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NJIT civil engineer receives NSF grant to study storm's impact on Jersey Shore

A few days after Hurricane Sandy hit, NJIT Professor Michel Boufadel was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study the impact of the storm on the New Jersey shoreline. The NSF Rapid Response Research Grant immediately allowed him to take a team of eight researchers to the beaches of Raritan Bay. The NJIT team three professors and five students is still fanning out over the shoreline and using automated samplers to assess the bay's delicate ecosystems.

The team is evaluating the shift and erosion of the sand. It's also measuring the runoff of fertilizers, pesticides and other compounds into the Bay. They're also studying how the wetlands in the bay area held up in the storm. Closer to campus, the team is also assessing how the storm-related influx of seawater into the Passaic River affected its fish population.

The research team includes NJIT Professor Nancy Jackson, a coastal expert whose research focuses on beaches and dunes; Professor Liping Wei, a biochemist who studies water pollution and bioremediation; and undergraduate and graduate students.

"In essence we're evaluating the resilience of these ecosystems," said Boufadel, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the NJIT Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection "If any of the ecosystems were impaired by the hurricane, we'll monitor their ability to recover."

The NSF grant is for one year, says Boufadel, after which he'll report his research findings to the agency as well as municipal and state officials in New Jersey. It's his hope that all of them will use the findings to "chart the best path to restore the state's beaches and coastline."

The NSF awards Rapid Response Grants to well-established researchers who can contend with national emergencies. Boufadel,, who was one of 20 young professors hired in the fall of 2012, is a nationally-known water expert with a distinguished history of publication and research. He has investigated the Exxon Valdez spill and the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, and he served on the National Academies Committee that evaluated the blowout's impact on the Gulf of Mexico.

He's also served on the Environmental Protection Agency's Advisory Board for natural gas extraction and shale formations, and has studied floodplain delineation and contamination of urban streams for FEMA. In terms of scholarship, he has published more than 80 articles in scholarly journals that include Nature, Geoscience and Water Resources Research.

His goal is to continue to collaborate with fellow professors on publishable research that furthers science while also advising governmental agencies that improve the public good and the environment. "Our current research will help officials respond to a storm that wreaked havoc on the shoreline," Boufadel says. "NJIT has the technological expertise to become the steward of the Jersey shoreline -- and that's precisely what we intend to become."

Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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