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The following are some examples of projects that are presently underway or have been recently conducted by Dr. Joe Richardson and Coastal Environmental Analysis, LLC, in coastal Georgia. For more information regarding any of these studies, check the "Grants and Publications" page or feel free to contact Dr. Richardson at:



Investigations of Possible Sources of Bacteria Contributing to Beach Water Pollution

Dr. Richardson is presently working on a project funded in part by a grant to the City of Tybee Island, GA, from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Incentive Grant Program and NOAA. This project is also supported by CEA and by the Surfrider Foundation Coastal Georgia Low Country Chapter. Beginning in October 2009, and continuing through September 2010, this research program will determine the effects of tidal range and rain events on the concentration of Enterococci bacteria in barrier island tidal creek water as it leaves the creek and enters the island's inlet and southern public beach area. Additionally, the possible contribution of Enterococci bacteria into beach water from shore birds resting on intertidal beach sand is being investigated. Dr. Richardson assisted the City of Tybee Island in preparing, writing and submitting the proposal that was subsequently approved for funding to support these studies.


         Invasive Marine Species Along the Georgia Coast – Giant Pink Barnacle







During 2009, CEA worked with the Tybee Island Marine Science Center on Tybee Island, GA, on a marine invasive species project funded in part through a grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Incentive Grant Program and NOAA.CEA had assisted the Marine Science Center develop, write and propose this project, and upon acquisition of the grant, CEA directed and conducted field and lab investigations on the invasive Giant Pink Barnacle, Megabalanus coccopoma, that has invaded the Southeastern US coast from the Pacific Ocean.CEA’s research during the study produced the following information and findings.



The Giant Pink Barnacle, Megabalanus coccopoma, has established a population in the mid and lower intertidal zone on the Tybee Island North Beach jetty.From settlement/colonization studies, it appears that new individuals settle onto the jetty during May-June.Growth is rapid during the spring and summer and is slower through the winter, but individuals do live more than a single year.In controlled laboratory conditions, members of this population can withstand low salinity (20 ppt), and if allowed a few days of acclimation to this lower salinity, they can withstand salinity as low as 16 ppt.Although this low salinity tolerance range suggests that individuals could survive in coastal estuaries, no intertidal pink barnacles were observed during surveys upriver along the Savannah River channel jetty.Possibly the larval and young stages of this population have more restricted salinity tolerance ranges.This species appears to be a well established component of the mid and low intertidal zone on the North Beach jetty and competes for space with native oysters, ivory barnacles and striped barnacles.



See the "Research Report" (and video of feeding barnacles) on Tybee Island Marine Science Center's Aquatic Invaders webpage:

Monitoring Bacterial Indicators in Estuaries and Tributary Storm Drainage Systems


Property owners, sport and recreational fishermen and boaters along a Georgia estuary that receives a great deal of storm water drainage at its upper end were concerned about bacteria levels in the estuary. CEA has worked with a group of property owners and communities along the estuary to develop and conduct a water quality monitoring program that includes quantifying bacterial levels in the estuary and its tributaries for a number of years. This monitoring program has allowed suspected bacterial sources (fecal coliform bacteria and Enterococci bacteria) to be identified and in many cases corrected in tributary source waters. This multi-year study has produced a record of conditions so that the normal background levels can be recognized, and this in turn allows any unusual conditions to be identified. The effects of large rain events, and thus increased volumes of storm water entering the estuary, can also be identified in regards to the resulting bacteria levels.


Geometric means of fecal coliform bacteria levels in a Georgia estuary sampled twice per month. Note that the normal background levels of <100 colony forming units per 100ml are easily distinguished from the spikes during late summer 2005 and autumn 2002 (when tributary storm drainage alterations and enlargements were being made). This data was an essential tool used by estuary stakeholders to appeal for better enforcement and use of Best Management Practices in the storm drainage system construction areas.

