IN THIS SECTION
Our Research Focus Areas provide context for the many research questions that we and our partners aim to pursue, centering these questions around important themes for the resilience of the Estuary’s natural resources and communities. They are intended to inspire collaboration among researchers with similar interests and priorities. Click here to download a PDF overview of the Research Focus Areas.
To learn more about the specific research questions that fall within each focus area, check out our Library of Research Questions below.
As the Hudson’s habitats change, scientists have prioritized exploring the presence, abundance, and behavior of fauna and flora through innovative methods, including eDNA and citizen science. They also want to study faunal assemblages and behavior to understand the impacts of changing habitats on different life stages. Back to top.
Non-native plants, fish, and invertebrates are altering the biodiversity and ecological functions of Hudson River habitats, leading to the loss of native species, ecological shifts, and changes in recreational use of the Estuary. Introduction of new non-natives continues, and where these are invasive, they compound the problems.
The Hudson River Research Reserve works with partners to facilitate fish and invertebrate research across a range of habitats and advance innovative methods for species identification.
- The American Shad Assemblage Study at our Stockport Flats site identified the area as key nursery habitat for shad and an important refuge for other fish and vegetation during large storms like Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
- At our Iona Island and Piermont Marsh sites, fish ecology studies have explored patterns of nekton habitat utilization in Phragmites australis and Typha angustifolia marshes, developed new distribution records for the spotfin killifish, and compared invertebrate communities between marsh types.
Learn more about flora and fauna-related research focus areas (RFAs) and related resources in the RFA library.
To support natural resource protection in these changing conditions, scientists want to explore the effects of accretion, erosion, and sea level rise on marsh resilience; test innovative approaches to wetland restoration; study species interactions in restoration sites; and model edge stabilization to further adaptive management. Back to top.
Sea levels have been rising at a rate of 2.87 mm per year at New York Harbor’s Battery tide station, and spatial models project the Hudson’s wetlands to change significantly over the next century. More powerful storms, heavier rainfall, and larger storm surge will flood coastal communities, compact marsh surfaces, and shift sediment flows and deposits in wetlands.
Research & Training
Our research, training, and monitoring programs collaborate to support habitat restoration and stewardship throughout the Hudson River Valley.
- The Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project provides science-based recommendations, case studies, and data for shore zone management that enhances natural benefits while meeting protection needs.
- The 2016 Climate Change Resilience Webinar synthesized information about Hudson River tidal wetland migration pathways and Hudson Valley conservation strategies.
- The Piermont Marsh Storm Protection Study (2016–2020) explored how marshes protect the Village from storm-driven flood and waves.
- The Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Restoration Workshop faciliated knowledge sharing on the feasibility of restoring Vallisneria americana after a historic loss during 2011 storms.
Search restoration and stewardship related focus areas (RFA) and related resources in the RFA library.
The region’s scientists want to map the composition and distribution of submerged aquatic vegetation, tidal marshes, shallows, shorelines, and benthic communities; develop protocols to measure changes in cover, elevation, and plant productivity; and assess the ecological functions of Hudson River habitats, including their potential for blue carbon sequestration. Back to top.
Multiple consequences of climate change are predicted to impact the Hudson River’s globally unique freshwater tidal habitats. Where wetland elevations fail to keep pace with rising waters, these habitats will migrate or disappear. However, if properly managed, they could continue to provide significant benefits, including storm protection, water quality improvement, and carbon sequestration.
Mapping & Monitoring
Our monitoring program tracks habitats as they respond to changes in sea levels, sediment dynamics, and nutrient loads. This high quality baseline data provides a platform for us to collaborate with partners on research that meets the needs of natural resource managers.
- Collaborative mapping efforts have helped characterize critical changes in the region. Multiple habitat mapping projects are ongoing, characterizing shallow and benthic habitats, submerged aquatic vegetation, and tidal wetlands.
- Monitoring at our Tivoli Bays site evaluates the ecological impacts of sea level changes and increased storm surge on submerged aquatic vegetation and emergent tidal marsh habitats.
