Fifth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference






















Salt Marshes: A Natural and Unnatural History

Judith S. Weis, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, Newark NJ

The talk will follow the sequence of topics covered by my book of the same name. We will initially discuss the structure and functions of salt marshes and the “ecological services” that marshes perform. Focusing mostly on salt and brackish marshes in the mid-Atlantic coast region, we will discuss the plants that are found at different elevations in the marsh and their adaptations to living part of the time in salt water. We will describe the important invertebrates found in Long Island salt marshes, such as ribbed mussels, fiddler crabs and other crustaceans, and how their activities can affect the health of the marsh plants and how they interact with each other. We will describe the important fishes that live near marshes and some of the birds that utilize our salt marshes. In the second half of the talk (“unnatural history”), we will discuss how humans have used and altered salt marshes physically (e.g. mosquito ditching, filling, sea level rise), chemically (pollution by toxic chemicals, plastic litter, and nutrients) and biologically (invasive species). We will discuss marsh restoration and different ways in which it can be done. Finally, we will discuss the decline and re-birth of a highly degraded marsh in urban New Jersey, the Hackensack Meadowlands.

Dr. Judith S. Weis is a Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, Newark. Her research focuses on estuarine ecology and ecotoxicology in the NY/NJ area and Indonesia and Madagascar. She has published over 200 refereed scientific papers, a technical book on marine pollution, and several books for the general public, on topics including salt marshes, fish, crabs, and marine pollution. She serves on the editorial board for BioScience, is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and chairs the Science Advisory Board of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. In 2016 she received the Merit Award from the Society of Wetland Scientists.