Determination of the Effects of a Controlled Release of Reservoir Water from the Thurmond Dam on the Freshwater/Salt Water Interface in the Savannah River Estuary


During Spring 2006, a consortium of federal, state (GA and SC) agencies,universities and research agencies conducted a study of ecological effects in and along the Savannah River from Augusta to Savannah resulting from the controlled release of water from the Thurmond Dam. Creation of this "artificial flood" was part of a multi-year project to study the feasibility of re-creating pre-dam, spring flooding conditions along this portion of the Savannah River. A variety of ecological effects of this controlled release are being studied including: fish (sturgeon, striped bass, shad) movement upstream, floodplain fish and invertebrate communities, survival of shallow water plants, and water chemistry.



Dr. Richardson investigated the effects of the controlled release on the integrity, displacement/dimensions and movement of the freshwater/salt water interface in the upper estuary region. Knowing that the most critical salinity zone for freshwater species and salt water species is between 5 and 10 ppt salinity, Dr. Richardson designed and conducted a water monitoring and sampling system (in space, depth and time) capable of tracking and recording the 5-10 ppt salinity zone before, during, and after the artificial flood period. Dr. Richardson found that the freshwater/salt water interface remained intact but was displaced approximately 2.5 miles downriver and was slightly compressed (approximately 0.5 miles) during the release-effect period. This period lasted about 7-10 days.





A sampling and monitoring system was designed by Dr. Richardson that allowed him to locate, record and track the position of the 5 and 10 ppt surface salinity water in the Savannah River upper estuarine region. As can be seen in the graph above, during the period when the controlled release of water from upriver affected the estuary region (March 27 - April 5), the freshwater/salt water interface zone was displaced approximately 2.5 miles downriver. Following this period of displacement, the interface moved back upriver to pre-release positions.





Effects of Altering Storm Water Discharge Rates and Volumes on Water Quality in Coastal Rivers and Estuaries


The discharge of urban and suburban storm water, with its accumulated load of impurities, into coastal rivers and estuaries is known to affect water quality in the receiving water bodies. Recently however, construction and operation of storm water pumping stations (to help reduce urban flooding) have altered the rate and volume flow of storm water into coastal habitats by greatly increasing the rate that storm water is introduced into estuaries and rivers. These hydrological alterations can also affect water quality. For example, before a storm water pump was built at the upper end of a Georgia estuary, accumulated storm water discharged into the estuary by gravity flow and tidal action after a large rain event. The graph below indicates that following a 9 inch rain event during 1999, the salinity in the estuary dropped suddenly and gradually recovered to pre-storm concentrations over a 6 week period. Also noteworthy is that the surface water salinity (purple line) and the bottom water salinity (black line) remained similar throughout the period which indicates that the water in the estuary remained well mixed.

During summer 2002, construction of a storm water pumping station at the upper end of the same estuary was completed. A 5 inch rain event during October (graph below), with subsequent pumping of storm water into the estuary produced an anomalous stratification (layering) of water in the estuary with cloudy, low salinity storm water (yellow line) overlaying saltier estuary water (purple line). This statification apparently traps the deeper, saltier estuary water below the surface. The duration of this entrapment and resulting dissolved oxygen concentrations in these artificially produced water layers were investigated in this estuary.

Estuary Turbidity Affected by Upstream Construction Activities in Drainage Tributaries

An ongoing estuary water quality monitoring project includes weekly analysis of water clarity using a variety of measures including Secchi disk depth, settleable solids, and turbidity (cloudiness). Unusually high turbidity readings in the estuary during 2003 and 2005 indicated that land disturbing activities along the tributaries (storm drainage canal systems) were degrading the water quality in the estuary. Because residents along the estuary had the CEA collected data and monitoring records available (graphs below), they were able to quickly encourage state and federal agencies to enforce Best Management Practices along the tributary construction sites.

The photo above shows construction activities along a tributary drainage canal that contributed to the rapid increase in estuary turbidity (cloudiness). Soon after the data from a CEA-conducted water monitoring program for the estuary were presented to state and federal agencies, Best Management Practices at the construction site were put into place and enforced.

Coastal Environmental Analysis, LLC
P.O. Box 30923

Savannah, GA 31410