Home > NOAA Internships > Monitoring Water Quality Conditions and Eelgrass habitat for recovery and restoration at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Oregon
Internship Opportunity

Monitoring Water Quality Conditions and Eelgrass habitat for recovery and restoration at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Oregon

Posted on: 01/09/2024
Research Area(s): Internships / Research

Summary / Description

The South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (Reserve) began monitoring water column parameters in 1995 and eelgrass (Zostera marina) in 2004 in order to understand long-term trends in water quality through the NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) and eelgrass abundance and habitat changes through SeagrassNet and the NERRS Wetlands and Water Levels programs.

Native eelgrass (Z. marina) occurs in intertidal and subtidal zones of the South Slough estuary.  Eelgrass beds provide many ecosystem benefits, including nursery grounds, shelter, foraging and spawning areas for fish and invertebrates along with improving water quality and storing carbon in sediments.  Eelgrass habitat is sensitive to a variety of abiotic and biotic stressors, and has been diminishing globally due to threats such as coastal development, warming ocean waters, sea-level rise and nutrient/sediment pollution.

Intertidal eelgrass abundance has been declining at long-term monitoring sites in South Slough since 2015-2017, with variable recovery dependent on estuary location.  Eelgrass declines were correlated to increased temperatures from marine heat waves and changes in turbidity, watershed disturbance, and elevation.  Eelgrass habitat loss has been localized within the South Slough estuary (compared to the adjacent lower Coos estuary) and linked to long-term changes in water quality. Local research has explored characteristics of eelgrass bed sediment dynamics, flowering dynamics, and seed energetics. 

Pairing long-term water quality data with eelgrass survey data allows building on previous research and monitoring to inform eelgrass resilience, habitat suitability and restoration.  The intern will assist the science team with water quality data collection, deployment and recovery of instruments and sampling by boat, calibration and maintenance of equipment. The intern will assist with intertidal eelgrass surveys for distribution, abundance, and elevation, and characterize sediment and flowering dynamics.  The data will contribute to a national database of estuarine water quality and eelgrass information. In addition, the intern will be exposed to new method development for tracking intertidal and subtidal habitat changes using UAV (i.e., drone) methods. The intern may help with analyses to examine correlations among environmental data and eelgrass attributes. Students will learn numerous data collection and analysis methods over the course of their project.  The student will collaborate with the Reserve research and monitoring team, and participate in other Reserve science and education projects. 

Skills Required

The intern should: be willing to work outside, in small boats, and in waders even during rough weather conditions; be able to work as part of a team and independently; and, have an understanding of basic laboratory and field data collection techniques.  Experience with water quality equipment and data analysis software (e.g. MS Excel, Access, R) is preferred. 

Type of Opportunity



Remote or In-person:



South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Estuarine and Coastal Science Laboratory, 63466 Boat Basin Rd. Charleston, OR 97420.   The Reserve science facility is located on the University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) campus.  Shared housing is available at one of the Reserve’s yurt facilities, near the Interpretive Center.  Transportation from the housing site to the science facility is about five miles and interns would need their own transportation.

Other Information

Intern Supervisor:

Ali Helms and Adam DeMarzo

Number of Slots Available:



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