Search habitat research focus areas (RFA) and related resourcs in the RFA library.
The region’s scientists understand the critical importance of examining the interaction of people with our ecosystems. They aim to invite diverse voices and perspectives to guide research, breaking barriers to community involvement. Back to top.
This research focus area represents our interest in involving people and community voices in ecological research, and in exploring the intersections between social science and conservation. We recognize that we have much to learn about the perspectives of the diverse communities along the Hudson and are actively seeking out new partnerships to pursue this.
Library of Research Questions
The searchable library below shows the specific research questions that fall within each research focus area. Some of these questions are being studied, but others are still ideas that should be pursued when resources allow. The library shows which partners are working on and/or interested in pursuing a particular topic. We intend this library to help foster collaborative research by connecting scientists with similar priorities to one another and to potential funding opportunities.
These research questions were generated following our 2020 Research at the Reserve Forum, where over 80 scientists identified research gaps and opportunities to explore over the next five years. Back to top.
|Research Question||Research Focus Area||Projects & Researchers||Resources||Partners||Keywords|
|Detect invasive species using eDNA||Species||Watts, NERRS eDNA; Miranda et al. 2015 American Eels eDNA Bronx River||Fisheries Data||HR Fisheries, DEC Forest, SUNY ESF||Invasive Species|
|Assess baseline fish biomass in different river habitats||Species||Fisheries monitoring||Fisheries Data, HRNERR River Bottom Mapping Data||HREP, HR Fisheries - NYDEC||Fish|
|Research migration & feeding behavior of Black drum (Pogonias cromis) & Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)||Species||Fisheries monitoring||Fisheries Data||HR Fisheries||Fish, Mollusks|
|Assess existing larval fish abundance data and determine population status, and prioritize future data collection||Species||Utilities fish survey; Hudson River Biological Monitoring Program; Chris Nack Assemblages; Niemen et al. 2021||Centralized Data Management Office||DEC Fisheries, Cornell, Hudson River Foundation, SUNY ESF, Greenway, Yong Chen SUNY Stony Brook||Fish, Water Quality Monitoring|
|Assess value of artificial reefs and other habitat enhancement projects for fishes, crabs, oysters & other nekton||Restoration||DeGasperis, Piermont Oyster||Piermont Oyster Habitat Data||HR Fisheries, NYSDEC Artificial Reef Program||Fish, Mollusks|
|Re-survey spotfin killifish in remnant Piermont Marsh Spartina patens||Species||Yozzo & Ottman 2003 Spotfin Killfish distribution||Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007||HR Fisheries, Cornell IRIS||Fish, Piermont|
|Assess fish habitats and how they are impacted by restoration||Species||Gays Point restoration, DeGasperis; Nack et al. 2015||Fisheries data, Habitat Mapping and Resilience, Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007, SAV maps||HREP, HR Fisheries, Cornell IRIS||Fish|
|Expand eel monitoring & related student research, in part by increasing collaboration with students and other partners||Species||Eel Project monitoring ; Brinzac 2020||Eel Project Data, Eel Project Presentation||HREP, Marist||Fish, Monitoring, American eel|
|Develop a community science project to identify fish using photography||Species||Fisheries Herring Monitoring||Fisheries Herring Monitoring||HR Fisheries||Fish, Methods, Citizen science|
|Study migratory behavior of Tessellated darter||Species||Duryea & Schmidt 1986, Feeding Biology at Tivoli Bay; P. Miller 2015 (thesis)||Fisheries data; NERR fish monitoring||HR Fisheries||Fish, Tessellated darter|
|Identify tributaries that are essential for white sucker & Smallmouth bass||Species||Eel Project monitoring ; P. Miller 2015 (thesis)||Eel Project Data, Eel Project Presentation||HREP||Fish, White sucker, Smallmouth bass|
