Alabama Center For Estuarine Studies (ACES)

EPA Grant Number: R827072
Alternative EPA Grant Number: R830651 and R833503
Center: Alabama Center For Estuarine Studies (ACES)
Center Director: Shipp, Robert L.
Title: Alabama Center For Estuarine Studies (ACES)
Investigators: Shipp, Robert L.
Current Investigators: Shipp, Robert L. , Wolfe, James L. , Heck, Kenneth L.
Institution: University of South Alabama
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: November 15, 1998 through December 31, 2002 (Extended to June 30, 2009)
Project Amount: $3,846,600
RFA: Alabama Center For Estuarine Studies (ACES) (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Targeted Research


Improved documentation and understanding of the global pervasiveness of human-induced ecosystem changes requires us to acknowledge that virtually no ecosystem on earth completely retains its prehistoric structure and function (Vitousek et al. 1997). Human-induced changes are especially evident in the coastal zone, where dramatic population growth in the past century, along with attendant shifts in land-and water use patterns, industrial development, and natural resource harvesting (Matson et al. 1997; Vitousek et al. 1997; Dayton et al. 1995) are often accompanied by a shift from clear water, macrophyte-dominated conditions to very turbid, plankton-dominated waters (Duarte 1995). Correlated effects, such as noxious algal blooms (Vitousek et al. 1997) and large volumes of hypoxic and anoxic waters (RabaIais et al. 1996) are also common along heavily developed watersheds and shorelines. Currently unavailable, however, is a mechanistic understanding of how human-induced modifications singly, and most importantly, in concert, produce changes in the structure and function of coastal ecosystems. To make progress in developing this mechanistic understanding we have designated the following as primary goals of the Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies (ACES): 1) the use of sustained experimentation and observation to understand how the most common human-induced modifications of the coastal zone produce changes in ecosystem structure and function; and 2) the application of this understanding to develop prudent management strategies for sustaining the productivity of our coastal land and seascapes.


We will focus our efforts on some of the most common, yet incompletely understood modifications of the coastal zone, both singly and in concert. We are especially interested in:

  • the effects of eutrophication resulting from both point and non-point sources, including harmful algal blooms, decreasing water clarity and hypoxia
  • the effects of changing land use patterns in the watershed, including the consequences of changing agricultural practices, logging and urbanization
  • the direct and indirect effects of harvesting finfish and shellfish, including physical alterations of the substrate as well as shifts in species composition
  • basic biological parameters, likely to be impacted by anthropogenic changes, of key estuarine and nearshore species, especially species of major' ecological or economic importance
  • the social and economic impacts of continued human-induced modifications of coastal environments
  • the development and testing of a wide variety of strategies for:
    1. improved understanding and prediction of human-induced changes in coastal ecosystems; and
    2. promoting the use of adaptive management practices to solve problems in the coastal zone.

These are some of the most important issues affecting coastal environments nationally, and are also considered to be the most pressing in the northern Gulf of Mexico and Alabama coastal waters. A conceptual framework for how these factors are believed to interact is outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Linkages involving species composition and diversity and ecosystem processes. Ecosystem processes include productivity and nutrient cycling. Regional processes include nutrient fluxes from terrestrial to aquatic systems. Community processes include competition and predation. Ecosystem services are the benefits derived by humans from ecological processes. Slightly modified from Chapin et al. 1997.

Figure 1. Linkages involving species composition and diversity and ecosystem processes. Ecosystem processes include productivity and nutrient cycling. Regional processes include nutrient fluxes from terrestrial to aquatic systems. Community processes include competition and predation. Ecosystem services are the benefits derived by humans from ecological processes. Slightly modified from Chapin et al. 1997.

Examples of potential projects could include assessing the consequences of exotic species introductions (e.g. Eurasian water milfoil) on native oligohaline ecosystems, (under the "Biotic Introductions and Removal" link), or the effects of changing land use patterns in the watershed (e.g. shifts in clear-cutting activities) on the entire estuary (under the "Land Use" link). Where appropriate, investigators will be encouraged to use manipulative field experimentation to address the focus areas listed above, and to assess the effects of multiple stressors concurrently. While field experiments are not always feasible or appropriate, the use of carefully designed manipulative experiments will help us move forward at the most rapid rate in achieving our goals.

Ocean Sciences Division: Regular Grants, which will usually include multi-year funding in the amounts of $30-$150K annually and be subject to rigorous peer review; and Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER), with funding usually for one or possibly two years in the range of $1 O-30K per year, and greater flexibility for investigators to initiate new areas of study or develop proof of concept for potentially risky research efforts.

This program will continue to solicit proposals that address these areas of interest. These will be evaluated by a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), comprised of scientists and administrators external to the University of South Alabama. Successful proposals will be funded for up to three year. There will be periodic review of the proposals; their results will be available through the Internet via EPA and ACES web pages. All projects are subject to strict Quality Assurance/Quality Control criteria as determined by the designated QA/QC officer.

