collapsed in the previous century due to a suite of anthropogenic pressures including the construction of locks and dams, channel modifications for navigation, overfishing, and pollution. The research team will conduct archival research to determine the historical extent of upstream migration and tributary use and will chronicle sequential modifications to American shad spawning and rearing habitat in the mainstem of the Hudson River. The historical analyses will be integrated into a recent habitat-based population model for American shad with the goal of predicting how the population would respond to improved access or habitat creation. The results of this work will provide a better understanding of habitat influences on American shad restoration and a tool that can be used for decision-making about fish passage and/or habitat improvement. This tool can also be adapted for other species within the Hudson River watershed and can be updated with new data as they become available.

The Hudson River Fund supports scientific research on all aspects of the Hudson River ecosystem, with an emphasis on studies that help us understand how the ecosystem is changing and how it is interacting with human communities. Issues in the tidally-influenced estuarine portion of the River (New York Harbor to the Troy Dam) have been a long standing priority, however, the Foundation continues to focus on research needs related to any part of the watershed or nearby coastal areas.

The Foundation is particularly interested in research that has clearly articulated significance for identified policy issues and is conducted in the context of other ongoing research and monitoring in the River and its watershed. We affirm that humans are integral to the ecosystem and are therefore interested in research that can provide insights on the interaction of social, cultural, economic and biophysical systems, especially studies that can provide new information leading to improved management decisions and policies.

The HR Fund solicits proposals on an annual basis. Requests for proposals for the 2024 grant cycle will be announced later this year.

HR Fund Projects Supported in 2023

In 2023 we solicited proposals under two separate programs with different priorities, focus areas and approaches.

2023 Team-based Research Addressing Priority Issues and Opportunities

Brett Branco and Daniel Shtob, Brooklyn College and Matthew Shudtz, University of Georgia: Regulatory Impediments to Natural and Nature-Based Features in Shallow Water Habitat Restoration

This project will be led by a research team with expertise in ecology, sociology, law, engineering, and landscape architecture design. Their research will integrate scientific and policy knowledge in a novel effort to understand the challenges and opportunities to advance projects designed to enhance shallow-water habitats in the Hudson River Estuary. The results of this study will help a broad community understand regulatory norms and their impact on shallow-water habitat restoration and enhancement. In addition, the team will consider how regulations might be adapted to accelerate restoration efforts while maintaining the necessary protections needed to manage the highly urbanized harbor and estuary.

Drs. Gabriel Perron and Elias Dueker of Bard College: Community-Engaged Water Quality Data Synthesis in the Saw Kill Watershed

Understanding how changes in the biophysical and microbial characteristics of Hudson River tributaries relate to stewardship and management decisions is an important challenge. This project brings together researchers with a particular interest in the prevalence and variability of micropollutants, including indicators of antibiotic resistant microorganisms, over long timeframes. Their work includes a comprehensive synthesis of unique historical data sets from the Saw Kill catchment in Dutchess County. The team at Bard has experience in microbiology, data science, and community engagement and will work closely with community members, elected leaders, and managers to understand and develop data products that can help serve community needs.

Hudson River Foundation