|Determine the significance of particular tributary spawning areas to overall species success||Species||Eel Project monitoring; Fisheries Herring Monitoring; Kowalik 2018 (thesis); Kowalik and Eakin 2019||Eel Project Data, Fisheries Herring data; Eel Project Presentation||HREP, HR Fisheries||Fish, Tributaries|
|Determine the significance of different genotypes of Vallisneria for the resilience of the species in different zones of the Hudson||Species||Perkins & Neel 2019; Carew & Englehardt 2018; Carew 2019 (thesis)||Hudson River Estuary Documented Submerged Aquatic Vegetation||HREP, Cornell IRIS, Hudson River Foundation||Vegetation, Restoration|
|Determine priority locations on the Hudson for SAV restoration and develop methodology for restoration||Habitat||Gays Point restoration, DeGasperis; Hamberg 2015 (thesis)||SAV maps, Habitat Mapping and Resilience, Habitat Mapping||HREP, Cornell IRIS, Hudson River Foundation||SAV, Modeling, Side channel restoration|
|Analyze SAV maps & data for variation based on locational characteristics and river dynamics||Habitat||Carroll 2020||SAV maps, SAV hurricane recovery analysis||HREP, Cornell IRIS||SAV, Modeling|
|Conduct long-term biological monitoring for juvenile fish in SAV||Species||Fisheries monitoring||Fisheries Data; SAV maps||HR Fisheries, Cornell IRIS||SAV, Monitoring, Fish|
|Assess the impacts of increasing upland, watershed, & shoreline erosion on sediment dynamics & tidal wetlands||Habitat||DaSH project; Yellen et al. 2021; Ralston et al. 2021||DaSH data, SET data, LDEO sediment cores||HREP, UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES||Sediment, Climate Change|
|Link land use & lake data for past drought indications||Habitat||TBD||Hudson Valley Resource Mapper||HREP||Sediment, Climate Change|
|Assess historic sediment cores to analyze precipitation trends, particularly as the climate changes||Habitat||Pederson et al. 2005||Meterological data from NERRS, UMass, LDEO sediment cores and Cary IES Sediment cores||UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES||Sediment, Climate Change|
|Assess the impacts of sediment flux and deposition on aquatic vegetation over time||Habitat||DaSH team, McKeon 2021 (thesis), Clara Chang||SAV maps, SAV Volunteer Monitoring data, SSAM-1 SAV Monitoring data, TTS from SWMP data||HREP, Cornell IRIS, Greenway||Sediment, SAV, Modeling, Climate Change|
|Model sediment movement after storm events such as Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, and assess the implications||Habitat||Wall & Hoffman 2012; Ralston et al. 2013||NERR/HRECOS turbidity data, River bottom maps||HREP, USGS, Woods Hole||SAV, Modeling|
|Sediment core data analysis gap in quality versus quantity.||Habitat||DaSH project||LDEO sediment cores||UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES, Matt Reid, Cornell||Sediment|
|Determine the effect of deglaciation (isostatic rebound) on wetlands||Habitat||Peteet et al. 2007; Peteet 2011||LDEO sediment cores||Lamont Doherty||Accretion|
|Determine accretion rates through time via marsh core & accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) macrofossil dating||Habitat||Peteet et al. 2007; Peteet 2011; Chou and Peteet 2009; Sritairat et al. 2012; Peteet et al. 2020||LDEO sediment cores||Lamont Doherty||Accretion|
|Determine the potential for thin-layer deposition in areas where assisted accretion is needed||Restoration||Fernald 2020 NSC Project||SET data||NYNJHEP||Accretion|
|Prioritize locations for planned marsh migration||Restoration||Tabak et al. 2016; Scenic Hudson land protection||Protecting the Pathways||Scenic Hudson||Accretion, Marsh Migration, Sea Level Rise, Climate Change|
|Assess the potential for enhanced nitrogen removal in marshes||Habitat||TBD||TBD||HREP||Ecosystem Functions and Services, Water Quality, Climate Change|
|Compare accretion rates in short term SET data vs long-term cores (composition & compaction)||Habitat||DaSH project; Ralston et al. 2021; McKeon 2021 (thesis)||NERR SET data; LDEO sediment cores||UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES||Sediment, Accretion, Sea Level Rise|
