New ABCRC Site Director

Cora Johnston
Cora Johnston

Effective April 9, 2018, Dr. Cora A. Johnston has  taken on the role of Site Director for the Anheuser-Busch Coastal Research Center.   She will also direct the Education and Outreach programs, with assistance from Donna Fauber.

Cora is a coastal ecologist, who recently completed a post-doctoral research appointment at the University of California – Santa Barbara. She comes to us with an impressive combination of collaborative and leadership skills, ecological research experience, and training in STEM education and outreach.

Cora grew up on the Eastern Shore, and so has a strong sense of place for the ecosystems and people of the region.

Oyster Restoration Workshop

On January 20, the University of Virginia’s Anheuser-
Busch Coastal Research Center (ABCRC) in Oyster
invited K-12 teachers from Accomack and Northampton
Counties to attend an Oyster Restoration Workshop. Each
participant received approximately $600.00 in instruction
and supplies at no cost to the teacher or the schools. The
workshop, along with the construction of an oyster reef on
site, was funded by a sub-grant from the Chincoteague Bay
Field Station and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The University of Virginia invited Laurie Sorebella
from Oyster Reef Keepers of Virginia to instruct the teach-
ers. Laurie is passionate about oysters and the “Schools
Restoring Oysters to the Chesapeake” program. She gave
a brief history of the oyster and a short biology lesson,
followed by a hands-on demo. Laurie explained the various
equipment and the proper procedures for monitoring and
growing healthy oysters.
After receiving training, classroom teachers will be
able to teach their students methods for monitoring water
clarity, salinity, and water temperature; taking accurate
measurements; and identifi ng oyster reef critters. Students
will record data and report them to the Oyster Reef
Keepers on a monthly basis.
Laurie also explained how to collect data from inside
the classroom in order to circumvent logistical problems,
as well as ensuring that the monitoring project is age- and
ability-appropriate. At the end of the school year, teachers
and students will have the opportunity to transplant their
oysters onto a sanctuary reef on the Eastern Shore.
The sub-grant funds, along with matching funds from
the University of Virginia and the Long-Term Ecological
Project, not only provided teachers with all of the instruc-
tions and supplies needed to bring oyster restoration to
their students, but the grant also funded the oyster castle
material for the construction of a demonstration reef at
the ABCRC. This reef, as well as the Oyster Restoration
Workshop, are part of an initiative to “Educate for
Sustainable and Resilient Communities.”
Restoring oyster habitat to Shore waters is a reward-
ing activity and is adaptable for students of various ages
and capabilities. If you are a teacher, parent, or student
and are interested in fi nding out about future workshops,
please email and ask to be put on the
mailing list. The ABCRC hosts various workshops during
the year, and many are free for Eastern Shore of Virginia
educators.  — Donna Fauber in ShoreLine: A journal of natural resources, pubic affairs and culture on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Vol. 31, number 3 page 5. 

Hurricane Impacts Highlighted

EOS has provided a “Research Spotlight” regarding research on the impact of hurricanes on the Virginia coast: . It highlights the paper “Declining Radial Growth Response of Coastal Forests to Hurricanes and Nor’easters” by Arnold Fernandes Christine R. Rollinson William S. Kearney Michael C. Dietze Sergio Fagherazzi that was published earlier this year in The Journal of Geophysical Research (

Amy Ferguson wins R.J. Huskey Poster Award

Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research project student Amy Ferguson won one of the top awards for posters at the 2017 Robert J. Huskey Graduate Research Exhibition. Her poster “Making the case for nature-based solutions to coastal erosion in Virginia’s coastal bays” tied for 1st Place in Division 1 – Natural Sciences Poster Presentation. The R.J. Huskey exhibition showcases the work done by graduate students at the University of Virginia. Each poster was rated on how effectively it: 1) set up the question being investigated; 2) framed the question in context of its broader importance; 3) communicated an evidence-based argument; 4) was accessible to an audience of diverse backgrounds.

Amy’s poster focused on the suitability of nature-based protection techniques to reduce coastal erosion. Sea level rise, increased storminess, and human population growth amplify coastal erosion problems, pressuring landowners to implement shoreline protection measures. Growing concern over the negative impacts of traditional shoreline protection methods (seawalls or bulkheads) has increased interest in nature-based solutions, called “living shorelines”. Studies offer encouraging findings that living shorelines that use natural marsh vegetation and constructed oyster reefs can control erosion while maintaining ecosystem functions.

Her project explores the factors influencing erosion along salt marshes and the suitability of individual shorelines for nature-based protection techniques. Using geospatial information, a Marsh Vulnerability Index was developed that relates disparate factors related to shoreline erosion and serves as the foundation for living shoreline design and placement recommendations. Field study investigated the effects of marsh vegetation and constructed oyster reefs in Virginia’s coastal bays on dampening waves, the main driver of shoreline erosion. Marsh vegetation was found to dampen waves by 91% over a 20-meter transect when water levels are high; and, constructed oyster reefs were effective at dampening waves when water levels are low to moderate. These results suggest that combining marsh vegetation with constructed oyster reefs may offer effective and sustainable long-term coastal protection.

Ultimately, data from this study will be incorporated into The Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience online decision-support tool, where it can be easily viewed, queried, and analyzed with other geospatial data to find cost-effective, nature-based solutions to coastal erosion problems.