Professor Fulweiler’s Message in a Bottle

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January 30th, 2013

BU prof: estuary mud tells dire eco-story

Boston University BU, Robinson Wally Fulweiler, College of Arts and Sciences CAS, Earth Sciences professor, associate director of BU Marine Program, ecology research, faculty Robinson "Wally" Fulweiler, coastal ecology research, estuary sediment, Waquoit Bay, Falmouth, nitrogen global impactFor ecologist and biogeochemist Robinson “Wally” Fulweiler, every pungent vial of coastal muck tells a story. Meticulously pieced together in a laboratory that mimics nature, that story is alarming. As she explains, the life-sustaining chemical balance of the planet’s coastal ecosystems is changing dramatically, a result of ever-climbing levels of nitrogen and phosphorous from soil erosion, mining, urban waste, and synthetic fertilizers. In the coastal estuaries and marshes of the Massachusetts shore, Fulweiler, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of earth and environment and of biology, is charting the impact of this destruction, hoping that her findings will raise an alarm about the need to protect these marine resources from further harm.

From the tidal flats of Plum Island to the National Estuarine Research Reserve at Waquoit Bay in Falmouth, she is, in every sense, knee-deep in experiments probing changes in a range of marine nutrients along the Bay State coast. But her lab’s general mission, its “connecting theme,” as she puts it, is the ways that humans have altered coastal systems. From industrial pollution to sewage contamination to straining of resources, the list is long, and much of the damage irreversible, says Fulweiler, whose research focuses on global as well as local impacts of environmental change.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and Sea Grant, a program underwritten by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fulweiler’s work led her and several colleagues to create “The Eutrophication Commandments,” an environmental manifesto published this year in Marine Pollution Bulletin. Commandment number one: “Thou shall protect coastal ecosystems to deliver biodiversity and ecological services.”  Click for full article and video on BU Today…