|Determine if marsh accretion rates will allow for the preservation of marsh ecosystem functions, despite sea level rise & subsidence rates||Habitat||Orton, Storm Surge Barriers||NERR SET data; LDEO sediment cores||Stevens Institute, UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES||Modeling, Marsh Migration, Sea Level Rise|
|Model the impacts of proposed gate storm surge barriers, different closure durations, storm events, & sea level rise||Habitat||Orton, Storm Surge Barriers; Chen et al. 2020||Assessing the Effects of Storm Surge Barriers on the Hudson River Estuary||Stevens Institute, US Army Corps of Engineers||Modeling|
|Study the functional importance of southern wetlands in northern river||Habitat||Findlay et al. 2019||Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007||Cary IES, Hudsonia, Cornell IRIS||Ecosystem Functions and Services|
|Determine the effect of increasing nitrogen on marsh respiration, specifically carbon lability & decomposition||Habitat||Timothy Morin, SUNY ESF; Peteet et al. 2020||LDEO sediment cores, USCA Blue Carbon project||UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES, SUNY ESF, Matt Reid, Cornell||Ecosystem Functions and Services, Water Quality|
|Determine the causes of erosion and the best models for edge stabilization at Piermont Marsh, using examples from Jamaica Bay, Long Island, ACE Basin, etc.||Restoration, Habitat||Piermont edge stabilization project||Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007||Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay||Erosion, Piermont, Water Quality|
|Determine the impacts of permanently placed protection or stabilization structures on habitat||Habitat||Piermont edge stabilization project||Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007, Habitat Mapping and Resilience||HREP||Erosion, Piermont, Monitoring|
|Determine marsh value to humans by studying areas where marshland and human land uses (particularly human infrastructure) converge||Habitat, People||Sheng, Marsh Value; Tabak et al. 2016||Protecting the Pathways, habitat and shoreline maps, SSAM-1 SAV Monitoring data, Sheng economic tool, Habitat Mapping and Resilience||HREP, Scenic Hudson, NSC, Greenway||Marsh Migration, Ecosystem Functions and Services, Restoration, Climate Change|
|Analyze the resuspension or release of heavy metals (Cu, Pb, Zn) & legacy contaminants in marsh sediments||Habitat||Peller and Bopp 1985; Benoit et al 1999||LDEO sediment cores||HREP, UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES||Contaminants|
|Use historical maps & imagery to analyze marsh changes||Habitat||Miller et al. 2006, Lau & Yellen 2021||Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007, Hudson River Estuary Documented Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, River bottom maps||HREP, Cornell IRIS||Marsh Migration, Sediment|
|Determine the effect of land use over time on sediment supply in wetlands||Habitat||Miller et al. 2006, DaSH project||Land use maps, Miller historic maps, Sentinal Site data||HREP, McKeon et al. 2022||Marsh Migration, Sediment|
|Use our understanding of early accretion rates in Tivoli Bays (when wetlands formed in 1850s) to inform the creation of human-made intertidal marshes on the Hudson||Habitat||DaSH project, Kelly McKeon NSF graduate fellowship project||Land use maps, Miller historic maps, UMass, LDEO, Cary sediment cores, sentinal site data||HREP, UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES||Accretion, Tivoli|
|Impact of nonnative Phragmites encroachment on rare plants (Spartina & Lilaeopsis) in Piermont Marsh||Species||DeGasperis, Piermont Oyster||Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007; Piermont vegetation data (DeGasperis)||Cornell IRIS||Vegetation, Invasive Species, Monitoring|
|Determine the species responsible for herbivory at Piermont Marsh, and develop options for mitigation||Habitat||NSC Wildlife camera proposal (Raposa) - TBD||Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007; Piermont vegetation data (DeGasperis)||Cornell IRIS||Piermont|
|Identify stressors on marshes, particularly Piermont Marsh, and determine options for preserving ecosystem structure and services||Restoration||Sheng Piermont Marsh project||Piermont Marsh storm protection study||NYSERDA||Water Quality|
