NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 10, 2014

In Newbury, new lab opens to study salt marsh

Studies of local salt marshes are part of national research initiative

NEWBURY — For a little over a decade a quiet old farm on Route 1 has been a center for some of the nation’s top research on changes in ecology, and yesterday it unveiled a major accomplishment.

A new building has been completed, with plenty of room to conduct the tests and data collection that used to occur under temporary tents or outdoors. There’s also room to store equipment and to host lectures in the 1,400-square-foot building, enough room to amply support the staff of up to 20 scientists who use the facility during its summer peak months.

“We desperately needed a lab and a place for people to work,” said Anne Giblin, the center’s lead scientist and lead principal investigator.

The Marshview Field Station, located about 100 yards south of the Route 1 bridge over the Parker River, is a field laboratory for the Long Term Ecological Research project, a national initiative to study the impact of humans and climate change on the environment. The lab’s primary area of research is the section of the Great Marsh that surrounds Plum Island Sound as well as its tributary rivers, which include the Ipswich and Parker rivers.

Two of the key areas studied are the salt marsh’s reaction to climate change, and how fertilizers and other human-created runoff impacts the salt marsh. But the scientific projects being conducted cut a much broader swath than that, extending into a wide variety of subjects.

The marsh is considered to be an ideal place for scientific study because it is a natural recordbook. Sediments that accumulate in it, erosion patterns, animal life and plants tell a story that can date back millenia, helping scientists to see how the seacoast reacts to changes and what those changes may hold for the long term. The marsh is so dynamic, some of the changes date back only a couple years, such as erosion caused by Superstorm Sandy.

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