Round three grant support will emphasize smaller (pilot, experimental) grants, as per recommendation by the Scientific Advisory Committee. These will be in the $10K to $30K range. One or two larger comprehensive proposals will also be considered for funding. It is anticipated that a substantial portion of year three funding will be carried over to provide additional funding in future years for the more productive of the pilot projects. IN addition, some funds may be used to help recruit a new faculty member in the marine/coastal science area.

The ACES Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) is comprised of 10 scientists and science administrators with extensive expertise and experience in the area of coastal and estuarine science. They represent a wide diversity of subdisciplines, as reflected in their CVs (on file). At present, two members of the SAC (representing the subdisciplines of socioeconomics and remote sensing) may be replaced because of conflicts in their schedules. Recommendations for their replacement will be forward to the EPA program manager.

ACES Organizational Chart

ACES Organizational Chart

Responsibilities and Authority:

Dr. James L. Woe - As Associate Vice President for Research, Dr. Wolfe has oversight responsibility for all university research activities, including ACES. Dr. Robert L. Shipp, Jr. - As Center Director, Dr. Shipp is responsible for overall management and operation of ACES, and for interacting with the EPA Project Officer.

Dr. Kenneth L. Heck, Jr. - As Assistant Director, Dr. Heck will focus on the scientific goals and directives of ACES and, together with the Director, associated faculty and staff will be responsible for developing and articulating the annual scientific plan.

Mr. Robert W. Galbraith, Jr, - As Assistant Vice President for the Office of Sponsored Programs, Mr. Galbraith is the University's authorized organizational representative.

Mr. Michael R. Dardeau - As Quality Assurance Officer, Mr. Dardeau is responsible for overseeing the ACES Quality Assurance plan, for reviewing QA compliance of all ACES-sponsored studies, and for regularly reporting quality issues to the Director.

Ms. Randy L. Schlude - As Data Base Administrator, Ms. Schlude is responsible for working with investigators to ensure the quality of data generated by ACESsponsored programs and for maintaining the ACES database.

Ms. Carolyn F. Wood - As Administrative Assistant, Ms. Wood is responsible for providing administrative support for the Director and the Center staff and investigators, for maintaining essential records and Center documents, and will serve as the point of contact for those interested in receiving information about the Center's activities.

Literature Cited:

Botsford, L.W., J.C. Castilla and C.H. Peterson. 1997. The management of fisheries and marine ecosystems. Science 277:509-5 15.

Chapin, III, F.S., B.H. Walker, R.J. Hobbs, D.U. Hooper, J.H. Lawton, O.E. Sala and D. Tilman. 1997. Biotic control over the functioning of ecosystems. Science 277:500-504.

Dayton, P.K., S.F. Thrush, M.T. Agrady and R.J. Hofinan. 1995. Environmental effects of marine fishing. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 5:205-232.

Matson, P.A., W.J. Parton, A.G. Power and M.J. Swift. 1997. Agricultural intensification and ecosystem properties. Science 277:504-509.

Rabalais, N.N., R.E. Turner, D. Justic, Q. Dortch, W.J. Wiseman, Jr., and B.K. Sen Gupta. 1996. Nutrient changes in the Mississippi River and system responses on the adjacent continental shelf. Estuaries 19:386-407.

Vitousek, P.M., J.A. Mooney, J. Lubchenco and J.M. Melillo. 1997. Human domination of earth's ecosystems. Science 277:494-499.

Journal Articles: 5 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other center views: All 86 publications 5 publications in selected types All 5 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Chen Q, Zhao H, Hu K, Douglass SL. Prediction of wind waves in a shallow estuary. Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal, and Ocean Engineering 2005;131(4):137-148. R827072C022 (2002)
R827072C022 (Final)
  • Abstract: ASCE Abstract
  • Journal Article Kiene RP, Aikens M, Linn L, Axell M. Factors affecting bacterial production and growth efficiency in a large estuary subject to frequent sediment resuspension. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. R827072C010 (2002)
    not available
    Journal Article Kiene RP, Axell M. Response of estuarine bacterioplankton to acute osmotic stress. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. R827072C012 (2002)
    not available
    Journal Article Major KM. Diversity in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. The Mobile Register. R827072C001 (2002)
    R827072C008 (2002)
    not available
    Journal Article Osland M, Kiene RP. Influence of natural sediment resuspension events on size fractionated plankton respiration in lower Mobile Bay, Alabama. Estuaries. R827072C010 (2002)
    not available

    Supplemental Keywords:

    RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, estuarine research, Ecology, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Chemistry, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Chemistry, Restoration, State, Aquatic Ecosystem, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Ecological Indicators, plant-animal interactions, coastal ecosystem, water use, biodiversity, estuaries, watersheds, Alabama (AL), coastal environments, algal blooms, ecosystem, invasive species, water quality, estuarine waters, human modifications, fishery sampling

    Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999
  • 2000
  • 2001
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2006
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final
  • Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R827072C001 Fluorescent Whitening Agents As Facile Pollution Markers In Shellfishing Waters
    R827072C002 Red Snapper Demographics on Artificial Reefs: The Effect of Nearest-Neighbor Dynamics
    R827072C003 Stabilization of Eroding Shorelines in Estuarine Wave Eliminates with Constructed Fringe Wetlands Incorporating Offshore Breakwaters
    R827072C004 Interaction Between Water Column Structure and Reproduction in Jellyfish Populations Of Mobile Bay (SGER)
    R827072C005 Effects of Variation in River Discharge and Wind-Driven Resuspension on Higher Trophic Levels in the Mobile Bay Ecosystem
    R827072C006 Results of Zooplankton Component
    R827072C007 Benthic Study Component
    R827072C008 A Preliminary Survey of Macroalgal and Aquatic Plant Distribution in the Mobile Tensaw Delta
    R827072C009 Fisheries-induced changes in the structure and function of shallow water "nursery habitats": an experimental assessment
    R827072C010 Effects Of Variation in River Discharge and Wind-Driven Resuspension on Lower Trophic Levels of the Mobile Bay Ecosystem
    R827072C011 Evaluation of Alabama Estuaries as Developmental Habitat for Juvenile Sea Turtles
    R827072C012 Effects of Salinity Stress on Natural and Anthropogenically-Derived Bacteria in Estuarine Environments
    R827072C013 The Role of Land-Use/Land-Cover and Sub-estuarine Ecosystem Nitrogen Cycling in the Regulation of Nitrogen Delivery to a River Dominated Estuary; Mobile Bay, Alabama
    R827072C014 Environmental Attitudes of Alabama Coastal Residents: Public Opinion Polls and Environmental Policy
    R827072C015 Synthesis and Characterization of an Electrochemical Peptide Nucleic Acid Probe
    R827072C016 Determinants of Small-Scale Variation in the Abundance of the Blue Crab Callinectes Sapidus
    R827072C017 Effects of Estrogen Pollution on the Reproductive Fitness of the Gulf Pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli
    R827072C019 A Model for Genetic Diversity Aquatic Insects of the Mobile/Tensaw River Delta
    R827072C020 Evaluating Trophic Processes as Indicators of Anthropogenic Eutrophication in Coastal Ecosystems: An Exploratory Analysis
    R827072C021 Effects of Anthropogenic Eutrophication on the Magnitude and Trophic Fate of Microphytobenthic Production in Estuaries
    R827072C022 Characteristics of Ship Waves and Wind Waves in Mobile Bay
    R827072C023 Methods Comparison Between Stripping Voltammetry and Plasma Emission Spectroscopy for Metals in Mobile Bay
    R827072C024 Changes in Water Conditions and Sedimentation Rates Associated With Construction of the Mobile Bay Causeway
    R827072C025 Cold-Induced Hibernation of Marine Vibrios in the Gulf of Mexico: A Study of Cell-Cell Communication and Dormancy in Vibrio vulnificus
    R827072C026 Holocene Sedimentary History of Weeks Bay, AL: Human and Natural Impacts on Deposition in a Gulf Coast Estuary
    R827072C027 Shelter Bottlenecks and Self-Regulation in Blue Crab Populations: Assessing the Roles of Nursery Habitats and Juvenile Interactions for Shelter Dependent Organisms
    R827072C028 Predicting Seagrass Survival in Nutrient Enriched Waters: Toward a New View of an Existing Paradigm
    R827072C029 DMSP and its Role as an Antioxidant in the Salt Marsh Macrophyte Spartina alterniflora
    R827072C030 A Preliminary Survey of Aerial and Ground-Dwelling Insects of the Mobile/Tensaw Delta
    R827072C031 Natural Biogeochemical Tags of Striped Mullet, Mugil cephalus, Estuarine Nursery Areas in the North Central Gulf of Mexico
    R827072C032 Resolution of Sedimentation Rates in Impacted Coastal Environments Using 137Cs and 210Pb Markers: Dog River and Fowl River Embayments
    R827072C033 Investigation of the Use of Pulse Amplitude Modulated (PAM) Fluorometry as an Indicator of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Health in Mobile Bay
    R827072C034 Influence of Invasive Plant Species in Determining Diversity of Aquatic Vegetation in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta
    R827072C035 The Influence of Shallow Water Hydrodynamics on the Importance of Seagrass Detritus in Estuarine Food Webs
    R827072C036 Food Web Interactions, Spatial Subsidies and the Flow of Energy Between the Mobile Bay Delta and Offshore Waters: A SGER Proposal to the Alabama Center for Estuarine Studies
    R830651C001 Meteorological Modeling of Hurricanes and Coastal Interactions: A Stability Study For Vertical Pressure Levels
    R830651C002 Characterization of Glycoprotein Cues Used by the Parasitic Rhizocephalan Barnacle Loxothylacus texanus To Identify Its Blue Crab Host, Callinectes sapidus
    R830651C003 Survey of Diamondback Terrapin Populations in Alabama Estuaries
    R830651C004 An Assessment of Environmental Contaminant Levels in Water and Dragonfly Larvae Tissues from the Mobile/Tensaw Delta