|Develop a model to determine whether and how nutrient levels impact spatial variation of vegetation||Habitat||Osborne et al., 2015||NERR nutrient data, Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007, SAV maps||Cary IES, Cornell IRIS||Water Quality|
|Study the effects of nitrogen pollution & denitrification on marshes through time (using N & N15 curves & core profiles)||Habitat||Nguyen & Peteet 2010 Stable Isotope Analysis||LDEO sediment cores||UMass, Lamont Doherty, Cary IES||Water Quality, Contaminants|
|Full range of habitats & change, if interchange is redundant or unique, biogeochemistry relationship||Habitat||Tabak et al. 2016||Protecting the Pathways, Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007, Habitat Mapping and Resilience||Scenic Hudson, Cornell IRIS||Modeling, Monitoring|
|Determine the causes & impacts of interior ponding at Piermont Marsh||Habitat||HRNERR Sentinel Sites Monitoring, Courtney et al. 2020||NERR SET data, Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007||Cornell IRIS||Piermont|
|Conduct long-term vegetation community monitoring in wetlands to determine biodiversity trends||Habitat||HRNERR Sentinel Sites Monitoring||NERR sentinel sites, Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007||Cornell IRIS||Marsh Migration, Monitoring|
|Collaborate to map aquatic invasive species distribution||Restoration||Wei Fang, Pace University||NERR sentinel sites, Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007||Lower Hudson PRISM, NYSDEC Invasive Species Unit||Invasive Species|
|Monitor Round goby using the best available technology||Species||Watts NERRS eDNA, George et al. 2021||Fisheries monitoring||HR Fisheries||Invasive Species, Fish, Monitoring|
|Determine the impact of spiny water flea on alewives||Species||HR Fisheries Monitoring||Fisheries monitoring||HR Fisheries||Invasive Species, Fish|
|Monitor aquatic fauna in areas dominated by aquatic invasive species||Species||Wei Fang NSC Trapa proposal||NERR sentinel sites, Hudson River Estuary Tidal Wetlands 2007||Lower Hudson PRISM, NYSDEC Invasive Species Unit||Fish, Invasive Species, Monitoring|
|Survey freshwater mussels and research the need and/or feasibility of restocking or relocating freshwater mussels to restore populations in areas of decline or extirpation||Species||Dave Strayer 1999||Hudson River Natural Resources Damage Unit- Mussel Reports||HREP, Draft HREP Agenda,Cary IES, Mayer et al. 2020||Mollusks, Freshwater mussels, Oysters, Bivalves|
|Research the impacts of upstream tributary land use to better understand stressors such as source pollutants, sediment, nutrient, and land cover impacts on flooding, stormwater runoff, and nutrient & sediment loading||Restoration/Habitat||McKeon et al. 2022||Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper, Dams and Sediment in the Hudson (DaSH)||HREP, Draft HREP Agenda||Sediment, Water Quality|
|Identify nitrogen sources & determine mitigative solutions to minimize nitrogen input||Habitat||TBD||NERR nutrient data||Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance||Water Quality, Piermont|
|Use real-time data from the Turkey Point tide gauge station to compare existing sea level rise projections with observed sea level rise||Restoration||Sentinel Sites Monitoring||Turkey Point water level station|
NCRR Part 490- Projected Sea-level Rise
|NOAA||Water Level, Sea Level Rise, Climate Change|
|Create healthy watershed model to Identify Healthy Streams and Rivers for priority protection. Include scenery and community value||Habitat/People||Rotating Intensive Basin Studies (RIBS)||Draft HREP Agenda, NYSDEC Division of Water||biological monitoring, healthy watershed, protection, model|
|Research the risks associated with microplastics to fish and tidal water aquatic life in the Hudson Estuary, through a consideration of plastics in the water column, aquatic habitats and biological communities||Habitat||Micro-Plastics in the Hudson, Polanco et al. 2020||Draft HREP Agenda||plastic, micro plastic|
|Evaluate ambient water quality in Environmental Justice (EJ) and disadvantaged communities to determine if there are trends in non-EJ vs EJ and if EJ communities are at high risk of contaminated drinking water||People||EPA's Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool, Environmental Justice Mapping Tools for NYS Communities||Draft HREP Agenda||EJ, Environmental Justice, community, water quality trends|
|Monitor pre and post dam removal conditions to evaluate project effectiveness.||Restoration||Strooks Felt Dam and Furnace Brook removals||Furnace Brook eDNA in Estuaries, Dams and Sediment in the Hudson (DaSH)||Draft HREP Agenda||furnace brook, eDNA|
|Develop a multi-objective optimization tool for stream barrier removal (e.g. minimize; cost, social barriers, natural barriers and maximize river miles)||Restoration/People||Draft HREP Agenda||barriers, river miles|
|Develop surveys and focus groups to characterize people perceptions of dams, impoundments and dam removal in the Estuary. Evaluate public knowledge, information sources and possible communications for positive message on dam removal||People||Draft HREP Agenda||dam removal, barriers, fish passage|
|Evaluate vulnerabilities and risks from dam failures to downstream disadvantaged and environmental justice communities||Restoration/People||Dam Safety Preparedness, Dam Safety NY, NYSDEC Dam Safety||Draft HREP Agenda||EJ, Environmental Justice, community, Dam Safety|
|Develop further research into partner motivations to participate in trees for tribs to maximize conservation benefit||People||Armstrong et al. 2013||Draft HREP Agenda||trees for tribs, motivations|
|Assess impacts of future transportation systems ( e.g. driverless cars, rail elevation, high speed rail) on urban waterfront environment)||Restoration/People||Draft HREP Agenda||driverless cars, high speed rail, urban water front|
|Develop strategies to engage stakeholders around difficult conversations about adapting homes and communities||People||Enhanced Engagement and Risk Communication for Underserved Communities, Risk Communication||Draft HREP Agenda||risk communication, resilience planning|
|Determine whether natural and nature-based climate adaptation solutions are more cost effective and resilient in the long term. Improve valuation of ecosystem services in cost-benefit analysis of adaption strategies||Restoration||Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project, A Comparative Cost Analysis of Ten Shore Protection Approaches at Three Sites under Two Sea Level Rise Scenarios, Economic Tradeoffs Between Shoreline Treatments||Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project: Monitoring and Lessons Learned, Statewide Shoreline Monitoring Framework||Draft HREP Agenda||Monitoring, nature based, sustainable|
|Build and apply tools needed to assess education programs effect on participant knowledge, intent, behavior change, and future choices. Evaluate continued engagement in programs through multiple ages and grades.||People||Draft HREP Agenda|
|Evaluate how field experiences improve classroom learning, and change student attitudes and behavior towards the environment.||People||Draft HREP Agenda||classroom, field experience, appreciation of the Hudson River.|
|Research how effectively partners are communicating core messages and successfully reaching communities of color, low-income families, or member of the LGBTQ+ community. To be able improve this outreach.||People||Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship|
|Develop an economic cost/benefit analysis to identify the point of diminishing returns of increasing structural height for coastal protection||Restoration||Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship|
|Research connections between impoundments and their role in plant and animal species movement and occupation (carp, snakehead, water chestnut, phragmites)||Restoration/Species||Draft HREP Agenda||Water Chestnut, Phragmites, Knotweed, Carp, Snakehead, Impoundment, Dam, Invasive|
|Develop Pollutant Transport and Dispersal Models using water quality monitoring to manage community managed intakes.||Habitat/People||HRECOS, NERRS Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO)||Draft HREP Agenda||Intakes, Water Supply, Model, Pollutant Transport|